Amazing Grace - Part 7
Amazing Grace 7
"Servants, be submissive to your masters will all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly" (1 Peter 2:18-19); "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior" (1 Peter 3:1-2); "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not without your shirt from him either….But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men" (Luke 6:27-29,35).
The above verses inform us that we will find ourselves in relationships with people who are evil. It might be a parent who decides to forsake their responsibilities, an employer who is unreasonable, an unruly neighbor, selfish co-workers, immature relatives, an unfaithful spouse, or a rebellious child.
This Is A Lost Soul
Grace never means that we ignore or condone the sin. For Jesus calls such people "our enemies", and if they are "our enemies", they are also "God’s enemy". Jesus also labeled such people as "ungrateful and evil men". Neither does grace remain silent in the face of evil. "It seems we have perceived love as something saccharine and frilly, best described as ‘unconditional acceptance’. The assumption seems to be that if I ignore how bad you are and continue to be kind, maybe somehow something will occur to make you a nicer person. Love is magic, and if the fairy dust is sprinkled long enough, change will occur…it is pretending the vicious comment was not vicious; it is trying to cloak the stench of sin in a more attractive scent" (Bold Love, Dr. Dan B. Allender, pp. 183-184). "If your brother sins, rebuke him" (Luke 17:3); "Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy" (Proverbs 27:5-6); "And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them" (Ephesians 5:11). While David would not retaliate against Saul, David did tell Saul face to face, "May the Lord judge between you and me, and may the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you" (1 Samuel 24:12). In like manner, Abigail knew that she was married to a fool (1 Samuel 25:25), and that the Lord would deal severely with such men as her husband (1 Samuel 25:29).
Hungering For Restoration
Consider the following statement: "What would you do if God gave you the choice between pushing a button on your left, which when touched would utterly destroy your enemy at this minute, or a button on your right, which would lead them to radical and deep repentance?" Even with His enemies, God hungers for restoration (2 Peter 3:9). Points To Note: 1. When we encounter someone who is persecuting us for our faith, or who is trying in some way to make our lives miserable, we must realize that we aren’t the first person that they have attempted to hurt. We must look beyond the moment and realize that this person may have already victimized many people. God is giving us the opportunity to stop this person from hurting anyone else. Saving them will stop other people from being hurt in the future. In addition, I might be the last hope they have for deliverance! 2. In such cases, we are being given a chance to apply our Christianity, to put into practice what we believe, to walk in the steps of our Savior, "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps….and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Peter 2:21,23). 3. If all my appeals and sermons go unheeded, then it gives me the chance to live a sermon, "they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives" (1 Peter 3:2); "Urge bondservants to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect" (Titus 2:9-11)-"as to recommend the teaching about God our Savior by all that they do" (TCNT); "a living testimonial to the teaching" (Phi); "for in all such ways they add luster to the doctrine" (NEB). 4. Have we ever thought why we want people to change? Too often, we desire others to change for our benefit and our convenience, rather for their salvation. "The desire for change in another that is essentially for my pleasure, convenience, or vindication will lead away from restoration and will not deepen my love for the beauty or hunger for heaven"(Bold Love p. 173).
The Feast Of Forgiveness
God often compares salvation to a great feast, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king, who gave a wedding feast for his son" (Matthew 22:2). "Forgiveness is inviting one who harmed you to a banquet of fine food that you have prepared so that he (or she) might have a taste of life" (Bold Love p. 164). God says that good can overcome evil! (Romans 12:21) "No one will leave an addiction or compulsion unless a competing passion is offered that gives a taste of what the soul was meant to enjoy. Only heaven with the beauty of restoration (to God and others) is a big enough passion to draw us away from the petty distractions and cheap addictions of this sorry world" (p. 175). Christians must realize that they do have something far more powerful and luring than what the world can offer. To our enemies, to ungrateful and evil people, we offer reconciliation to their Creator, the salvation of all their past sins, a guilt-free life, a life of meaning and purpose, the hope of ultimate happiness and fulfillment, and in this life, meaningful and rich friendships, "but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life" (Mark 10:30). When Jesus called Matthew as he was sitting in his tax office, the text says, "And he rose, and followed Him" (Matthew 9:9). For many of us here, in many ways, our conversion was very similar. When encountered a we real Christian and saw what they were offering, immediately the worldly pleasures in which we were engaged---paled in comparison. Don’t you want others to experience what you have found? "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ" (Philippians 3:7). Allender reminds us, "But entry is conditional. I may invite you to my home for dinner, but I will not let you in if you are wearing filthy shoes. The door is open and I desire for you to enter, but entry is not given if you have not chosen to repent and take off your shoes. My part is to offer and hold firm to the principles of beauty (godliness) in order to truly invite you to the freeing taste of repentance. When your head is lowered and your heart is broken over sin, I am privileged to welcome you to join me for a staggering feast" (p. 181). "We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).While this passage initially applied to the Apostles, who has committed to them the "word of reconciliation" today? (2 Timothy 2:2)
Only So Much We Can Do
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men" (Romans 12:18). Not all relationships will work. Our longing to see certain individuals reconciled to God—may never happen. David couldn’t bring Saul back to God, Jesus couldn’t save Judas, and so on. Yet, Jesus went ahead and paid the price for everyone, even though most would reject His offer of salvation. We shouldn’t feel like failures if we are unable to penetrate a hard heart. There will be people who won’t allow us to reach them. There are people from which we just might have to walk away (Matthew 7:6).
The Thrill Of Hope
"Paul is not naïve about the tragedy of sin. He knows there will be tragic divisions and unnecessary heartache. But he is also invigorated by the possibility of seeing the effects of the Fall pushed back. Sin will not be silenced until the Lord returns, but it can be occasionally quieted and its incessant chatter cut short" (Bold Love p. 171). We just don’t know which ungrateful and evil person will be moved by our example and kindness. We don’t know when a particular evil will be overcome by good. But it does happen! The wicked can be convicted, hardened sinners do come to their senses, there will be former enemies that can be reached (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Titus 3:3; 1 Peter 4:1-5).
Too often Christians try to hide their feelings. In addition, when others mistreat us, we feel guilty for wanting to see justice done. Note, the revenge that is wrong is when we want someone to pay now for a real or perceived crime without any desire for reconciliation. But revenge, which involves a desire for justice, isn’t inherently wrong, for vengeance is part of the character of God and is not in contradiction with His love and mercy. "It is the intense wish to see ugliness destroyed, wrongs righted, and beauty restored. It is as inherent to the human soul as a desire for loveliness" (Bold Love p. 187). "’Vengeance is Mine, I will repay’, says the Lord" (Romans 12:19); (Exodus 20:5-6). Points To Note: 1. Very godly people in the Old Testament, when praying, and when offering prayers which were inspired, cried out for God’s wrath to come upon the wicked: "May their table before them become a snare…May their eyes grow dim so that they cannot see….Pour out Thine indignation on them, and may Thy burning anger overtake them.." (Psalm 69:22,24; Psalm 109:6-20). 2. These are not the prayers of unloving, unmerciful or unspiritual people. In fact, both prayers are found in Messianic Psalms! 3. These are prayers from people who didn’t have their heads in the sand. They truly saw the reality and harm being caused by evil people, and what will happen to others if this person isn’t eventually stopped. 4. "A hunger for legitimate revenge may, in fact, increase self-control and long-sufferance, knowing that the taunts of the Evil One will one day be vanquished. Indeed, it may be the energy that enables the tired and wounded heart to stay in the battle" (Bold Love p. 198). 5. There prayers were in harmony with God’s will, for one day God will do all these things to the unrepentant (Romans 2:5-9; Luke 12:20; 2 Thessalonians 1:8 "dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus"; "and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:27); and what about this picture of Jesus in Revelation 19:11-21? 6. Our problem isn’t that we are filled with too much desire for revenge, rather, we haven’t allowed ourselves to contemplate the real evil that is done in this world, and the innocent victims which are harmed. Instead of becoming apathetic or giving up in face of evil which can’t seem to be stopped, do we pour out our souls to God? And in the morning, realizing the wrath that is coming upon ungrateful and evil men (John 3:36), are we compelled to try to save them?
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/644-9017