With this persecution occurring at this time, I have spent some time meditating on The Message. 1 Peter 3:15 says:
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
1 Peter 3:15 (NASB)
I’d like to claim Peter’s words here as our fellowship’s motto. We need to be clear on what our message is. We need to know how to respond and what to say.
It is a natural reaction, when wronged or lied about, to want to leap to our own, personal defense. We know we are wrongly accused. We know that all we are about is sharing the love Jesus gave to us with others. We lead a lifestyle that is consistent with Christ’s love but with humbleness because we know we often fail. We repent when we know we have been wrong. We love each other fervently, encourage each other to want for themselves what God wants for them, teach about what real, godly love is and exhort each other to practice this kind of love. We give the Gospel message to all we meet, when possible, and definitely introduce others to Jesus when they walk through our doors into one of our meetings. We are a close family. We love together, live out our lives together, suffer together, and rejoice together. But even more importantly, we are not a closed, tribal group. As Clive Calver said at the 2006 Xenos Summer Institute, we (Christians) are the only community who exists for the benefit of its nonmembers.
But we are now in a position to live this commitment and belief out in the real world. The very people we are trying to love and persuade that Jesus is the savior of the world are turning on our community and attempting to get us to shut up. This is where it gets difficult. How do we love them when they won’t let us?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Here’s what’s in my mind and heart. I can’t love them. It’s impossible for me. It’s impossible because I am a fallen, sinful, selfish, self-righteous woman. And frankly, even when I WANT to love, I am unable. But, and here’s the good news, Jesus CAN love them, and He has said He can love them through me. He can change my heart. In fact, He has changed my heart. Paul said,
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.
For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7:21-25 (NASB)
And one day, when all we who believed by faith in Jesus Christ, are together with Him, we will ALL be there by His grace and forgiveness. No longer will we look at each other and see each other’s sin. No longer will we be annoyed and bothered by the sin we see. Rather, we will be rejoicing that God was so loving and good that He paid the price for MY sin and now we can be together unhindered by out sin natures, glorifying God and loving each other perfectly. Wouldn’t it be just like God that we when we get to Heaven, we look across the room and see sitting there the very people who persecuted us? Would that not be the ultimate glorification of God? That we persevered through our trials here to love without condition so well, that the very people who hated us came into a relationship with the very Savior they hated seeing in us?
So here’s the message I want to communicate.
There is not one person now or ever that has been good enough to make it into God’s favor. We all decide to go our own way with our own ideas and do our own thing. And I am the foremost of sinners because in my self-righteousness, I don’t even see how sinful I am.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:23 (NASB)
All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
Isaiah 53:6 (NASB)
as it is written, “There is none righteous , not even one;
There is none who understands , There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside , together they have become useless ; There is none who does good , There is not even one.”
Romans 3:10-12 (NASB)
And yet this holy, righteous, perfect, Creator God loves me so much that instead of making me work really hard to TRY and make the grade, he sent His Son to die in my place and then God raised Him from the dead. Because of this I can now live for all eternity with Him.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
John 3:16-17 (NASB)
and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
1 Peter 2:24 (NASB)
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Colossians 2:13-14 (NASB)
Now that I am His child, He heals me, gives me significance and real purpose, shows me where I can invest in something that lasts forever. I can love now, and am not limited to loving only those who love me. I can love all people. No longer am I a slave to my own sin or the sin in other’s lives. I am truly free. Even better, He gives me the power to live in this way.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Galatians 2:20 (NASB)
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (NASB)
Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,
1 Peter 1:22 (NASB)
Last, but certainly not least, I have a new family – an all inclusive family that loves all and even loves me when I’m sinful.
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:13 (NASB)
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:14-16 (NASB)
That’s the message, unadorned, and beautiful without measure.
My prayer is that the Holy Spirit continues to transform me into the kind of woman who loves. The kind of woman who doesn’t take the credit but constantly points all in the direction of Jesus. The kind of woman who is in the kind of Body of Christ that is a beacon on a hill, light to the world, and salt that seasons.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;
nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16 (NASB)
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
Colossians 4:5-6 (NASB)
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:12 (NASB)