Daily it seems that these words cross my mind. Something else, going wrong, unexpected, tragic, discouraging. In those moments hope seems to fade. My response is to create my own reality. I tell myself that it won’t last, or it isn’t really THAT bad. It’s not biblical…well not until now.
Romans 8:19 “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.”
This verse is sandwiched in a passage where Paul laments the damnable position of all mankind. He points out that even creation is suffering because of everything gone wrong. But he does not draw a wholly negative picture. There is the anticipation of a future glory. A day when all is as it was intended and should be.
In his commentary on this passage, William Barclay summarizes the situation like this:
“The Christian is involved in the human situation. Within he must battle with his own evil human nature; without he must live in a world of death and decay. Nonetheless, the Christian does not live only in the world; he also lives in Christ. He does not see only the world; he looks beyond it to God. He does not see only the consequences of man’s sin; he sees the power of God’s mercy and love. Therefore, the keynote of the Christian life is always hope and never despair. The Christian waits, not for death, but for life.” (emphasis added)
As a Christian, by faith I accept that God has redeemed me through Christ Jesus. This redemption is not complete until I am able to enter into God’s presence. And so while the world all around me seems to fall apart, I take heart in a different reality.* A reality that will bring hope from despair. A reality that is only found in Christ.
(*Qualifiers: 1. My life is difficult, but not falling apart…it just seems like it sometimes. 2. Denial of reality can lead to unhealthy views of oneself and situation. Denial must be balanced carefully by an honest assessment of whatever your situation might be. Are you contributing to the downward spiral by not owning up to your part of the problem(s)? Overall our attitude and outlook should be positive and hopeful. We know how it all ends and who wins.)
I have a memory from childhood. At this point in my life I’m not sure just how truthful the memory is, but I’m pretty sure. It seems to me that for a couple of years on Good Friday we had horrendous storms. In fact, what I remember is that the tornado sirens went off on Good Friday for a couple of years in a row. I grew up in Enid, OK so springtime storms producing tornadoes is no big news and thus it would support in theory what I am trying to recollect. If you’ve never experience such a violent storm there is one characteristic that I have recognized as an indicator of very severe storms. That is a green tinted sky. (I am not a meteorologist, but grew up watching Gary England.)
So imagine a dark green tinted day with thunder, lightening, swirling winds and the sound of tornado sirens whaling.
This is my childhood memory of Good Friday and I remember taking a strange solace in the midst of it all. It just seemed right. Violent weather on a day that commemorates the single most violent act to have ever taken place on earth. Sinful men killing God’s innocent son because we couldn’t deal with just how perfect his love is. So for me Good Friday has a memory of darkness, uneasiness, violence, destruction, you name it; pretty much anything that is not good.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What are your Good Friday recollections?
So I got an email update about a miracle that occurred in Niger. This occurred very recently.
…a blind man, he was Muslim – guided by his son, came to church. Since [he was] 2 years old he [has been] blind and the doctors told him – after an injury – that he will never see again.So he took his son out of school, in order to be guided by him in the streets of Niamey to beg for their living.A member of the church had invited him several times, but the blind man sent him always away.Now he came and heard the gospel. At the end of the service, he accepted Jesus as his saviour. Pastor prayed for him, also for his eyes. The blind man went home. After 3 days, when he washed his face as usual in the morning, he saw a light and called his wife. “Is this the sun, I can see their?” – “Yes, wow, can you see?” The man washed once more his face and could see very clearly. The whole neighbourhood and even marabous came to see this miracle. They asked, how could this happen. The man answered: Jesus healed me. He is alive! He is God.Last Sunday he came to witness about the healing. He said: we have to believe in Jesus, and accept, what he did and what he still wants to do! Last week I could only hear you, now I can see you. Now I do not have to beg any longer, I can go to work and my son can go back to school. Praise the Lord!
“Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Romans 8:34 (NLT)”
I don’t know about you, but for me this is revolutionary. Did you catch that? Not only are we NOT condemned, but Christ sits at God’s right hand pleading our case. Jesus sticks up for us to the Father. He’s the one who says. “Give him another chance.” “I’m not giving up on her yet!” “They are righteous on my behalf.”
What does this knowledge do for you?
So another thought hit me this afternoon. I was reminded of the account of the adulteress woman. One of the things that frustrates me about this is that Jesus charges her to “Go and sin no more.” Obviously this woman had a problem and I’m sure that if she wasn’t aware of it before, by now she was. Jesus’ charge to go and live a right life seems rather hopeless in light of the situation. He gives her no insight into HOW to go and sin no more. Frustrating. Right?
1. Jesus knew her and the reality is that she was not in a place where she was ready to turn from her life of sin. According to the Biblical account she didn’t ask the follow up question; How?
2. Jesus knows that the only way to living a life free from sin is in relationship to him. In our desire to live sinless we are left to fall on the grace of Jesus Christ as we follow him. In a sense we are pushed into a deeper relationship with Jesus because it is only there that we find true freedom. Jesus knew that in her desperation she would have no where else to turn but to him. He was the one who stopped the condemnation. He stood up for her when no one else would. He valued her when everyone else wanted to put her down.
In either scenario the problem is that we have to accept the reality that Jesus did not come to condemn us but to save us. He said it point blank to the woman. “Neither do I (condemn you).” The theme is picked up immediately following this account.
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12 (NLT)
It’s the theme of Jesus’ life and ministry. Paul summed it up so well: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
Does this make sense? Does it mean anything to you?
It’s been at least 6 months and I am still haunted by these words…
Can’t wait to spend sometime with Pastor Gregory soon.
Whose words are haunting you?
I read with interest a couple of articles about President Obama and the appearant amount of racism veiled as criticism. You can find the articles here and here. Today in class I lectured about Civil Rights and the history of struggle various groups have gone through to obtain a more equal footing in society. All of them owing some debt to the African Americans who laid so much at the alter of freedom in their efforts to end discrimination that had already been outlawed by the courts. I get really uncomfortable teaching this stuff. I’m white, male, middle class, middle age, everything that this average and majority about this nation. It is so easy for me to transpose my thoughts and my experiences to a broader public. I have no idea what it is like to be black and pulled over on “suspicion”. I have no idea what it is like to be Hispanic and scowled out because you speak a few words of Spanish. I have no idea what it is to be like a woman who is leered at simply because God created her with different proportions than men. (I do know what it is like to be Mennonite Brethren and have people assume that you drive a horse and buggy.)
What I do know? I’ve done all those things. I don’t think that it is because white men are inherently more evil or more prone to sin than other races (or genders). I believe that blacks, Hispanics, women and all others are just as susceptible to these thoughts and feelings as others. Jesus spoke pretty clearly to this: “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.” (Matthew 15:19 NLT) He was speaking to a group of religiously racist priests. People who made their living off making others feel “not worthy”. People who lived in a nation who prided themselves as being “chosen” and loved to rub it in the face of everyone else by completely shunning them or simply not recognizing them.
Are we a racist nation? Of course. Are we as racist as we have been in the past? No. Are we as racist as we will be in the future?
Well, that’s for us to decide, by the grace of God.
Jesus kept it real when describing the condition of the human heart. Fortunately he didn’t just leave it at that. A little later on Jesus was asked which commandment was most important when it comes to making oneself acceptable before God. His reply was twofold: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all you soul, and all you mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39 NLT) We can’t do one or the other. They are mutually fulfilling. Loving God requires loving others. Loving others only truly comes as we love God.
Here’s what’s hard for me as a Christian and an American. It seems that as we have become less “christian” we have become less “racist”. But again, I believe that if ever there is to be a Christian nation it exists in the body of the Church. Global. Not some class of ethnicity or descendants who deserve special recognition. Simply those messed up humans who have begun to grasp what the human heart is all about and have accepted the grace of Jesus Christ to love God and their neighbors.
Are we a racist nation?