Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day….
8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. 10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. 12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. James 2:8-13 (NLT)
“When the church meets sinners with hate, condemnation, and a lack of mercy, we deserve the persecution that we encounter. When we treat “their sin” as somehow more defiling and vile than our sin, we deserve persecution. For then all we are doing is beating up those who are blind, deaf and in captivity. When we are persecuted for trying with all the grace of Christ to reconcile sinners to God, then this is praiseworthy, not praising us, but the One who empowers us to endure in grace.” (facebook comment)
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me….I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see! (John Newton)
In the past day, my facebook feed has been filled with much emotion, and to be honest it reminds me of a schoolyard ball game. Some are so jubilant in their “victory” that they have gotten in the cyber-face of those they think wish them ill-will. Others are so dejected in their loss, that they claim the end of the world, as they prophesy of torture and persecution. The posts of the first enflame the latter, the reactions of the latter are used to justify the former. I probably hid no less than 100 posts, sickened as I was by the reactions of both sides.
I did respond to one or two – and the italicized words above are part of my response. A response which will possibly infuriate both sides of the argument. (normally I pride myself on being able to do this, this time, I only grieve that it is possible.)
Sin is sin is sin is sin. It doesn’t matter which sin it is. James point that out in the quote from His epistle above quite clearly. And yes, I hold to the position of scripture, that sex outside of a marriage between man and woman is sinful. But it is no worse a sin than gossip, or murder, or white lies. James makes that clear as well.
But that is where I think we get the mission of the church very confused. The church is not a place that is primarily engaged in behavior modification. It is not our raison d’etre, the focus of our being the church. For if that is our existence, we are failures, and will always be so, just looking at who is within us, never mind the rest of the world. Behaviors will modify, but that is a role that is God’s alone, and it doesn’t start with legalism – it starts with love, His love, poured out on us.
That is why I wrote what I wrote. As the church, our voice should confront sin, but only in the hopes of pouring out the forgiveness of God. Apologetics is not about proving that sinners are lost and condemned to hell, but why I, the chief of all sinners, ( or at least in contention with St. Paul over that title) can have hope in spite of my sin. We are to bring healing to all those broken by sin, and take special care with those that haven’t yet realized they are broken. That is why I wrote that there are times – especially yesterday, where our reactions surely deserve any persecution we receive. Because we are not looking to bring healing – but our reaction is one of fear, of anxiety, of condemnation. Because of that we are rightfully judged, and to be honest, I am less worried about the world’s condemnation in that case, than of God’s. We’ve taken His mission – and corrupted it.
If we believe what we sing in Amazing Grace, do we realize the very people we are reacting to are where we once were? Wretches that are lost, blind, in bondage to sin? Do we realize that our task isn’t to brutalize them but to bring them comfort? Do we bring them God’s love, do we go to them with the intent of showing them mercy? Do we dare to do so in a way that leads to peace? Are we willing to be patient with them, as God is patient with us? Do we realize that we have been, and are as broken, but also realize the healing we have in Christ Jesus?
Some hard questions these days bring to those who trust in Christ… but the questions need to be aimed at our actions, our words, and how we will serve those broken in heart in spirit.
Lord have mercy on us all.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
“By yourself, if you don’t count on grace, you can do nothing worthwhile, for you would be cutting the link which connects you with God. With grace, on the other hand, you can do all things” (1)
Peter, James and John were on a short side trip with Jesus when the man came, looking for help. Desperate he was, to find some comfort, some rest, some refuge for his tormented son.
The apostles tried, but to no avail, what they had done before wasn’t working, for some reason they couldn’t help, they couldn’t find the power, the “dunamis” to cast out those oppressive spirits.
Mondays can be like that, as we come back to “reality”, to the grind of another week. Maybe the weekend was not a restful one, maybe it wasn’t what we expected, or maybe it was too much – and we need to recover from it! Either way, back on the job on Mondays is always difficult, even oppressive. I wouldn’t go so far as saying demonic… (well there have been some Mondays… )
But where do we find the strength for them. In the same place that Jesus instructed his men to find their strength.
“his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Mark 9:28-29 (ESV)
We were reminded on Sunday about this rtuth – that we must depend on Jesus, that we must entrust ourselves into God’s hands, to recognize that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Yet on Mondays, so often we forget this, so often we fail to remember this. We let the situations get the best of us, we look at everything with a darkened, pessimistic view, we approach life, if not paranoid, then at least a little hesitant – wondering which trauma, which challenge, which confrontation will next pop up to bash us like a storm.
Yesterday in Sunday School I used a long quote from another pastor. Not my usual thing – but this one – despite it’s somewhat archaic language rings so true. Even though it will extend this devotion out – it is good for us to read:
” ( God’s ) Covenant blessings are not meant to be looked at only, but to be appropriated. Even our Lord Jesus is given to us for our present use. Believer, thou dost not make use of Christ as thou oughtest to do. When thou art in trouble, why dost thou not tell him all thy grief? Has he not a sympathizing heart, and can he not comfort and relieve thee? No, thou art going about to all thy friends, save thy best Friend, and telling thy tale everywhere except into the bosom of thy Lord. Art thou burdened with this day’s sins? Here is a fountain filled with blood: use it, saint, use it. Has a sense of guilt returned upon thee? The pardoning grace of Jesus may be proved again and again. Come to him at once for cleansing. Dost thou deplore thy weakness? He is thy strength: why not lean upon him? Dost thou feel naked? Come hither, soul; put on the robe of Jesus’ righteousness. Stand not looking at it, but wear it. Strip off thine own righteousness, and thine own fears too: put on the fair white linen, for it was meant to wear. Dost thou feel thyself sick? Pull the night-bell of prayer, and call up the Beloved Physician! He will give the cordial that will revive thee. Thou art poor, but then thou hast “a kinsman, a mighty man of wealth.” What! wilt thou not go to him, and ask him to give thee of his abundance, when he has given thee this promise, that thou shalt be joint heir with him, and has made over all that he is and all that he has to be thine? There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for his people to make a show-thing of him, and not to use him. He loves to be employed by us. The more burdens we put on his shoulders, the more precious will he be to us. “(2)
In closing consider this – you look at Catholic Saints like St Josemarie Escriva, you look at protestant preachers like Spurgeon, or hymn writers like Wimber or Newton or Wesley and Luther – the one common thread they have – is that we have to trust – we have to depend on God’s presence in our life. Not just to get into heaven, but to enjoy the life eternal that starts when God makes us his…
Cry out Lord have mercy my friends, and know He has, He is, and He will…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1282-1285). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.