Monday, November 26, 2012
“Therefore, I began to think, my Lord, you purposely allow us to be brought into contact with the bad and evil things that you want changed. Perhaps that is the very reason why we are here in this world, where sin and sorrow and suffering and evil abound, so that we may let you teach us so to react to them, that out of them we can create lovely qualities to live forever. That is the only really satisfactory way of dealing with evil, not simply binding it so that it cannot work harm, but whenever possible overcoming it with good.” – Much-Afraid, from “Hinds Feet On High Places”, page 242.
My wife Wendy has been reading to us for a few weeks now from the book, “Hinds Feet On High Places” by Hannah Hurnard as part of our family devotion times together. So far, I’ve been very blessed by this allegorical story of faith, and often moved to tears at the beautiful devotion to Christ and the simple trust that Much-Afraid, the protagonist of the story, so effortlessly expresses from her heart.
But the other night my wife read the passage above out loud and it was as if a giant searchlight flashed out of the sky over my head and beamed pure wisdom down on my tiny heart. This is important. We need to stop and consider this profound truth. We must chew on it, swallow it, internalize it, digest it, and hold it forever in our beings so that we never forget it.
See, this is the key to something most followers of Jesus struggle with the most. We go to God with our sufferings and our trials and our only prayer is that He take the evil away. But what if the whole point of our being immersed in this world of sin and suffering and pain and evil is to recreate – over and over again – the amazing victory of Jesus over sin and death? What if God’s entire purpose and plan for our lives is to provide example after example of love overcoming evil and forgiveness overcoming hate?
Yes, Jesus prayed for those who nailed him to the cross saying, “Father forgive them. They know not what they do.” But what if you and I undergo suffering and persecution in order to duplicate that same scenario? What if every Christian is called to overcome evil with good, and to pray for those who hate us, and to love those who despise us?
Even more, what if God’s big plan is to defeat evil itself by this same testimony of love?
That would mean that our suffering has a purpose far greater than we ever imagined. Our response to hate is more critical than we might think. Our obedience to Christ could have eternal implications for those who are not yet citizens of His Kingdom.
This, I believe, is what Paul the Apostle has in mind in Romans chapter 12. First, he appeals to the unspeakable glory of God (at the end of chapter 11) and urges us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. Then he tells us not to be conformed to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed.
But why? So that we can love others (v.9-10), and so that we can bless those who persecute us (v.14), repay the evil with blessings (v.17), live at peace with all men (v.18), refrain from vengeance (v.19), feed our enemies (v.20) and overcome evil with good (v.21).
Do you see what Paul suggests? He’s saying that once we are transformed we need to live transformed lives. This transformed life looks nothing like what we’re used to. Our new, transformed lives are upside down from what anyone would ever expect, and apart from the indwelling spirit of Jesus such lives are hilariously impossible to duplicate.
Ask yourselves this question: “How could you ever defeat an enemy who only gained strength as it got weaker?”
Answer: “You can’t.” And that’s the point of 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 when Paul tells us that God refused to remove his thorn in the flesh. Why? Because God’s “power is made perfect in weakness.” It is, in fact, “the power of Christ”.
This means that we who embrace our weakness and our suffering are carriers of the unlimited and infinite power of the supreme deity who created the universe, and the way we unleash this power is to do what He did – let go of our own identity and status and rights and lay down everything, even unto death (see Philippians 2:5-10), so that the power of Christ can flow through us and rip gaping holes in the fabric of evil like super-charged thermonuclear weapons of mass destruction.
God’s love changes everything. It has changed us. It can change others. It overcomes evil. It lays flat the proud. It devastates the oppressor. It silences the mocking voice. It transforms a sinful world of selfishness into a selfless Kingdom of joyful service to all.
This is why we turn the other cheek. This is why we pray for those who hate us. This is why we are called peace makers. This is why we are called upon to suffer as Christ suffered. (see 1 Peter 3:9-18) Because, “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.” (1 John 4:17)
Truly, we are called “Little Christs” (the literal meaning of the term “Christian”) for a very good reason. As Jesus loved others in suffering, we also are called to love those who hate us and to bless those who curse us. This is part of God’s amazing plan to change the world from the inside out.
We are each like little viruses that are transforming an organism from the inside out. Only the life of this organism depends on the success of this transformation.
This is Subversive. This is the Kingdom of God.
“Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6)
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world.” – Jesus (John 16:33)