“The whole being of any Christian is faith and love. Faith brings the person to God, love brings the person to people.” – Martin Luther
“The whole being of any Christian is faith and love. Faith brings the person to God, love brings the person to people.” – Martin Luther
Another day has gone by, and another black man has been shot by police. Social media is once again loud with folks either claiming injustice, or trying to dispel the myth of it. People are scared and people are angry, and this is true from every side of the discussion.
I’ll be perfectly honest, I have no answers. Many of the videos I see are disturbing. The stories I hear are things that I can’t imagine. I don’t pretend to understand what it’s like to be black in America, nor can I understand what it must be like to be a police officer during these turbulent times. Everyone is on edge, and it seems like everyone is responding in the worst possible way. This isn’t true in every situation of course, but to a large degree it is what we see being played out in the media.
Again, I don’t have the answers. I can’t tell people how to feel. I certainly can’t mend the divisions that I see in our country that are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime…but I do know how I feel, and the truth is that I’m hurting.
All morning I’ve been struggling to put into words what I’m feeling. I’m still not sure I can. But, as I look to social media this morning, the one thing that stands out to me is this: Many Christians seem to have lost the ability to “weep with those who weep” or “mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)
The fact is, our Christian compassion can’t be dictated by whether or not we agree or disagree with the fact that there is systemic injustice in our legal system. It doesn’t matter whether or not we know all the facts, or variables in a case. It doesn’t matter the character of the individuals who are suffering, or have lost their lives. The only thing we need to see, as Christians, is that people are hurting. This is true from all sides, and if so as Christians, we have only one proper response: To “weep with those who weep.” We must weep for those who have lost their lives. We must mourn for the families who have had their lives turned upside down. Tears should flow freely over a world so broken by sin. When we see our neighbors suffering and struggling to deal with loss, fear, or even anger, we must come alongside them and join them in their struggle. Christian compassion leaves us no other choice. The love of our neighbors that Jesus commanded gives us no other option. (Matthew 22:39)
I was reminded this morning of Jesus just before he raises Lazarus from the dead. Jesus knew he was going to raise him, he knew the end of the story, yet what does he do when he sees the sister of Lazarus weeping? He too weeps. The Scripture says, “…he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled,” (John 11:33) and that “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)
Jesus identified with Mary in her pain and in her suffering. This is the type of compassion we as Christians must emulate. There were some who were standing by while Jesus wept, and they even accused him of “injustice” if you will…they said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37) Everyone didn’t understand the big picture, they didn’t have all the answers, but still they saw our savior weeping over the tragedy of death. In the same way, we may not have all the answers, but we do know how Jesus feels about the tragedy of death, and the reality of sin. He weeps and mourns over it. As we should.
There were others there that day, and as they saw Jesus weeping over the death of Lazarus and they said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36) So, too as people see us mourning with those who mourn, and weeping with those who weep, they will see our love. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) Can many of us honestly say people know us by our love? Does our love for others make it plain that we belong to Jesus?
Again, whether or not you agree that there is indeed systemic injustice, it doesn’t give you an out clause to not weep and mourn alongside our brothers and sisters who are hurting. Whether or not we know all of the variables, doesn’t excuse us from the command to love our neighbors. If our political slants, beliefs, and agendas get in the way of our compassion and love for others, then the truth is we need to reevaluate ourselves, and where we are with Jesus.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore…” (Revelation 21:4)
Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus…
God desires to have a relationship with you. God loves you, and so desires to be in a relationship with you that he sent his Son Jesus Christ to die for you and to make it possible. (John 3:16, Romans 5:6) I could write pages upon page about the lengths that God went to in order to draw you into a relationship with him, but that isn’t why I’m writing this. My purpose for writing today is that I want to pause and contemplate the unbelievable reality that the God of the universe desires a relationship with you and to think through the implications of that truth.
I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “Christianity isn’t a religion it’s a relationship.” Normally that statement makes me cringe because I believe it to be too simplistic. That being said, there is an element of truth there that we would be wise to take notice of. Christianity is indeed a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and since it is a relationship there are some things that we need to understand.
Relationships take work. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship understands this. It doesn’t matter if you are speaking of romantic relationships, parent/child relationships, friendships, or work relationships, it takes work. If you want a relationship to work you have to put in time and effort. If this is true of human relationships, why would we think it isn’t also true of our relationship with God?
How often do you talk to God? How often do you take time to listen for what God might be trying to tell you? Do you make time to just be in the presence of God? Do you enjoy being with him? Do you want to get to know him better? What are you doing to try to make this happen? What do you hope to get out of your relationship with God? And here is a big one: Do you love God simply for who he is, or because of what you hope he can give you?
How successful will a marriage be if there is no communication? Not very. If children aren’t listening to their parents, or speaking to them, that relationship is in trouble. How happy would a wife be if her husband never came home? Husbands would be crushed if their wives never wanted to spend time with them. When couples begin dating, they do everything they can to learn what the other person enjoys. The parent is hurt when their child only calls when they need something, and not just so say “I love you.”
It’s not hard to see the parallels that I’m making here. It’s easy to see the correlation between what makes human relationships work and what we ought to be doing to cultivate our relationship with God. If we aren’t spending time in prayer communicating with God, if we aren’t spending time in his presence and listening for him, and learning more about him as we spend time in the Bible, then our relationship with God will suffer. Are your prayers always about what you can get from God instead of simply praising God for who he is? Do you ever simply tell God you love him? Do you thank him for the many blessings he has given you?
The wonderful thing about God is that he takes the initiative in our relationship with him. He made the first move, and even in spite of our failures to do what it is we should be doing, if we have truly entered into a relationship with him, he won’t ever let go of us. He loves us in spite of our many failures. But this isn’t an excuse to try less, it is motivation to try harder to love a God who has loved us so much. Even though we can rest assured that God will never turn his back on us, we are robbing ourselves of so much joy by not seeking him as we should. If you are missing time in prayer or bible study, you are missing more pleasure than you can imagine. If you are neglecting times of worship, both personal and corporate, you are missing one of the greatest blessings the Christian life has to offer and your growth in grace is suffering.
All relationships take work and must be intentional, I think we all know this. We also know that successful healthy relationships are a beautiful thing, and are worth every ounce of effort we put into them. This is infinitely true as it relates to our relationship with God, for there is no greater joy, no greater pleasure, and no more beautiful relationship than this. There is no one more worthy of your love and affection, and certainly no one more worthy of the effort you’ll put in.
You’ll never give God more than he’s already given you.
There is something very dangerous happening within the church today. A hazardous mistake that many of us are prone to make. Initially I was going to call this a dangerous trend, but in actuality this has been happening amongst God’s people ever since God has had a people. So what am I talking about? (The title of this post should give you a hint.)
When I speak of minimizing God, I’m not speaking in this case about our mistaken priorities, and even idolatry. Surely this too is a problem, and what I am about to discuss could definitely lead us further into this deadly trap. But for now, what I mean by the phrase “minimizing God” is the way in which we all tend to take one attribute of God’s character and elevate it above every other attribute.
For instance, there are some Christians who want to discuss nothing but God’s mercy. Others seem to speak of nothing but the judgment of God. Others say God is a God of love, and say they could never serve a God of wrath. But what does the Bible say? Is God loving, or is he wrathful? Is God a God of mercy, or is he a God of judgment? Well, what if I were to tell you the answer is yes?
God is all of these. God is Love. God is merciful. But God also judges, and God also pours out his wrath. Our God is just that big. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the Scriptures.
God of mercy:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespases, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved…” Ephesians 2:4-5
God of judgment:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
God of wrath:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36
God of love:
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
Within God, we see all of these attributes. God is a God of love, a God of wrath, a God of judgment, and a God of mercy. God exhibits all of these attributes, and does so perfectly. And now I want to take it a step further…
Some of you probably noticed I only quoted from the New Testament. I did this intentionally. I have heard some people say, even some people who call themselves Christians things like, “The God of the New Testament is different from the God of the Old Testament.” Or, “Well, God is full of wrath in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament we just see grace.”
I’m not going to spend a lot of time here, simply because this is ridiculous. The Bible says time and time again that God doesn’t change. The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. This being true, we have to keep in mind that Jesus Himself was and is God, and therefore exhibits all of these attributes of God in himself. As Colossians 1:15 says, “He is the image of the invisible God…” And Hebrews 1:3, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…”
So many times people act as if Jesus was some feel good hippie who never judged a soul, or never called out the sin he saw in others. But Jesus is the one who stormed into the temple swinging a whip and flipping tables.(John 2:15) Jesus is the one who said to the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more.”(John 8:11) Jesus is the one who will judge the sin of the world, the living and the dead.(Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Timothy 4:1) So, just as God exhibits mercy and judgment, love and wrath…So too does Jesus. You can’t separate any of these divine attributes from who they are. You can’t elevate one attribute above the other. When you do, you are minimizing who God is in his very person. You are making the God of the universe, who was revealed to us perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ, smaller than he really is. This is extremely dangerous.
We must worship the God of the Bible. Not the God of our own minds. All of us are in danger of falling into this trap. I would dare say, all of us have fallen into this trap at one time or another. Maybe we are there now. This is why it is so important for us to continually study the Scriptures and seek the face of God in prayer. This is why we must be continually seeking to know Christ and seeking to abide in Him and His Word.
God revealed to us through Christ is not a one dimensional God. He is a beautiful multifaceted diamond, that grows more and more beautiful at every angle.
If we use anything other than Jesus to gauge our relationship with Jesus, that relationship will suffer.
Let me explain…
Many times we will measure where we are with Christ based on our feelings. We either feel close to Jesus, or far from Jesus based on our affections for Jesus. Sometimes Christians measure their relationship based on performance. Other times we use how others perceive us and our walk with Jesus to determine how we are doing.
The problem is, in all of these situations our relationship will be found wanting.
The problem is, in all of these situations, instead of looking at Christ we are looking at ourselves. As long as we are gauging our relationship with Jesus based on how we are doing, our relationship with Jesus will suffer. This is simply because we can’t perform well enough, love Jesus enough, or do enough to make ourselves feel worthy of Christ.
If you think you can, or if you think you have, or if you think you are…then chances are you don’t understand faith. Chances are, you are yet to truly grasp the Gospel.
The essence of the Gospel is that IN CHRIST you are accepted. The essence of faith is that IN CHRIST you are loved unconditionally by the God of the Universe. These things are true in spite of ourselves. In spite of our daily failures, God still loves you, Jesus still wants to know you and fellowship with you. IN CHRIST you belong to God. You are loved and treasured by God…But this isn’t because of you, or how wonderful you are, or how much you love Jesus…It is simply because of Christ and what He has done on your behalf in this beautiful and unfathomable story that we call the Gospel.
We gauge our relationship with Jesus based on one thing(or better to say one person).
As we look to Jesus we see that He has done enough. He is affectionate enough. He has loved us enough. We don’t need to worry about falling away, because He has us safely in his arms. Christ has placed us in the Father’s hand, and no one or nothing can remove us(John 10:29)…not even ourselves.
I’m reminded of Mark 14:26-31. In this passage, we see the disciples and especially Peter telling Jesus that they will stand by him no matter what. Peter says that he will fight to the death if he needs to. Jesus of course informed the disciples that they would indeed fall away. Not only would they fall away, but Peter himself would deny Jesus three times.
Peter and the disciples are basing their relationship on two things. Their affections for Jesus, and their performance.
We know what happens…The disciples scatter. Peter does indeed deny Jesus three times.
But of course, it doesn’t end there.
Peter and the rest of the disciples are later shown that in spite of their lack of faith and failures they belong to Christ and he will use them mightily in the building of his Church. Peter is shown specifically that Christ and Christ alone is to be his focus.(John 21:22)
This is no less true for us.
Jesus is the measure of our relationship with Jesus.
Please, pray for the people of Syria. I have been.
The silence amongst Christians in relation to the situation in Syria has dumbfounded me. I’m sure many are concerned, I’m sure many have prayed. But I don’t hear it. I spend time on social media… I’ve seen no Christians speaking up about the attrocities going on in Syria nor anyone talking about praying for these poor people who are being targeted and murdered by their own goverment. The world at large has been somewhat quiet…but an outcry from within the body of Christ has not happened…the silence is deafening. The world has an excuse. The church does not.
I think for some, it is confusion. We don’t know exactly what is going on…what we can do…so we say nothing. I admit, the feeling of helplessness is disheartening. I feel the same way. Yet, we can pray. We can raise our voices and speak up. If there is nothing else we can do, at least we can do this. I’m sure there are other things we can do…but as of right now, I don’t know what that is. I’ve looked around on the internet, but didn’t find much. Still, I pray. Still, you can pray.
I think for others, it is simply a lack of caring. It doesn’t affect us, so we have little concern. This is unexcusable. As human beings in general, this would be bad enough. If we are Christians, this is shameful, and a gross misunderstanding of who we are called to be. As Christians we are called to stand up for the oppressed, the powerless, the ones who can’t speak up for themselves. We are called to speak against, and to do what we can to stop the shedding of innocent blood. This is true whether these people are of our ‘tribe’ or not. If we can turn a blind eye to murder…I think it says much about our heart. This is a frightening thought.
I admit. I don’t have many ideas of what we can do. What I can do… We can pray. We can talk about what is going on to the best of our knowledge. We can express our hearts…which is why I am writing this post. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t seem like much. Yet, we must not be silent. There is no excuse for that.
I acknowledge there are many situations in the world that demand our attention. I know there are people all over the world being oppressed and murdered. I know there are many people in the world suffering and dying of things that are preventable. All of the things I spoke about above are true for these situations as well. We must not be silent…
I am not dismissing any of those things. The situation in Syria though, has really brought to light a major problem in the Church for me. Silence within the body of Christ as regards the suffering of other human beings who were created in the image of God. Tragic. We must not be silent…There is no excuse for our silence.
This is who you are
Rain down your mercy
Pour out your steadfast love…
It is who I am
It is who I have always been
Against my God have I sinned
Sin I chose
Sin is what I always choose
Yet this is not who I was called to be
This is no longer who I am
You have taught me
You are teaching me
Within my soul I hear your voice…
Cleanse me and I will be clean
Wash me whiter than snow
In your mercy I find joy
In your love you have broken me
My sin you no longer see
My heart is yours
Your life is mine
This is who I am
My spirit longs for you
My spirit clings to you
You’ve filled my mouth with your words
My song is praise…
I sing for others
I sing for you
I sing for those who are yours
I sing for mercy
I sing for love
This is who you are…