Samuel Hamilton in East of Eden once wrote, “Two stories have haunted us and followed us from our beginning. . . . We carry them along with us like invisible tails—the story of original sin and the story of Cain and Abel. And I don’t understand either of them. I don’t understand them at all, but I feel them.
Original sin is the story of the fall of humanity. Adam and Eve disobey God and death had a birthday. The story of Cain and Abel is the story of violence finding its first platform of death and destruction.
Brian Zanhd in his book, Beauty Will Save The World, teaches that the picture of individuals going wrong is seen in the story of Adam and Eve and the picture of civilization going wrong is seen in the story of Cain and Abel.
Separation from God and violence was never God’s plan for us as individuals or for civilization. We were created to reflect the image of God. We were designed to take care of each other. Violence is not the way of the kingdom of God.
God’s rule and reign in the here and now is not through violence and power. His rule and His reign are through the work of the Holy Spirit working not only in us, but through us toward others by the power of love.
Love is the greatest power ever known to man. Love was perfectly demonstrated on the cross. When violence taunted Jesus to fight back, He fought back with love and not violence. He took all the sins of the world and its violence upon himself and said, “It is finished!” He defeated it with love. So must we!
We can only love like God when we move toward God in submission. We must not be violent to get our way. The Gospel was never gifted to us to force upon the sinner. It was gifted to us to love the sinner to the foot of the cross. Violence will always and only be seen as corrupt in God’s sight. (See Genesis 6:11-13)
The Church is called to be God’s new humanity in the world. We are not called to call down fire like James and John wanted to do when Jesus was rejected. They asked to call fire down, and Jesus warned them that they knew not what spirit they were being lead by.
When we live God’s peace to the world, we show forth His lordship. The world system cannot bring peace. Only God can do that, and He did it by the cross. When we follow the politics of forgiveness and redemption, we find that we are following Jesus.
When you and I answer the call to deny self and take up the cross and follow Christ, we are baptized to the imperative call to love our enemies. Christ sending His sheep out among wolves is about love and never about retaliation. I’ve heard it said many ways and it is true…the beauty of love and kindness is most strikingly seen in the darkest of places.
We are called to be light. We are called to walk in His love. Both are done in the darkness, and both cast darkness out. Now walk bold today my friend. Walk in love. You will find you are walking in the footsteps of Christ Himself.
When we live God’s peace in the world, we show forth His lordship. The world system cannot bring peace. Only God can do that, and He did it by the cross. Love was manifested on the cross and was given to the world while we were yet sinners.
When I follow the politics of forgiveness and redemption, I find I’m following Jesus. When you answer the call to deny yourself and take up the cross and follow Christ, you are baptized to the imperative call to love your enemies.
Christ sending His sheep out among wolves is about love and not retaliation. The beauty of love and kindness is most strikingly seen in the darkest of places when they are demonstrated and not just spoken about.
Where are you shining the light of God’s love and kindness? I’m sure you shine it among the believers, but do you shine it among the wolves? We must never forget the wolf can be transformed. At last, “In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;…” Isaiah 11:6a
Don’t mute Jesus. Excel in making Him known through loving the unlovable. Jesus never chose sides. He loved the world. He hung on the middle cross loving both the one on the left and the one on the right. He chose them both, but only one chose Him that day. He chooses everyone that everyone might have the chance to repent and turn to Him in surrender. 2 Peter 3:9b teaches that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
The only division Christ came to bring was to a division that points all of humanity to a decision for Him or against Him. He did so because choosing Him or rejecting Him is the only eternal choice that really matters in this age, or the age to come. You must point humanity to the middle cross every day of your life through your actions and your words. People in our world are hungry to belong. They are hungry and thirsty to be heard, valued and love unconditionally.
Pointing humanity to the left or to the right will never satisfy the hole in their lives. Pointing them to the middle cross is the only answer. In John 6 Jesus speaking to the crowd said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus is still offering that call to the world today. He doesn’t offer it through himself (his physical presence) anymore because He sits at the right hand of the Father waiting to return. However, he still offers it through us, His children by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As Christ followers, you and I have the Spirit of God living on the inside of us seeking to serve and rescue the world. The rescuing of the world doesn’t happen by following the media, or by choosing the left or right. Rescuing happens by choosing to obey the command of love, and pointing the world to the middle cross where Jesus stretched out His arms wide to embrace everyone who would hear.
Will you obey and follow His leading, or will you be a quencher of the Spirit? Will you mute Jesus today by choosing the left or the right or will you live for Him and promote Him today by choosing the middle? The middle cross is still the only answer for the world because Jesus used it to defeat evil forever. Jesus turned an ugly cross of Rome into a vision of beauty that rescues the world. His crucifixion was the greatest act of love ever accomplished for humanity, and it’s still the only path that leads us home.
I find it perfectly beautiful that God didn’t curse the darkness and chaos of creation to call it forth. He simply spoke in perfect love, “Let there be…”
There is a “let there be” moment in every life of chaos we encounter.
It takes time. God didn’t speak to the creation in just one day.
Let us never forget there is eternal life waiting to be called forth in every dark corner of the world and yes, even your community.
The restoration of our true humanity began at the cross and resurrection and will be completed at the second coming of Christ. The first step of the journey of restoration is to give your self in complete dependence to God who is the shaper of the clay. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self.”
The resurrection of Christ gives to us the gift of being valuable signpost pointing to the one true way. By surrendering to Christ working through us, we are helping to restore the world and point others to the only hope humanity has. We are called to be a part of building for God’s kingdom.
We are being shaped by Christ, and His Spirit has filled us to shape the world around us. We are called to dependency on Him in order to show the world His glories power working through weakness. Our very lives announce redemption is possible through Christ alone.
Salvation is at work in us. We are rescued, and we are being rescued in order to open the eyes of the blind. We are vessels God finds joy in working through. Yes, He works in us and even for us, but the work through us is of greater value to a lost and dying world.
As Christ followers, we are pictures to the world of God’s kingdom that is now and not fully yet. In the words of N.T. Wright, “Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God’s new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet.”
As you walk through you day, remind yourself again and again that God is walking through you for the sake of others. It will change the way you evaluate your day. I promise.
I’m not a big fan of cursing the darkness. As a Christ follower, we should be primarily concerned with being salt and light. While it’s true, the Bible calls us to reprove the works of darkness, reproving darkness and cursing the darkness are two different approaches entirely.
Cursing the darkness is throwing condemnation at those who are outside of Christ, while reproving darkness is shining our light as to awaken the sinner from their sleep. The first is done in the same spirit Jesus rebuke James and John for when they wanted to call fire down on those who rejected Christ. (See Luke 9:54)
The latter is done in the Spirit of love that understands that those outside of Christ are under condemnation already, and we have no need to throw more their way. (See John 3:18) If we are to win the world to Christ, we must do so in the greatest power know to man, which is the love of God.
Hate never reached or rescued anyone, but love has proved time and time again to rescue the most hardened heart. Jesus died to prove love real. We are called to do more than talk about grace; we are called to demonstrate grace to everyone. Yes, Even the ungrateful and evil. (See Luke 6:35)
In Ephesians 5, we are called to take no part in unfruitful works of darkness. We are told to expose them. We expose them by letting our light shine, and be visible, not by trying to curse the darkness and win a religious argument. When we love like Christ, His light shines and awakens the sleeper from darkness to light.
Many Christ followers need to return to trusting in the love of God to win the lost. We need to stop trying to win them by persuasive arguments of men, arguments of condemnation.
Allow me to say it again, Hate never reached or rescued anyone, but love has proved time and time again to rescue the most hardened heart.
There will be times that God causes you to notice people, and at other times He will simply lead someone right to you directly. I have had both of these happen in my life, almost on a daily basis.
Once, I was in a local store in California shopping with my family. My son Noah had to use the restroom. After we finished, we were on our way back to meet my wife and daughter, when I noticed a woman visibly upset. God touched my spirit and caused me to stop. I asked her, “What’s troubling you?” “Nothing,” she replied. I then said, “Are you sure?”
She responded by letting me know I would not want to hear it. I assured her, I would not have stopped if I didn’t want to hear it. She smiled and began to pour her heart out. She spoke to me for about five minutes about all that was going wrong for her. Her troubles were pressing in on her, and she felt alone and helpless. She was frustrated, angry and bitter about life.
I listened to every word she said, and I never broke eye contact. My son watching was just an added bonus because I knew he would ask me later why we stopped for a total stranger, and I would have the opportunity to pour into him compassion ministry. When the lady was finished speaking, I said, “You know, I bet the rest of your day is going to be just fine.”
She laughed and said, “I think you’re right. Thanks for taking the time to listen.” “You’re welcome,” I said and my son and I departed. I know it sounded effortless and not much like a miracle, but for her it meant everything. It was the miracle she needed for the day.
Wright, Steve (2012-03-18). The Descent To Compassion (pp. 48-49). . Kindle Edition.
What is it about the past that holds so many people captive?
When I was growing up I worked in my father’s sheet metal shop, and there were all types of machinery, and tables for working with all things metal. One table had weighted magnets that would swing out over the table and hold a piece of metal down to the table once they were turned on. The metal would then be unmovable as you worked on it.
From time to time, I would jump up on the table and try and pull a magnet to the point of breaking it free from the table. It was a strength game my bothers, and I use to play to see who was the strongest. I was never able to break the magnets free, and neither were any of my brothers. It always remained locked in place. The only way to break it free was to cut the power off to the magnet.
Some of you today need to do the same thing and cut the power off to the past that has you in its grips. You have tried to pull your way free from the past. You have struggled really hard to be stronger than your past, but nothing seems to set you free. The only thing that will free you is to cut off the power of the past. You do that by believing God is at work in your life in the present.
We all have a past. A past filled with memories so powerful and hurtful that to recall them brings nothing but a pain to your soul and a knot to your stomach. When we hang on to our painful past memories, we either become withdrawn and unsociable; or explosive, cranky, critical, judgmental, reactive and mean towards others.
Jan Glidewell once said, “You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms to full to embrace the present.” I love the story of Joseph in the Bible. His story is one of my favorites. I’ll try and summaries and keep it brief as I give you some background and insight into his life and choices concerning his painful past.
1 Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Make everyone go out from me!” So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it. 3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence.
They were terrified. They did not know anything about Potiphar’s wife and the undeserved prison sentence. Neither did they know about the abandonment by the cupbearer. But they remembered the pit and their bartering and selling their own brother. They had every reason to be terrified
And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.
Perhaps they expected a call for the royal guards, and the punishment they deserved for the cruelty they had shown their own brother. But no retaliation comes. These brothers did not know that Joseph had made peace with his painful past. His own words indicate he had let go of any vindictive feelings he held against them. He had cut off the power to the past.
5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
How was Joseph able to put all his painful past behind him? What was Joseph’s secret? He practiced true forgiveness. Joseph could have struck back and felt the exhilaration that comes from getting even. Instead, Joseph chose to forgive. Until you forgive, the pain of your past will continue to be felt in your present.
I chagllege you today to cut of the power to the magnet that is hold you in the past. Forgiveness is how the power switch is cut off. It is hard to forgive but possible.
One of the greatest comforts the Bible demonstrates is that Jesus takes pleasure in breaking away from the crowd to take care of the individual. It is simply impossible to be lost from Him in a crowd. In Mark 5: 24-34, we read the story of a woman in the crowd.
We are told that she had suffered for many years. In fact, she had been suffering for twelve years. Her condition was growing worse daily, and she was out of money. We are told that she touched the cloak of Jesus and immediately she was healed. Jesus felt power issuing from Himself. Jesus then turns to look for who touched him. Once she is identified, by falling at his feet, the real miracle takes place. She is validated in front of everyone.
As soon as Jesus was face to face with this woman the crowd faded into the background; the crowd was forgotten and there seem to be no one there but Jesus and her. She had His full attention. Now that is the true miracle simply because she had captured the full consideration of God. You see, the world is still full of people lost in the crowd, and they are searching for their healing. They are waiting for someone to give them the same attention God gave this woman in Mark 5.
We are called to notice people. We must stop walking by the suffering because we are afraid to emerge from our schedules. Someone in your path today needs to be noticed, and God wants to use you to meet them. Think about it. Life is short, and each day must count.
Wright, Steve (2012-03-18). The Descent To Compassion (pp. 47-48). . Kindle Edition.