Thursday, December 1, 2016

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Loving like Jesus means doing the unexpected.

I guess this is one of those "open letters." This one goes out to my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. You know who you are.

I'm glad we're in this together. I'm a believer in our Christian community. I see the way we're letting go of things that were holding us back. I hear the way we're talking to one another and having each other's back in hard times. I see how loyalty, courage and worship are becoming more of a way of life for us. We're being honest with one another. We're opening up. We're growing. I just have one caution. Just one word of advice.

We don't have to argue about everything.

I've been watching the body, both in social media and in the press as well as in person. I see a trend that I'd love to speak up and say something about. I want to remind you all who we're trying to be like.

Jesus.

Jesus didn't argue with people. Jesus didn't give the standard, expected response. When his enemies tried to trap him with questions, he didn't respond either way they expected, which meant he always won his arguments.

It's a difficult time to be a Christian. I get that as much as anyone. The Bible is growing in unpopularity with societies and nominal Christians who care more about tolerance and political agendas than the Word of God. The darkness is strong. Sometimes it's hard to reflect the light. Sometimes we get put on the spot and we panic. But I'd love for us all to have a plan for when this happens.

These thoughts occurred to me today when I saw in my Facebook feed that everyone was talking about the Gaines. Chip and Joanna, who love fixing up houses and showing families how to see the gems in the most questionable places, who have never made it a secret that they are devoted followers of Christ, have come under fire simply for the teachings of their preacher, which happen to be the very teachings of our Creator and the author of our existence. Without saying a word, without veering for a moment from their quiet, simple testimony of faith, Satan is trying his best to upend their example in our culture.

It's a trend. Whenever believers are put on a pedestal and become a hot topic, Satan will inevitably send someone in to discredit them, and if there is nothing to discredit, he will put them on the spot and make them choose between the accepted ways of our society or the truths of God's Word. This isn't a new strategy for the king of this world. In the Roman Empire, Christians could be put on the spot to worship the Roman gods and deny Christ or lose their lives. It's really no different, except that believers haven't had to choose between their lives and their faith in this country.

I don't know how or if the Gaines will respond. But my hope is that they won't choose the expected. I hope they don't panic and go back on their faith as some have, and have weakened the illumination their spotlight could have accomplished in a dark world. I hope they won't become argumentative and divisive, standing up for their rights and calling all Christians to be militant in the face of persecution. I hope they'll follow fast after Christ and love.

Love fellow sinners. Meet them where they are in the saddest, hardest, loneliest places and be the friend that doesn't quit just because everyone's watching or society disapproves or the church turns up their nose.

In fact, I pray we'll all learn to love like Jesus. I pray we'll take to heart the warnings about not letting sinful attitudes, philosophies and actions invade our thinking and cause us to turn away from the truth, but I pray just as hard that we'll stay out of arguments that don't accomplish anything except to make us look just like everyone else who wants their own way. Let's be the lovers Christ was. Let's be the kind of Christians that walk to the cross in humility just because it's best for that soul who doesn't even know he or she is lost. Let's give a cup of cold water to an enemy who has fallen and doesn't have the strength to get back up. Let's be the friend to the one who is trying so hard to have it all together and make their beliefs work, and let's not trample on those who are already so lost.

We can believe what God said about sin. We can believe it with all our heart and still go out into this crazy world and find sinners to love into eternity. We don't have to show up on their doorstep, present a spiel and go on our way as the doors slam in our face. It doesn't have to be that way.

Does your neighbor know you are safe? Does your friend at work know they can trust you? Do your family members believe they can count on you when they are in need, even if their own decisions cause their heartaches? Can you sit by the bedside of a dying friend and hold their hand and give them grace even if they have sinned in ways that make you uncomfortable? Will you be willing to go out into the streets and give food and water to people who have lost their homes and who have no idea where to turn for the most basic needs of life?

Jesus did it for you. Jesus met you where you were. Jesus came to every one of us laying in our own filth and pulled us out at his own painful, terrible expense. It's our job to love like that. It's not our job to be indignant because unbelievers sin. We did the same things as unbelievers. SUCH WERE SOME OF US, as Paul reminded us in 1 Corinthians 6:11. None of us have any ability to resist what God has called sin without his intervention in our lives. Jesus is the answer. And we're the ones that know it. We're the ones who have experienced the tidal wave of his love and have been changed completely from the people we used to be.

I recently heard a quote that went something like this: Don't judge people for the point you jump into their story. Believe the best. Hope for their future. Show them by your example and the love of Christ working through you that there is a light at the end of their tunnel.

Spread peace. Be a refuge. Do the unexpected, and watch God use it for his kingdom. After all, isn't that why we're here?

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
James 3

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