The events of recent days have tried many people’s patience and understanding. We are seeing it all; from the sickness of the Covid19 virus to marches in the streets, to rioting and looting, and political intrigue. In the midst of it, it is easy to lose a focus on what being a Christian is all about.
Some side with a particular political or activist group. Some side with the police and others with the call to defund the police. Some identify with this racial or ethnic group and others with a different group. There are plenty of viewpoints to go around. As we all respond to people and the issues of the day here are a few things to keep in mind from a Christian perspective.
What has been happening is Nothing New nor a Surprise to God
There have been intergroup misunderstanding, dissention, inequities and wars since the beginning of human history. Education, politics, police, armies, etc. cannot solve the basic problem of people’s hearts. Only God can change us from within. That is why Jesus told a very religious and pious man that he needed to be “born again” or “born from above.” God is in the business of changing us.
Also, remember that all of what comes your way is “filtered through the hands of God.” He knew this was going to happen and is with you through the midst of it.
I (Jesus) am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20b
Act as God did, out of Love
For God so loved He gave…John 3:16a
God was under no obligation to rescue us and save us from ourselves. He acted from a pure, self-giving love. This type of love always has a cost. This is why God’s actions to save us are referred to in the Bible as redemption and as God “paying” a price for our redemption.
Jesus instructed us to love as He loved, and to go so far as to love even our enemies.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:43-45
If we are to have this type of giving love for enemies, how much more should we have this love for those who simply disagree with us or advance a different cause? Also, note that we are to pray for those we believe persecute us. Some of our problems are because we are not praying for those we disagree with.
See people and people groups as God does – See them from above
Our basic perspective is very limited if all we do is see things from our natural limited point of view and time on this earth, which is all too brief and self-focused.
Paul wrote that he no longer saw people after the flesh, i.e., from the viewpoint of a natural man who is without the Spirit of God in his life.
Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; 2 Corinthians 5:16
Instead Paul urged the following;
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ (as all Christians have been), keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 NASB
Our present and future is not to be that of the natural man or woman who has not been born again of the Holy Spirit. We are to see people from the perspective of God and eternity. Our own rewards and glory will come when Christ is revealed again in all of His glory.
Resolve to be an Ambassador who is a Peace Maker
An ambassador is someone who represents another person or a country. An ambassador does not represent himself or his own self-interests. As we interact with others we need to keep in mind that as a Christian we are to be ambassadors for Christ.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20
Christians are to be God’s ambassadors to bring about reconciliation between God and man and between men. Jesus taught his disciples;
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; Matthew 5:11-12a
A peace maker is one who brings reconciliation. We should ask ourselves what would Christ have us do to reconcile a person to God and to bring about reconciliation between people we interact with.
Your actions are not to focus on You, but about the needs of Others
Your needs will be met in Christ;
God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:20
With your own needs met in Christ you can move forward with confidence in helping others.
Listen carefully, you don’t know the Whole Story
Each person you meet is coming to you with a lifetime of experiences, both good and bad. They are most likely acting out of that compilation of cultural inputs, teachings, successes, failures, rejections and hurts. So, listen carefully to understand before you try to speak. This isn’t about you winning a Harvard style debate. It is about you being an ambassador for Christ (see above).
But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. James 1:19b-20
God is at work to change you as much as He wants to change them
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; Philippians 2:12
Each believer is called upon to apply the Word of God in everyday situations as part of “working out” or the “out working” of his or her salvation. As noted above, God knew you would be in an interaction with whoever it is that you are interacting with today. Now is the time to be the man or woman God intends you to be. James teaches us;
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25
God will bless us through interacting with others in a godly way in spite of tough or challenging circumstances.
Count it all joy
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
God is more interested in you becoming a complete man or woman in Christ with Christ in you (Colossians 1:27) than He is in your “solving” whatever challenge you are facing. The trial or challenge you face helps accomplish this goal. Therefore, rejoice in challenges as an opportunity to grow as a person and help fulfill the mission of Christ.
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (of Christ). Acts 5:41
You also may be helping to fill up what was “lacking” in Christ’s suffering on behalf of others in the body of Christ. Paul wrote of himself;
Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. Colossians 1:24
What you are going through is not without purpose for your life and others.
As stated in the beginning of this essay, Jesus told His disciples that,
I (Jesus) am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b
The apostle Paul was so convinced of his life being “in Christ” that he could therefore confidently say;
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21
In life or death Paul’s life was safe in Christ. Yours is too if you have received Him into your life.
Abide in Christ
Trying to do any and all of the above will be futile self-effort if you are not abiding in Christ. Give up on your self-efforts to control people and situations. You are not God. Give up on trying to have an immediate answer for everything and focus on Christ and His word. Jesus told His disciples;
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
Some ways to abide in Christ include;
- Read and think about God’s word
- Listen for God’s voice
- Pray for God’s direction, for the needs of others and to be an instrument of His love.
(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation - www.lockman.org.)