Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Once again … don’t resist!

You’ve heard:
‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’
But I tell you:
Don’t resist an evil person - but:
Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  
If anyone wants to sue you & take your shirt, let him have your coat also.
Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 
Give to him who asks of you,
- and -
Don’t turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
Matthew 5.38-42

One sad fact of our modern “Christian” world is that in many ways we are indistinguishable from the world.  We often teach, think and act just like those who are outside the kingdom.  This is a great shame, for God intended us to be different.  Consider this passage from Peter’s first letter:
 Jesus came to God as to a living stone (which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God)
You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood,
to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ….

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,
So that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you
out of darkness into His marvelous light.
For you once were not a people … but now you are the people of God!
You had not received mercy … but now you have received mercy.
 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may (because of your good deeds, as they observe them) glorify God in the day of visitation.
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.
1 Peter 2:4-15
If you study that passage closely, you’ll see Jesus’ teaching right there.  We are supposed to be different than the world … but different with a purpose.  We’re not called to merely be “good,” or to suffer by turning the other cheek, but we are called to be submissive even to hurtful people and institutions … for a purpose: “offer up spiritual sacrifices,” and “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you.”  We are submissive and obedient so that we can influence others for good.  If we are “eye for an eye” kind of people, how are we any different?  Why should anyone listen to our message? 

It’s when we are persecuted but still endure with a smile and grace that we show people how strong our God truly is, and how much He loves us and makes us strong.  Retaliation and justice are for ordinary people, not for disciples.  We show God’s strength when we endure graciously.  This is how we let our lights shine.  We are different when we are mistreated but still pray that our bully be forgiven, just as Jesus did. 

The best examples of being different in a dark world is from the books of Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah.  There you see the contrast between God’s people and those of the dark world in which we live.  “Daniel in the Lion’s Den,” or the stories of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego are much more than children’s stories.  They’re stories of men who were strong enough to stand in a dark place and let their lights shine. 

Remember that we cannot expect to be this strong while we’re yet young in the faith – or new in our walk as disciples.  We grow from babies when we’re first baptized into spiritually mature people. 

If you want to obey Jesus in this thing, it’s important that you accept this fact of growth, and that you make it deliberate.  Babies drink milk first, then solid food later.  We must exercise and train, and always remember that our growth comes from God. 

The question is: will you even try to accept our Lord’s challenge? 
Most will not. 

They will modify this teaching.  They will not teach their kids to “turn the other cheek.”  One big reason this won’t happen is because they haven’t learned how to do this themselves.  And so the blind are guiding the blind. 

You can be the agents of change – the generation to obey – but it will take work.  If you’re up for the challenge, then consider the teachings here:
  1. First accept that Jesus meant exactly what he said
  2. Accept the challenges you’re given … don’t reach for more, or do less … trust that God is allowing you to endure just what you’re capable of.  Trust – obey.
  3. Be patient with stumbles.  Everyone fails, and compassion helps growth a lot more than condemnation
  4. Stay focused on the work.  Remember you’re called to bring glory to God by teaching, healing and reproducing.  Stuff will happen to distract you … don’t let it!
  5. Never quit.  Be stubborn in refusal to bow to the temptation to retaliate.  Get back up after each fail.  Never, ever quit. 
  6. Remember to be accountable – to help, and be helped by other disciples.

Living, walking, working, enduring and loving like a disciple of Jesus ... it's a magnificent challenge!  Don't resist Him who calls you! 

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