Happy New Year!! A message on carrying our message into the world in 2017.
As Christians today, the world knows all about what we are against. In fact, we are known to the world mostly by what we are against. We have learned the art of protest, the art of shouting down those we disagree with. Instead of doing to others as we would have them do to us, we do unto them before they can do unto us. What did George Bush once call it, the “preemptive strike”? I know, that was a military term and for our national “security”, but did not we all in some form adopt that into ourselves?
We are known for our quarrels and disagreements, both with each other and with the world around us. We are known as a voting block, for picking sides in elections. We are known for our anger when things don’t go our way in these elections (really…isn’t it just the state of being angry that we are most known for these days?). Because while we proclaim Jesus is Lord with our mouth, in our hearts and minds we know that our true Lord resides in Washington. And if we can just get the right people in Washington, then we can truly get around to doing God’s work!! Get the right people in office, get the right laws passed, get the right things banned, make all things just like 1950 (which is rumored to be the time of pure Christian nirvana in the USA. But then somehow the 1960s happened, so maybe the 1950s weren’t quite as idyllic as we like to tell ourselves??). But since it is 2017, that means 1950 was 67 years ago, and not many reading this would have been alive to have any real memories of that time.
And since it is 2017, and I’ve already given a list of many things that I believe we are known for, what exactly should we be known for? I would say, the exact things Jesus was known for. After all, we claim to be “Christians” right. The definition of “Christian” would and should be “little Christ”, right?
Jesus Himself told us what we would be known for. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 ESV. People will know we are disciples of Jesus by our love.
Love. Not anger. Not judgement. Not bible knowledge. Not by our protests. Not by our Christian memes on Facebook. Not by our arguments. Not by our clever comebacks. Not by our being right.
They will know us by our love. Jesus brought a love revolution. It is political in scope as well as personal, but we can’t win politically by the worlds system and values. We’ve been trying this for decades, and it’s gotten us nowhere. The apostle Paul told us long ago “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 ESV. We have tried ignoring this command in the Bible. We have tried for decades to to conform to this world, to follow the pattern of those around us. We know how to protest, how to organize, how to mobilize against our perceived “enemies”. In 2017 it’s time for the renewing of the Christian mind, and the renewing of the call of Christ in our lives.
Christ told us people would know us by our love. Today they don’t know us by our love, and as a result they don’t know Him. They think they know Him through us, and so they should. Instead, they know our anger and our protests, and think that by this they know all they need to know about Him.
Jesus was able to make Himself known to unbelievers even with His dying breath. “And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”” Mark 15:39 ESV. A Roman centurion watching Jesus of Nazareth die crucified knew as He watched that he was seeing the Son of God. What exactly did this centurion see? “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34 ESV. This centurion had seen many crucifixions. They were commonplace in Rome at this time. He had seen how men died during crucifixion, and it was not praying for the forgiveness of those doing the crucifying. This battle hardened Roman soldier standing at the foot of a Roman cross knew instantly and instinctively that this kind of love could only come from another world. He knew that the man up on that cross with the crown of thorns and His sign declaring “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” must be divine!! It was only the power of forgiving love that could have persuaded this Roman soldier that a crucified Galilean Jew was indeed the Son of God. It proved the Jesus was exactly who He said He was. In the words of Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Love alone is credible“.
Our Christianity has become antagonistic and retaliatory in attitude. We have gone from imitating Christ in non retaliatory, unconditional forgiveness to becoming a Christianity which is focused on its own interests and self-preservation. In the words of Brian Zahnd from his book “UNconditional? The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness” – “This is the ugly Christianity that demands its rights and angrily protests when it is treated by the world as Christ was treated by the world. The irony is tragic.”
We have lost credibility in the world, because the world does not know us for our love. They know us for many things, but love is not one of them. Jesus told us “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 ESV. To take up our cross and follow Jesus is not a call to believe something about Jesus and His cross. To take up our cross and follow is to take up our own cross and do as Jesus did on His cross. It’s the call of Jesus to give up our rights, forgo retaliation, and practice unconditional forgiveness. It’s the call He gives us, and it’s the walk He walked, right up through His own brutal execution.
Because love alone is credible.
“And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!””
Mark 15:39 ESV
“And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.”
Luke 23:34 ESV
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.””
John 13:35 ESV
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Romans 12:2 ESV