Love Your Enemies…

I apologize for the long gap between posts, but this one took a lot of time, effort, help, and prayer to get right. So, hopefully the Lord has made it worth the wait.

In light of recent events, I’d like to discuss something. A concept I believe the majority of the church, myself included, doesn’t often acknowledge. Are we loving our enemies?

To love your enemies is not only a direct command from our Lord and Savior Himself, but an example set by Him. It is a way of living. It is a message repeated throughout the Bible in many different places and many different ways. But, as I look around at the church and I examine my own life, I don’t see this pattern.

Let me be clear about something before I give the wrong impression: as Christians, we cannot condone any behavior the Bible addresses as sin. This includes things such as homosexuality, covetousness, envy, deceit, etc. (see Romans chapter 1). However, in not condoning that, I need to be sure that I don’t cross a line; the line of judgment. It is not our place to judge; it is God’s.

Take homosexuality, for example. It’s a hot topic in our culture today. As Christians, we cannot condone the behavior of people involved in the LGBTQ lifestyle or act as if it’s not a big deal to God; it most certainly is. However, that is not to say I don’t love the people involved in that lifestyle. I don’t agree at all with what it involves but I love the people in that community because that’s exactly what Jesus did for me. Sometimes we Christians are judgmental, even hateful in extreme cases. I believe this is because we take the righteousness that Jesus has given us and think that we are somehow better. The absurdity of this is that it’s not our righteousness to begin with, but His gift that we accept. In us, there is nothing good. That’s it. It’s nothing we’ve done or ever could do. I don’t want to be judgmental or tear down the church at all, that would be quite hypocritical. But I do see some things that happen that must break Jesus’ heart. I see in our culture an opportunity for us, as His followers, to shine His love. I remind you (and myself) of what Paul says in Romans 3:23 (NKJV):

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

We are all sinners at the foot of the cross. Some have chosen to be amazed and awed at the display of love that the cross represents and some have decided that their righteousness is better. We who have submitted to God and chosen His ways, by His grace, should be sharing with those who haven’t reached that point yet, the freedom in Christ that God gives; the forgiveness He offers. In the following verses, Paul talks about that wonderful truth:

24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth [as] a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. – Rom 3:24-26 NKJV

And elsewhere in Romans:

22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin [is] death, but the gift of God [is] eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Rom 6:22-23 NKJV

Instead of displaying Christianity as being judgmental, let’s show the world God’s love! He loved all of us. Every human being that has ever lived and ever will live He loves enough to have died for us. That’s unfathomable! That’s what people should think of when they think of Christians. People, broken, just like everyone else, whose lives are radically changed by the love of God. Should the world think that we will allow unbiblical behavior in our congregations? That we will condone and reward it? Absolutely not. And that’s not because our way is better, but because God’s way is better. We should view ourselves on the same level as others; no one is better than anyone else. “Let each esteem others better than himself…” (see Philippians 2) “For such were some of you”; remember? The person who lives the best life, who does the most for others, every action they take still ends up being just a pile of filthy rags compared with God’s holiness. God is the standard, so we all fall short. Therefore, no one should be scared to come into a church because they’re afraid that they won’t be accepted because of what they’ve done in the past. We should always be waiting with open arms for any sinner who desires to know God just as God is always waiting for us.

I’d like to address the terminology in that last verse. Notice it says that we are “slaves of God.” Throughout the New Testament, Christians refer to themselves as being slaves of God, or slaves of righteousness. What I’d like to note is this: You will be a slave to something. We all are. The only thing we have to decide is to what we’re going to be a slave. Have you ever tried to change? Really tried? Of course, you found yourself a slave to your old habits. I only know because I’ve been there. Our slavery sometimes takes the form of an addiction to drugs, pornography, or alcohol, or it can take the form of our adherence to the rules, as it did for the Pharisees.

See, we can take something good, and make it bad. In fact, we do it time and again. God gives us something good, for our enjoyment, and we take that wonderful blessing and put it in the place of God, we make it our center. The Pharisees did this with the law. We do it with many things. Our sensuality, traditions, and virtually anything else you can think of, we put in the place of God. And this is where our problem comes in. We put something, anything, in the place of God. A lot of the time for Christians it’s our rules or our self-righteousness. We look in the mirror one day and see how far God has brought us, then want to take all the credit. “I was never that bad off, I suppose,” we say. “Thank you, Lord, for the nudge in the right direction. I sure took the wheel after that and made something of myself.” Then we look on others as dirty, because we’ve forgotten how dirty we were. We take God’s good way of life and make it something it was never meant to be. When we do this, and remember, I’m talking as much to myself as anyone, we misrepresent God.

Moses misrepresented God and his discipline was to be forbidden to enter into the Promised Land. He could look, but not enjoy. God is loving, and Moses misrepresented that. God’s not in heaven with a giant paddle, if you will, just waiting for us to mess up so He can spank us. The Bible says that Jesus died for the whole world. Jesus, who, according to Hebrews 1, is the very representation of who God is and what He’s like, loved the Jews and Romans, everyone in fact, to His death. Even to the point of asking God to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing. His entire life was characterized by mercy and love. When He did get angry, it was directed toward the people who should’ve known better; the people who were using God’s word and law for selfish reasons. That shifts my focus to my walk with God personally rather than to hating someone. I should want people to come to the knowledge of God and how He loves us. How He’s not a God that demands rules and regulations, but a God that wants a relationship with us and wants to show us how to live the way He made us to, the way that will bring us the most joy; that is, to bring glory to Him.

All of that being said, there does come a time when God must punish sin. Several times throughout the Old Testament, and the New, God brings judgment. I think of Sodom and Gomorrah, specifically. He had given them time to repent but they hadn’t. The people in the Promised Land before the Israelites had been given time to repent but hadn’t. At that point, once men have hardened their hearts against God, God, because He is just, passes judgment. If God never judged sin, what kind of God would He be? God warns, often multiple times, then gives time for repentance, then, when it is clear that men and women refuse to turn from their ways, God passes judgment. And even as He’s passing judgment, He often shows mercy and uses the judgment to turn the hearts of the people back to Him. And lest we think this unfair, remember that God’s ways are perfect. He created everything and everything exists within His universe and follows His laws.

Lastly (I know this is long, but please bear with me; we’re almost there!), I’d like to say this: There is much talk among Christians today, conservatives specifically, about Muslims, the LGBTQ community, and “the Left”, all of which is in an extremely negative context. I would even suggest that we view these people as our enemies. To that, I would ask this: Have we let the false god of Christianconservativism become our slave-master? Are we praying for those individuals? Are we truly grieved for their souls, as God is? God died for them, just as much as He died for you and me. He is not willing that any should perish. Are we going to keep calling them names, suggesting they’re less than human, and acting as if we have it all together and are superior to them in any way? There I would be, but for the grace of God. My Heavenly Father looked down upon my situation and had pity and desired to restore me to a right relationship with Him; to give me a chance to live the very way I was made to live. He looked past all of the sin, grime, and brokenness to what I could be when in communion with Him. Then He offered that life to me in exchange for the one I had at the time. What an unfair trade! Yet, He was willing. And I would’ve been a fool not to accept. I refuse to be the wicked servant who was forgiven a massive debt but was unwilling to forgive such a small amount he had lent his coworker. Let our actions be characterized by love. Leave the judging to God, for with what judgment we judge, God will judge us.

Advertisements

Unashamed

I know, I know. Redundant, right? The blog is named unashamed, now there’s a post named unashamed…you’re probably thinking, “Daniel, okay, we get it.” But, I wanted to take a post and talk about why I named the blog what I did and what I mean when I talk about being unashamed.

Rom 1:16 NKJV – For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

There’s the main reason. Every other reason I’ll list after this ties back to that one, central, all important reason. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the good news of His incarnation, death, and resurrection are the central reasons for every single thing in existence. It should also be the base, the foundation, of every thought I have and every decision I make. Everything comes back to that point, and I aim to be completely and totally unashamed of that.

Unashamed of…

Built on that foundation, here are some other things I want to be unashamed of:

…Who I am

Now, when I say this, I don’t mean just being ho-hum about my sin or to ignore personality traits I’ve let get out of hand. I don’t mean to just blow it off or make an excuse for laziness. I never want to say, “Oh, I’m just not a (fill in your problem subject here) person.” These likes and dislikes are all within the parameters of God’s word. If something is outside of the boundaries set in God’s word, then we can all agree that it is not His will and, even if we enjoy it, it’s our flesh.  When I say being unashamed of who I am, I mean following the Lord wholeheartedly, and allowing Him to show me who I am in Him; who He made me to be. Being unashamed of that and enjoying the things He hardwired me to enjoy. Chasing the dreams He has laid on my heart with a passion for Him. In my case, one of those things is music. I love music; almost any kind of music. Musical instruments fascinate me. The different sounds they can make and how the instrumentalist achieves those sounds. Writing is another thing I enjoy. The mechanics of writing and the ability to express myself in words. Literature is another. The list goes on. I want to pursue and enjoy these things without being afraid of what others may think.

Quite honestly, I struggle with that, especially in starting this blog. Like I said, writing is a means of expressing yourself. I also see it as a way of giving people a glimpse into my head and heart. When I publish this post, I will be allowing you to look at a part of me; that scares me. But I think it will help me to grow in my writing ability, maybe even as a person, and it will push me out of my comfort zone, as I said in the first post on this blog. My goal is to grow in the Lord. One of the most effective ways to grow is to force myself beyond things I’m comfortable in. I believe that when we confine ourselves to our comfort zone, we’re limiting our growth. The Lord often has to give me a nudge in the direction of the edge, but I’d like to think I’m learning to be a bit more willing. That leads me to the next thing.

…My Calling

I want to be unashamed of the calling God has placed on my life. Wherever He should lead me, I want to be bold and willing to go, not caring about what the world says or thinks of me. Even be willing to sacrifice something that I may really want in order to follow God’s call. I want to be wholly and completely devoted to Jesus Christ, and Him alone. No one and no thing should be allowed to come between me and my Savior. Now, I admit that whether something comes between me and God is up to me. I admit to allowing things to come between myself and God, but I also know that God is still working on me. I focus my eyes on the Lord and let the works follow. That doesn’t mean I don’t put in effort and work, but it means the works are not my focus. The amount of good things I do is not the focus. My focus is growing closer to and following my God with abandon. Loving Him with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. The works simply flow out of that love for my Father in heaven.

One More Reason…

Even as I was writing the parts of this post you’ve already read, I realized another reason for my starting this: writing and keeping up with this will give me some accountability. Knowing that others know some of my goals and struggles will keep me accountable. I want to be unashamed of where I am in life, and praise God for His love and grace, while simultaneously striving to follow His word and will. I want to be molded more into the image of Christ, and I want to invite you along for the journey. I know I’ll learn something. I like to hope that maybe you’ll learn something, too. And maybe, with some help from the Lord, there’ll be a little bit of both.

Here it Goes…

Well, here I am. Typing at a keyboard, writing my first blog post. As I write this, I’m not even sure I’ll publish it…or want to publish it. This is me trying to push myself out of my comfort zone. After reading some convicting books, devos, and scripture passages, I’m realizing just how much we grow when the Lord guides us out of our comfort zones. A little more than a year ago, I moved across the U.S. with my parents and siblings in response to my father sensing a call from God to begin a Bible study; to plant a church. It was a big step, but an exciting one. Since then, I’ve really seen God work in my life and the lives of my family in big ways. I can say confidently that I’ve learned more in this past year than at any other period in my life. I’ve learned a lot about life, God, and what it means to be a Christian.

The word Christian literally means “little Christ” or, a more modern definition might be, someone who professes to follow the teachings of Jesus the Christ. Over the past year there have been several moments where I’ve asked myself, “Could I really be called a ‘little Christ’? Do I live like it? Do I let God have His way in me to the point that the people in my life can truthfully say, ‘Yeah, he’s one of Christ’s.’?” The aspect of this that I’m getting at is the part of me that has to surrender and say, “Okay, Lord. I don’t understand and it makes me uncomfortable and scared; even defensive, but I trust You. I trust that You’re doing what’s best for me.” When God leads me out of my comfort zone, I can trust that there will be nothing but growth in Him.

This blog is one of those times. Another time has come very recently. God opened the doors for me to move out to southern California for a job prior to my college semester starting in the fall. This is a huge change, because I’ve never been away from my family for more than a few weeks, and now I’m living on the whole other side of the country from them. However, I believe this will be good for me in countless ways; ways I can’t even imagine. One way I can already see is that I’ve been forced by the circumstances to cling to Jesus as my sole source for comfort and solace in life. I can see a trend over the past couple of years of God slowly taking away every little thing I leaned on for strength and shelter. With us moving, He removed my friends, my long-time church environment, and a place where I already knew ways to express the gifts He’s given me. Now, with this move, He’s taken me from my family, whom I dearly love. Please don’t think I’m saying this in a whining tone, blaming God for all of my discomfort the last couple of years. I say it rejoicing!

“2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” – James 1:2-4 NKJV

God has grown me so much through these experiences. While I was uncomfortable, still am, in fact, I can see the abundant fruit He’s produced through His Spirit in my life during these times. Besides, some of these things were natural steps in life; a first job, moving away from home, and the loss of a loved one, for instance. So, these may not necessarily be trials, at least compared to what many Christians go through every day, but they are uncomfortable, even painful, things in life.

Now, I’m not perfect; far from it. And, honestly, it scares me to death to even think about putting this out there for everyone to see. But it’s something the Lord has laid on my heart and I believe it will be good for me. Now, that being said, it’s not like God said, “Go start a blog!” It’s more like He nudged me to push myself out of my comfort zone and to use the resources of the time I live in to do His work. A blog was one of the things I thought of and believe He was suggesting. I think I’ll learn a lot through it. I even like to think that just maybe, by God’s grace, this might bless a few people. Just know, if anything good ever does come of this, it’s all God, not me. My goal is to share the adventures the Lord takes me on, the lessons He teaches me, and for you, the reader, to be able to learn from my mistakes.

I have my quirks; quite a few, in fact. But, if you can get past all the awkwardness, quotes, constant ramblings about good books, and my intense affinities for pizza and breakfast cereal, then maybe the Lord will teach us all something. So, here it goes…