Healing Not Hostility
From the series What Now? What Next?
Who’s that person in your life that you disagree with on everything? It doesn’t matter what you’re talking about, you’re always at odds. In this message, Chip focuses on how our fears in seasons of turmoil, can become toxic. Don’t miss how we can properly deal with this emotion, avoid hostility, and pursue healthy relationships.
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About this series
What Now? What Next?
Making Disciples in a Disrupted World
In the day-to-day reality of increasing upheaval and discord, how are Christians to think and behave? How do we anchor our conversations and attitudes when everything in us wants to either retreat or lash out in anger? In this new series, Chip provides a biblical path to allowing Christ to reign in us and work through us no matter what's going on.More from this series
I’d like you to pause for a second and I want you to answer this question: What is your greatest fear about the future? Is it death? Is it a job loss? Is it the anxiety and depression, the issues that have happened to kids? Is it the economy? Is it the shift in morality? The injustice? The sex trade?
What is it? I want you to really pause for a second and think about you personally, when you think of the future and you have fears, maybe for some of you that are older, it’s like, Wow, what about my grandkids? What kind of world? Is it just maybe even this whole moral shift of right, wrong, and gender confusion and…?
We are living in a completely different world than we were not very long ago. And it’s critical to get really clear on what you are fearful of, because fear paralyzes. Even if you don’t recognize it, it blames. It causes your mind to go, “It’s those people,” or, “The government,” or, “It’s that group,” or, “It’s so-and-so,” or…
And some of the concerns might even be about the Church. Why don’t they do this? They should stop doing that. What is wrong with everybody? Fear will cause you to lose perspective and not think clearly.
The reality is, is that we are living in a very different world. And I actually wrote on your notes, and I think you’ve got them there in front of you, here’s the object or objective of this series. It’s to help followers of Jesus determine God’s will and priorities for their life and ministry in this rapidly changing and challenging world.
The reality is the days of clearly defined right and wrong, marriage as a forever commitment, the integrity of one’s word, gender defined by one’s birth anatomy, and the nuclear family as the bedrock of society are gone, at least in America.
We live in a new day with new rules and new values. A lot of those values are antithetical to the clear teaching of Scripture. And we as believers and followers of Christ are living in a culture that is a lot more like the first century than the last century.
For many of us, for the first time in our, at least adult lives, we are on the outside looking in, to a world that is rapidly changing, and that no longer supports your values and your beliefs.
And I would suggest that, therefore, we are at a crossroads. And, no blame here, because I have done it myself, but we can whine and complain, and argue, and lament this radical shift or we can be like the men of Issachar who understood the times and realized what they must do. And this series really is about that.
Our focus, we have really got to focus and get our focus back on Jesus Himself. The world is looking for hope, the world is looking for a Messiah; He has come. And we have all that we need. You are His hands, you are His feet, you are His eyes, you are His agents of change, you’re salt and you’re light, you are love. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, it dwells in us.
Notice on your notes, the good and the bad of major disruptions. The good is it causes us to reevaluate. I mean, when there’s a huge shift, you have to pause and say, “Wait a minute, what am I doing with my life? Where is the world going?”
How about you? See, the temptation is to hope it gets better, and all of that has this very subtle, “My personal peace, my prosperity, our future, if everything is okay with our little part of the world, then…” and that’s not God’s agenda.
There is the reevaluation that is good. And the bad is the anger in our souls.
People are mad. Really mad. Mad at injustice, mad at racism, mad at political division, church division, mad at we are following the science, but it says this one day and it says something else. And it has just been a mess.
And the problem with being angry is it will poison your soul. You don’t think clearly, you don’t speak wisely, relationships don’t go well.
And so, I want to do a little thing to help you about these major disruptions, these new eras or epochs is that major disruptions always bring conflict and change, even positive disruptions.
I want you to see rather than looking at all the negative and getting angry inside, reevaluation is important, but also every great movement of God has happened when there has been this huge lull – this big problem – when people realize life is not working, relationships aren’t working, philosophies are breaking down, economies, political structures.
And so, I have given you a little Bible study. I would like to go through it in depth. Instead, I have given you sort of some passages. But let me give you the overview. The greatest disruption, I mean, the greatest shift of epoch in all of world history is Galatians 4:4. It says, “When the world,” literally, “was pregnant, God sent forth His Son.” I mean, God the Son entered human history and you talk about something that has marked time, from the moment that He came, He lived, died for our sins, rose from the dead, currently sitting at the right hand of the Father, we have B.C. and A.D. Everything has changed. It was the most disruptive thing that has ever happened.
And then when that happens, the result, you get conflict within and conflict without. And I gave you some passages there in Luke. But it’s interesting, Jesus came, we think, He’s the Savior. Things are going to be great! He goes to Nazareth and His very first message, remember? They give Him the scroll, He opens it up, He talks about the Messiah. And then He says, “In your hearing it has been fulfilled.” Basically, “I am Him.”
And then the text says, “And they were all in awe of His wonderful words.” And then He went on. And He told the story about a leper from Syria and about a widow who was – He began to mess with their culture. He started talking about how God delivered non-Jews at a time when the Jews were hurting.
And it says, “They took Him out to the edge of a hill and they were furious and they wanted to push Him off of it,” and it says that He passed through them. And if you keep reading the text, then He heals a leper and then He heals someone else, then He heals mothers-in-law and then He teaches the multitudes and huge crowds are following Him.
And then the external again. “Hey, what about fasting and what about the Sabbath?” And He begins to give the spirit and the heart behind the Law instead of just all the rules. So, He messes with their culture, then He starts messing with their traditions.
And just before He gives the Sermon on the Mount there, or Luke’s version of it, it says that His enemies came together, and they were livid and filled with rage and sought to kill Him.
I just want you to know that when there is a major shift, it always brings change and it brings conflict. Conflict without and conflict within. But it wasn’t just conflict with the external. The disciples, do you understand that, yes, there were the fishermen, but He had a zealot and then He had a tax collector. Here’s a guy, one of His disciples, who was absolutely committed to overthrowing Rome by violent insurrection and assassination.
And here’s a guy who has compromised and bought into the system and betrayed everyone. And both of them are one of the twelve. Did you notice all the way through the gospels that there’s this little conversation that happens? The night, the same night where He washes their feet, does anybody remember what they were arguing about before they went in and got their feet washed? They were arguing about who is the greatest. What is that called? Conflict.
Then the Church is born. Oh, everything is going to be great! We have this idealistic view. Then there’s conflict. Acts chapter 6, Acts chapter 7, and inside the Church you’ve got the Greek-speaking widows and the Jewish widows. Acts 15, another conflict. Here’s what I want you to get. Conflict and change are always a part of disruption. The issue is: how do you respond?
Notice, Jesus responded by saying, “New wine needs new wineskins.” When He was being attacked, what He basically said was, “There’s a new paradigm. There’s a different Kingdom, it’s an upside-down Kingdom.
And when He gave the Sermon on the Mount, basically what He was saying was, There’s a new way to do it. It’s not tit-for-tat. It’s not an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. There’s a new game plan. God the Son has come. It’s following Me. And then He began to talk to them about those that’ll mourn. Those will be comforted. And those who are in sorrow.
And then we kind of skip over it, because it hasn’t had much to do in our country until maybe more now. “Blessed are you when men persecute you. Blessed are you for My name’s sake when they speak evil of you.”
He was giving them a new paradigm for a disrupted world about how to live in a different way. And then He will actually go on and talk about treating our enemies in ways that are so radical and so crazy.
I have taught those passages around the world in places like China and the Middle East. I have had unbelievers and Muslims shake their head and go, “What? You do this to your enemy?” It’s a radical, counterintuitive, supernatural love of God manifested through us. And in that first century, it started very small, like a grain of wheat buried in the ground. And then little by little by little it bore much fruit.
Finally, His method, I call it life. The whole history of the Scripture, have you ever noticed this? Man in God’s presence. Sin and the fall. And then as Scripture rolls out, what it is, it’s God continually wanting to bring mankind back into His presence.
The tabernacle was – what? A place where God would come and meet with His people, where heaven and earth would come together. And then there was the temple, where heaven and earth would come together. And the pinnacle of heaven and earth coming together where God’s presence returned is – what? It’s the incarnation. It’s Jesus Himself.
And then what is the mission? Where is the temple now? 1 Corinthians 3 says the temple is us gathered. And 1 Corinthians 6 says it’s us individually. Your human body is the temple. It’s where the presence of God is manifested now by the Spirit of God to manifest the power and the personality and the presence of Jesus so how you talk and how you act and how you respond is the way Jesus would if He lived inside your body. And if you have trusted Christ, He lives inside your body.
And so, notice, I gave you my little acronym, because I think so often we think it’s about going to church or activities. Jesus says in Luke 6:40, when a student is fully trained, he will be just like his teacher. That was His method, that you would recognize and live out the presence of God.
And then He said to the disciples in John 13:34 and 35, “A new commandment I am giving you all, that you love each other the way I loved you,” radically, sacrificially. What? “By this the world will know that God sent forth His Son.” And then He told them, “I want you to be on mission,” 24/7. Not at church, not on a mission trip.
When you wake up until you go to bed, you’re the salt, you’re the light. “Let your light so shine before men by your good works that they would glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
And my little acronym is B-I-O for BIO, because what we need to be in the world today, our response is life.
And the “B” is for living before the presence of God, coming before God daily. The “I” is for doing life in community. Not just a group, but in community, loving each other. And the “O” is for on mission, 24/7.
Now, with that in mind, let’s get some perspective, because the problem is that we have expectations living in America as American Christians, and it’s very subtle and we all have it. And the expectation goes like this, “I love God, I’m following God, I’m obeying God, I’m doing what I believe You want me to do, and as far as I know there’s not any big sin in my life. So, when I do good, Lord, life will go well.”
And we have experienced that for decades and decades and decades. And so, we unconsciously think that when something bad happens or it’s difficult or we are criticized or circumstances change, either, “God, You let me down,” or, “What is wrong?”
Notice your next outline point is that hostility to the gospel, the Church, and Christians is normal. Would you underline “normal”? When I go to China, they know that. When I go to Yemen, they know that. And I’ve been all around the world; they know that. We don’t know that.
According to Jesus, on His last night, He says, “I have told you this,” John 16, “so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows, but take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Paul would say, “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus,” this is a promise, by the way, “will suffer persecution.” The apostle Peter would say, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through as if something strange were happening to you.”
What we are experiencing now is what Christians for the last couple millennia and mostly around the world have always experienced. And so, here’s my question for you. How are you responding to hostility? It’s pretty mild in general, but just in your thoughts first. What kind of thoughts are in your mind as you see a lot of stuff happening?
Then second, what about your attitudes? And then thirdly, what about your action?
I don’t think it would be a big research project to look at your news feed or maybe click to fellow people that you know are Christians and look back over the last six months or so and listen to the anger, the bitterness, the resentment, the fear, the anxiety, the blaming, the throwing of grenades to different groups both inside the Church and outside the Church.
Here’s what we need to understand. Fear will paralyze us and bitterness will destroy our soul. It’ll harden your heart.
The lens is, “What about me and my way and our thinking?” Don’t you understand? That’s exactly what the Pharisees did. That’s exactly what the zealots did. That’s exactly what the early disciples did. For all Peter’s great qualities and, oh, he’s got faith and, “Lord, if it’s You, tell me and I’ll go walk out on the water.” When push came to shove and Jesus said, The pathway to changing the course of world history and saving people and revealing the Father and bringing God’s presence to its culmination is Me dying and I’m going to the cross; in three days I will be raised again. “Forbid it, Lord,” Peter said, remember?
You talk about conflict. Can you imagine the Son of God locking eyes with you and saying, “Get behind me, Satan!”? Why? He explained. “You don’t have the things of God.” You don’t have God’s agenda as number one. Peter, you’ve got your agenda. You want a Savior, you want a Messiah on your terms to overturn Rome. You want a better life; you want peace and prosperity. “I didn’t come to give peace, I came to bring a,” do you remember? “a sword.”
Jesus is the most radical person who has ever walked: fully man, fully God. I think the writer of Proverbs, with all his wisdom in Proverbs 4:23, you might jot it down. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life.”
Your words, your attitudes, your love, or your anger, your bitterness, or your resentment, it all flows from your heart. And in big disruptions like this, if fear or anxiety or hostility, even subtly becomes the lens through which you look at life and circumstances and people, there’s not going to be any unity. We will not respond correctly.
In fact, as you look at page two, I’d like to suggest that as we enter into a life that is far more like the first century than the last, that we are called to bring healing, not hostility.
Listen to – this is the command of Jesus. The first couple verses are a context, because He is going to deal with some incorrect perceptions of Old Testament law who misses the spirit. And then He’s going to talk about Roman abuse. And if you were living in the first century and you read the first two or three verses, you would just say, “Dude, are You kidding me? You can’t really expect this. Don’t You understand what they are doing to us? Don’t You understand how unjust this is? Don’t You understand how unfair?” And Jesus would say, I fully understand. And I am going to ask you to follow Me to the cross. I’m going to ask you to die the same way that I died, because after I died, I rose from the dead. And if you will die with Me, you will have that same kind of power, because My agenda is nothing more or nothing less than absolutely changing the whole course of world history, and bringing people to a saving knowledge, to restore the presence of God in people’s lives.
Jesus would say, “You have heard the Law says that the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile,” which they could do legally, “carry it for two miles. Give to those who ask; don’t turn away from those who want to borrow. You have heard the Law says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemies. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”
Well, why? How does He treat people? “For He gives sunlight to both evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and on the unjust. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind to only your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”
If you have grown up in the Church or lived in America for a long time, we can read comments like that and it’s just like what I heard. We are familiar. It sounds like something we ought to put on a plaque and buy at a Christian bookstore, if there still were Christian bookstores.
These are the most radical thoughts ever spoken by Jesus. And, yes, we could do a lot of more developed teaching in the front end of that and what He meant by the slap on the cheek and the insult and all the rest, but the thesis of this is really easy. We don’t give people what they deserve. We don’t give them justice. We treat them the way God has treated us, who while we were His enemy, Christ died in our place.
The question is: how do you do this? How do you practice this kind of completely different attitude? Well, first and foremost, in and of ourselves, we can’t, but as time went on, the apostle Paul is going to say to a very unique community in Rome where there were little pockets. We somehow think the Church you know, back then, is like the Church today. There were little pockets meeting in multiple homes. And they were very unique. It might be a little, Jewish group over here and a Gentile group over here. And it might be of one nationality over here and another nationality over here. And Paul is writing this letter to pull all these people together. And as he says, “I’m on my way to Spain,” boy, what a visionary, “I’m going to stop in Rome.” He never made it past Rome.
He says, “But I want, I want you all to get really clear about what the gospel is.” The first three chapters [of Romans], “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Chapters 4 and 5, “God, by His grace has saved you if you will just believe.” Chapters 6 through 8, “This is how you grow in holiness.” And chapters 9 through 11, here’s a parenthesis, “I want you to know, Jewish Christians, that God will fulfill all His promises to David, on the throne, and Abraham about the land, so you can trust Him.” Chapter 12, in light of all God’s grace, this is how you live.”
And the first thing is you offer yourself and you go into a journey and a process not to be conformed to the world. And I want to skip toward the end where he explains how to practically live out Jesus’ command to be a healing agent instead of be hostile.
Command number one, Romans 12, verse 17, “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see that you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Literally, it’s, “Consider what is right in the sight of all men.”
And the word consider means it’s a protracted thought to understand that even those you most radically disagree with and whoever that is – another race, another political party, another background, another denomination, people who philosophically are different than you – consider. In other words, everyone lives in a way that makes sense to them. And connection with other human beings starts with empathy. It starts with, well, this is how they grew up. This is how they think. This is how they live. So, actually, I can see how, though I completely disagree, that is how they perceive life.
We so quickly, we have an “us” and we have a “them”. And we are right, whoever “we” are, and they are wrong. He says, “Don’t do that.”
He says, in fact, it goes beyond that. “Dear friends, never take your own revenge. Leave room for the righteous anger of God. For the Scripture says, ‘I will avenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord. Instead, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame upon their heads.”
Three different commands: Don’t pay back evil, never take revenge; if your enemy has a need, give him what he needs. And then finally, the axiomatic principle, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”
The very first time in my life I got to experience the power of this was I played basketball in college and I was the only Christian on the team. And we had a guy who had been in prison, he was in Vietnam, he had scars like this. He had in prison for quite a while for being a drug dealer. And I played in a small college, very competitive, and the only reason he played on a small college was because of his, all he had been through, his hands weren’t very good. He was about 6’9” and had about a forty-two inch vertical. And there are times where he would get a rebound and his elbows, his head would be over the rim.
And in his words, he described himself, “I’m an evil man.” And I have a testimony; he was. And I remember I was going into my dorm room one day and the other room was cracked and the RA was there and this fella, and they were smoking dope. And it was illegal back then. And if he got caught a third time, he’s going back to prison for a long time. And I just, you make eye contact, I’m thinking, Oh brother. So, I’m at my door and I feel something on my head. And he turns me around and then he lifts me up with my chin like this and he looks me in the eye, “Little man,” actually, he didn’t say, “Little man,” but I can’t repeat what he said. “You say a word, let me tell you something, I have killed people and I will kill you.”
I don’t know if you have ever been threatened by someone who really means it; I was scared to death. And then I hated him. And I got eaten up with hate.
And I was a Pete Maravich fan growing up and so I did all those drills before Steph was doing them. And so, in warm-ups I’d throw him a behind-the-back pass, really hard, right through the hands, slipped through his hands, right in the face. I just paid him back, paid him back; I did it in practice. And I couldn’t sleep at night; I had acid stomach.
He treated me like dirt, and I was a freshman so everything from carrying his bag to…and I remember getting with the spiritual leader of our campus ministry. I had just become a Christian, not much over a year.
And I said, “I don’t know what to do. I hate this man. I don’t know,” and some of you have experienced this, it is a scary thing.
We think somehow that all of us are beyond doing something horrendous. None of us are beyond doing something horrendous. Check out Nazi Germany. And I’ll never forget, this older brother says, “I can solve this for you, but you’ll have to trust me.” I said, “Okay.” He read Romans chapter 12. Actually, he started at verse 14 where it says, “Bless those who persecute you, bless and curse not.”
And he goes, “What I want you to do is I want you to start praying for him every day, not that God will strike him dead,” which was where I was at. And then he says, “I want you to think of every way possible that you can bless him and help him.” And he goes, “You don’t have to feel like it.” And I just, he left and I thought, Man, you’re on drugs. I’m not doing that. And the Spirit convicted me.
And I just, I made a decision. No more behind-the-back passes, no more no-look passes; when he made a basket, I actually cheered. I would go into the locker room and when you undress, they had stuff and we’d put them in bags and the manager would take them. I would pick his stuff up and do it. At the training table, instead of him getting on me, I would go and say, “Hey, Jerry, do you want something else?”
And I did that and you know what? Nothing happened. And then we got to the end of the year, big tournament, and he was a senior, he was graduating. And I’ll never forget, he said, “You know, I don’t believe in God. I’m evil and I know I’m evil and if there’s a hell, I’m going there.” By the way, he was extremely smart and an amazing artist. And he said, “But I’m done with you, kid.” He goes, “It’s not fun anymore.” He goes, “I don’t believe in anything at all about Christianity and I have met so many hypocrites. But if I was ever going to be one, I think I would want to be one like you, because there are only two people on this whole team that I respect. Me, I’m evil. And you, because at least you’re living out your faith.”
That was it. Peace. Now, if he knew what I was thinking most of the time living out my faith, but we have confused obedience and feelings. You don’t have to feel like doing what is right. Obedience is doing what is right. In fact, I think God finds more delight when you don’t want to read the Bible and you read it, when you don’t want to pray and you pray, when you don’t want to give and yet you understand, “I need to.” When you really, your emotions tell you one thing, which is often your flesh. And you say, Lord, this is my offering. I am choosing to do it out of loyalty and love to You.
The second time I got to experience this was I pastored in Santa Cruz for about twelve years. And we had a very significant homosexual population, we had a lot of runaway teens, and a lot of people involved in the occult. And it was especially significant with a lot of HIV patients.
And I remember sitting down with, he was a former mayor, he was a business owner, I think he personally was a homosexual.
And we sat down and had lunch, downtown Santa Cruz. And I was pastoring a church that had grown pretty much and developed a little deal with about fifty other churches that we met once a month and we came up with a dream and a plan in obedience to what Jesus said, “How could we help people that are HIV positive?”
And so, we teamed up, we had a deal with all the other pastors and we worked out a thing with the county and we actually went through training and we could – anybody with HIV, we would drive to the doctor, drive to the grocery store, we would honor the county, we would not try and proselytize, but we got permission if they asked us why we were doing what we were doing, we could tell them about Jesus.
And so, we did. And so, we did the same thing with runaway teens, we did the same thing with the poor. And it was a coalition. And I was sitting across the table from this person who, once we got talking, he became, we were roughly the same age. We both became revolutionaries in college. He went to Berkeley. And the sit-ins, the radical, the seventies. And I went away to college and became a Christian. And I became this radical, crazy zealot for Jesus and he became this radical, crazy zealot for Progressivism.
And we talked and we talked about what we were doing and I said, “How can we serve?” he was the mayor. “And what can we do to serve you here?” And I’ll never forget, it was about an hour-and-a-half lunch. And I’ll never, I never forgot thinking, Man, I disagree with everything with this guy. But I sure like him. I mean, I really liked him. There’s a lot of people that don’t have intellectual integrity; he did.
I thought, You believe this, this is your view of mankind, you think they are basically good, you think this is the answer, and you’re acting on it. I can respect that. Now, I don’t think man is basically good, I think Jesus is the answer, but we sat across the table and he cared about HIV positive people, and we didn’t ask him how they got it.
And we talked about runaway teens and what was happening. And we talked about the poor. And around those things, we partnered together. And here’s what happens. There wasn’t any “thems” anymore.
I have, because of my basketball background, I’ve been a minority. I’ve been the white guy on a Black team. And what I find is a lot of white people, you don’t have any Black friends or any Black friends, some people don’t have white friends. Or, you make statements, but do you have any friends that are in the homosexual community that you understand, what is their story and where they’ve been and where they are coming from and where are their hurts? It’s engagement. It’s speaking the truth without compromise. It’s caring. We don’t have to agree with everyone. But what a difference it makes.
He says, “In doing this, you will heap burning coals on their head.” This is an amazing picture. I didn’t grow up studying the Bible and I remember thinking early on, Wow, this is great! Like, if you do the right thing, God will zap them! And I wanted Him to zap this guy, like, “Hey!”
And then I did a little research later on and in the ancient near East, if someone had realized that they had made a big mistake and they were repenting, they would build a fire and they would take the coals and put it in a pan. And then they put a towel under the pan and they put the towel on their head and they would walk through the village. And they would walk through the village and they are saying, “These hot coals are burning out my bad thinking. I was wrong.”
See, when you love people in ways where they know in their heart of hearts they don’t deserve it because of how they have spoken to you, what they said about you, what they posted, what they tweeted. And instead of responding in kind, you respond, no compromise, but in love – it often is the very thing that creates this sense of, “Why would people do that?” In other words, it’s a picture of how God changes people’s hearts.
The principle is we can’t do this in our own strength. But we often quote this passage, I put it here, Ephesians chapter 3, verse 20 and 21. “Oh, praise God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, beyond all we ask and think, according to His power,” like aren’t we glad God does great things? Well, let’s read it a little more carefully.
How about this, “Now all glory to God who is able, by His mighty power at work in us.” You have the power within you with a surrendered life and commitment to His Word in the context of encouraging deep community to return good for evil, to not respond on Facebook; to not become one of those angry, resentful, bitter, fearful Christians who alienate people outside the Church and inside the Church.
Because His power works within us – what? To accomplish more than we could think or ask.
And what that means, in summary, is this. In America’s post-truth, post-Christian culture, it demands that we live first as citizens of heaven – Philippians 3 – and second, citizens of America.
For a lot of people, you see a lot of posts, “Who stole our country?” And two extremes. We can’t succumb to angry engagement, often revolving around nationalism; or fearful withdrawal, which is separatism.
Wisdom, I wish it was an easy path, a simple path. But wisdom demands that we reject accommodation that is masked in the name of love, where we cave into what is true and don’t stick to Scripture on all issues, including morality and gender and all the rest.
And we have to reject personal preservation masked as truth. “Oh, this is truth!” But really it’s about our rights and us keeping our world our way. And we have to I think reject silos and separatism masked in purity, where we become little groups that we wall ourselves off.
God’s calling is healing instead of hostility. We must be agents of healing without compromise. We must move out of our Christian silos and subcultures and enter the fray and fight hate, fight prejudice, fight injustice, fight legalism, fight division with love in action and words of truth.
And it doesn’t begin with some messiah, some movement, some group, somewhere, somehow. It starts with me and my heart and my life and you.
And there was a little group of people that took Jesus at His word and they turned the world upside down with far less resources than we have.
God, thank You that You have given power inside of our human bodies as we have trusted You to do things actually as amazing as raising the dead. Lord, it will take a miracle to replace bitterness and hate and prejudice and replace it with empathy and concern. Lord, it will take incredible power to not cave in and to speak truth firmly, kindly, lovingly when it will be viewed as anti-intellectual and bigoted, and even hate speech. God, would You please allow us, beginning here, beginning today in a fresh way, to let our loyalty be to You to make us healing agents? And will You forgive us for our hostility? The things we have posted, the things we have said, the people we have blamed. Lord, we want to ask that Your kingdom come, not ours, and that Your will be done, not ours, on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name, amen.