Thursday, August 19, 2010

LOVE IS OUR (NEW) NATURE

"For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." - 1 Peter 3:12

If you believe in Jesus, you believe in the power of love to redeem. If you believe in Jesus, you are a living example of how love can change the human heart.

How then can we, as followers of Jesus, fail to respond to those who are bound by evil with love, compassion and mercy? Are we surprised that they are sinful? Does it seem strange that those who have not tasted of God’s love should lack evidence of it in their lives? Hardly. Yet, when we respond to hate with more hate, we ourselves are the ones who are acting out of character. The unbeliever who curses us or insults us is behaving exactly as he should. He is being true to his nature.

As it says in Romans 8:7-8, "The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God."

However, you and I are no longer alive to the flesh or to sin. We are transformed into the image of Christ by the indwelling Spirit of God.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" – 2 Corinthians 5:17

In fact, if we are truly redeemed by Christ – if His Holy Spirit is living in us daily – then we shouldn’t even have to think about how to love our enemies, or even if we should or not. It should be our reasonable response to love those who hate us and to bless those who curse us.

"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 5:20

When Jesus uttered these words there was no doubt a collective sigh of defeat from the crowd. How could anyone hope to be more righteous than the Pharisees? They were without equal in Jewish society as the defenders of the faith and keepers of the Law of Moses. No one outside of that group would ever have dared to proclaim that they were more righteous than any Pharisee. It would seem then that any hope of entering the Kingdom of God was extinguished from the beginning. “Who then, can be saved?”

What Jesus is pointing out here is that, even the righteousness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law is not enough. If the standard of righteousness required exceeds that of those professional law-keepers, then even they will be left outside of the Kingdom. Maybe what Jesus is suggesting is that keeping the law isn’t the right way to enter the Kingdom. Perhaps that door is locked? Or maybe that door was never a door at all.

I think that Jesus is trying to suggest that, unlike the Pharisees whose righteousness was only an outward display of false humility and oppressive legalism, our real hope for entering the Kingdom of God is found through transformation. Later on in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says,

"Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." – Matthew 7:17-18

Translation: It’s not about doing stuff. It’s about transformation.

The Pharisees had it backwards. They were attempting to produce good fruit in their lives by doing good things. Jesus uses the metaphor of fruit trees to point out that the kind of tree you are (your nature) determines the kind of fruit you produce (your actions).

One way to express this new perspective is to say, “To produce good fruit, first become a good tree. Good trees produce good fruit naturally.” The point Jesus is trying to make is that we are all “bad trees” and unless we are transformed from within, we will never become “good trees” capable of producing good fruit.

Our calling is to allow Jesus to transform us into His image so that we can model a righteousness that is a natural expression of our new nature.

My version of this idea is expressed in the phrase: “Swimming won’t make you a fish. But if you are a fish, you will swim.”

When we attempt to become righteous by doing good works, we miss the point. But, when we let go of our own effort and surrender ourselves to His indwelling Spirit, we allow Jesus to live in us and through us. When this happens, he empowers us to love the unlovable and serve others in His strength.

Of course, we must daily do battle with our own flesh – our own sinful nature – in order to allow the life of Christ to increase in us. This is what Jesus means when he says that those who desire to follow Him must take up their cross (the instrument of their own death) each and every day. Therefore, the beautiful thing about being humiliated by people who hate us is that it fuels our death to self. Insults are like the hammer pounding down on the nails in our hands. Spiteful actions are like a crown of thorns being pressed into our prideful brow. Persecution is like a spear being thrust into our soft, selfish flesh.

If we were dead to sin, these actions wouldn’t hurt us so much. If our pride wasn’t so sensitive, being disrespected wouldn’t wound us so deeply. The fact that we are insulted when someone treats us like a servant betrays the fact that we are not already humble enough to actually serve them.

So, laying down our lives for others is what we are called to do. Those who seek to find their lives lose them. Those who lose their lives for the sake of Christ, discover what true life is really all about.

If you believe in Jesus, you cannot put your faith in hate. You cannot put your trust in anger. You cannot. Your only hope is Christ. Your only salvation is through love. His love has changed your heart, and it can change the hearts of others too. When you are persecuted, insulted, and humiliated you are presented with an opportunity to share with Christ in His sufferings. You have been given a gift from God when this happens. It’s a gift-wrapped hammer and a set of nails. If you allow Him to, He will fill you with His love for those who mistreat you. He will help you to put to death your pride and your love of self. He will teach you how to serve others, even when they are doing their best to hate you.

This is what it means to follow Christ.

Conversatio Morem! Death to the Status Quo of Me!

-kg

1 comment:

Nic Pieptu said...

Thank you again for your inputs! To love is hard and easy in the same time... You are a blessing to many through your Spirit led insights. Blessings!