State of Our Union

I like to joke that everyone wants to be a Christian until it’s time to do Christian things. As with all jokes there is some truth behind this one.

Let’s be honest, our country is a bit of a mess right now. Not that it hasn’t always been a bit of a mess – every nations’ history is littered with injustice, disunity, corruption, hate and discontent. But I think we find ourselves in a unique and pivotal time. Not since the 60s have we seen such a divided nation when it comes not just race but nearly every political issue across the board. And this divide isn’t just people agreeing to disagree; it’s people who vehemently hate one another for holding opposing views.

I was thinking about our nation while scanning the various newspapers across the country this morning and the Holy Spirit revealed some verses that has prompted this blog.

Simply put, we are a nation full of people who no longer know how to forgive one another.

And we no longer know how to forgive one another because we are a nation that has left the absolute truths of scripture for a watered-down version that fits our own moral relativism.

There are three verses that came to my head this morning I’d like to share. The first is Peter asking Jesus about forgiveness. Matthew 18:21-22 says this:

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Peter must have been stunned by Jesus’ answer. In Hebrew numbers have dual meanings. The number 7 is a perfect number so when Peter asked if he should forgive seven times he was asking if seven times was enough to give perfect forgiveness. Jesus’ answer is not 7 but 77 times! In other words, not just when you think you’ve hit the perfect level forgiveness but every single time someone does you wrong you forgive. In other translations Jesus answers seven times 70. Same idea though.

As you can see Jesus’ answer is consistent with what He taught when He told his disciples in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly. Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” In other words, if you don’t forgive every single time, God can’t forgive you every single time. Sobering, huh?

So, let me ask you this: Where are you, your neighbors, your community, your state, and your nation in terms of forgiving one another? I just don’t really see it out there much.

Instead people are offended at the slightest provocation even if that provocation is just one perceived and not actually real. You see outrage over just about everything from the smallest indiscretion to things that actually deserve outrage. I see people on social media telling their friends that if they disagree with their opinion that they will be “de-friended” as if friendship is based on people agreeing with you. I see people disparaging others and even threatening others.

What you don’t see if forgiveness.

The next verse the Holy Spirit put in my head was Luke 6:27-36:

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. (Emphasis added)  33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

I love this verse. It’s always easy to love those who love you; like those who agree with you; support those who you trust. But that is not what God calls us to. Jesus was clear: Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, forgive as you’ve been forgiven, do not judge, show mercy, be humble, serve.

I’m not going to tell you this is easy to do; it cuts against our very nature to do this. Yet, when one is a Christian one is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and thus has the power to actually pull this off. This is why scripture says we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us! Unfortunately, most Christians I meet don’t even try to do this more or less pray that the Holy Spirit enables them with His power to accomplish this extreme feat of love.

Instead what I see is people believing in their own righteousness claiming to have “holy discontent” about this issue or that and cherry-picking verses from the Bible to support their own position. I’ve shared this quote from Augustine before, but I’ll share it again:

“If you believe what you like in the Gospel and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe but yourself.”

Amen, St. Augustine, AMEN.

The third verse I heard this morning was Romans 12:18:

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Now think about this for a second – how much of what happens in your life depends on you? Your thoughts, your actions, your words, your reactions, your attitudes, your emotions, your disposition, your body language and the list goes on? Dang near everything!

We are not judged on how other people treat us – scripture tells us clearly that we will be hated because they hated Jesus first; that we will be persecuted and we shouldn’t think it strange; that we will be mistreated, falsely accused, and have all sorts of injustice happen to us. No, we are judged on how we react to all this. When I get to heaven Jesus isn’t going to ask me what people did to me; He’s going to ask me if I loved my enemies, love the unlovable, forgave those who abused me, showed grace and mercy to those undeserving of grace and mercy just as the Father has done for me.

So, ask yourself this question: As far as it depends on me have I been peaceful in my thoughts, my words, and my actions or have I violated Christ’s teachings and been part of the problem?

I was asked recently about some of my ministry work and if there were times when I had been taken advantage of. Yes – all ministry is sacrifice and people certainly have abused the generosity of my time, talents, and treasure. However, I do not really consider it abuse. I do what I do for Jesus not the people to whom I minister. Jesus is the only person to whom I am accountable so my whole life’s mission is to serve and please Him. If I do that, I can do all the other things I’ve been writing up in this blog so even if I am taken advantage of it’s all for the Kingdom of God!

Sadly, however, I fail Jesus every day. My human nature and selfishness get in the way. Yeah, there are times I too want to lash out on social media at some of the idiocy I see out there. Then I have to ask forgiveness for not loving my enemies and having a hard heart.

You see, our fight is not against flesh and blood – it’s not about the people. We’re in a spiritual battle where Satan uses the blinded, the hard hearted, the rebellious, and the lost to attack God’s institutions and His people. Our response should be God’s word, prayer, humility, and love.

Always remember these key points:

  1. God does not need us to defend Him! There was a great meme that said, “The lion doesn’t need defending just let him out of his cage.” Let Jesus manifest Himself through you!
  2. Only light drives out darkness. Responding in kind never works; it just escalates things. Respond with the light of Christ – forgiveness, grace, mercy, non-judgment, and love.
  3. The power of the Holy Spirit dwells in you – USE IT!
  4. Forgiveness is not an option for we Christians. We must forgive Every. Single. Time. And when we go out into the world, we need to teach other the power of forgiveness!
  5. Don’t take the bait. Satan loves it when “Christians” take the bait and engage in bitter disputes with others and instead of being Christ-like they become selfish putting their own opinions and desires ahead of what God calls us to.

Martin Luther King had a dream. I do, too! I dream of a world where God’s people will actually act like God’s people – something the Father has been calling us to do since the Garden and something we have failed to do just as long.

My friends, forgive quickly; give agape love readily; turn the other cheek and don’t take offense so easily; don’t judge people made in God’s image; pray against the schemes of Satan; and always remember that you are Jesus’ ambassador to everyone you see so act like

2 comments

  1. Veronica Heilpern · · Reply

    Right on Tom. Yeah, I struggle with forgiveness not just daily but sometimes hour by hour or minute by minute. We all still need to keep at it, finding the Father’s Love in us and passing it on to everyone, especially those we label “enemy.”

  2. Isaac Engel · · Reply

    Thanks for the post. Good thoughts, and I’m glad you’re sharing them with us.

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