Saturday, May 05, 2012

Living in His Love

Living in His Love

I do not know if this woman was a born again believer, but I do know her actions were that of a servant of Christ. Her name was Lydia Smith, and she lived near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and worked hard labor. She was born to an African American mother and a white father. She had saved a few dollars through her hard work. After the Battle of Gettysburg, the battlefield was littered with thousands upon thousands of wounded soldiers who were in much pain and some were dying. Almost fifty thousand were already dead.

Lydia rented a horse and wagon, asked for food and clothing to be donated, and she traveled many miles to the battlefield. She began to give water and comfort to the suffering and wounded soldiers that littered the battlefield. When the donations were gone, she spent her own meager savings on more provisions. It was the noblest of gestures to be sure. Each day after being weary from her traveling, she went soldier to soldier.

But what made her actions even more than just an act of compassionate humanitarianism, is that even as a black woman, she ministered to Confederate soldiers as well as Union. The very soldiers that were fighting to keep slavery were treated with the same kindness as were those fighting for emancipation. And all this from a poor, black woman. Those who represented her enemies, drank from the same cup as did those who represented her friends.

How great was this mission of mercy? How Christlike was this sacrificial act of love? And yet today there are virulent voices that speak with caustic words about dealing with our enemies swiftly and without mercy. And many of these voices claim to follow Jesus. They do not. With the cross as our eternal template, it is acts like Lydia’s that most closely mirror the love and sacrifice of that cross. When men and women speak of returning evil for evil, and obliterating our enemies, their words wreak of the stench of death.

It is an incredible feat of the fallen nature to exhibit such open rebellion to the teachings of Jesus and still claim to believe in Him and His words. Can there be any deeper deception and Biblical gymnastics than that? The nationalistic culture, and the time tested traditions of accepted violence, have superseded the open teachings of God Himself. But the kingdom of darkness identifies and catalogues their enemies, expends much energy to convince others concerning these enemies, and when necessary and advantageous to their own agenda, annihilates them. And in the final analysis claims “mission accomplished”. But whose mission is that?

If we can render the gospels as archaic revelations that are always in need of updates, then we can make a case for almost anything. If the end justifies the means, and if the means once outlined by Christ can vacillate according to what we deem appropriate, then any open departure from His teachings can be described as updates due to newer and more accurate information concerning these modern circumstances. In effect, drastic times demand drastic measures even if they do not reflect the teachings of Christ. It is quite astonishing.

How we treat our enemies directly reflects how we believe in Jesus. Point to your doctrinal statement if you must, but your life should be your doctrinal statement. Books and volumes of systematic theology can never replace observable acts that mirror the life of Christ and that emanate from a dedicated believer’s heart. The world of darkness will never investigate doctrines and theologies, however they can see living acts that seem to go against accepted norms. Darkness is not overcome with endless dissertations about the orthodox qualities of light. Darkness flees when light is allowed to shine.

The follower of Christ must walk down a different path. This path can not be detoured by other paths that seem right to the world. This path is not the easy path and it is not a path that leads to fame and fortune. The path that has His imprints is a humble path that refuses to be guided by the fallen maps of our culture. It has no earthly nation; it has no earthly desires; it has no earthly guidance. To follow “in His steps” is to read and meditate and understand the inspired narrative of His life and teachings. No one has the authority to redirect His path or even to repave and smooth out its surface.

If we understand what this woman named Lydia did, and if we juxtapose her actions against every area of our lives, then just what deviations would we find? Would you give a cup of cold water to a suffering Muslim? A suffering Muslim terrorist? A suffering abortion doctor? A suffering gay pride activist? Just where does your line of compassion begin and end? But take it a step, no, a giant leap further. Would you die for those people?

So easy for us to discuss and even write about such things, and yet they are exactly what we have been called to. Do not believe for one moment that the western brand of Christianity is even Christian anymore. It is not. Forget about the Rob Bells and the Joel Osteens, the accepted and orthodox brand of Christianity is not Christian in practice. Doctrinal regurgitations and statements of faith in attractive fonts are hollow museums of truths without passionate and sacrificial lives that remind people of Jesus and are so remarkable that they naturally elicit questions of curiosity.

And when the church embraces demeaning words, castigating sinners, creating people categories, hedonistic practices, and the discriminate use of violence and war, well then the salt has no flavor and the light has been extinguished. The western church of today would have provided water to Union soldiers and danced a victory dance over those who suffered in gray uniforms. Unfortunately many American believers would have given water to Rebel soldiers and denied it to those dressed in blue. Think about it.

Let us meditate upon what this woman named Lydia did. And let her example drive us to the life of our Master. Think about the depth of His sacrificial love, and then compare it with our self serving allegiances. Would you visit your daughter’s murderer in prison to share Christ? Would you give mouth to mouth resuscitation to a gay man injured in an accident? In the sentencing phase of the convicted murderer named Gary Ridgway, the Green River killer, relatives of the victims were allowed to speak to Ridgway.

One by one they rose and castigated him. Some wished he’d burn in hell, some desired to kill him themselves. Gary Ridgway looked on emotionless. Then one old man who looked somewhat like Santa Claus with a long white beard rose. As Ridgway looked and listened, the man said, “You killed my daughter.” But then he stared straight at his daughter's murderer and said, “But my God says I must forgive you. I forgive you.”

The courtroom sat stunned. It seemed so unlike all the other diatribes. But as the camera panned the courtroom, it stopped at the face of this maniacal serial killer. What is this!? He was weeping. The only emotion he ever showed throughout his entire arrest and conviction came when a man told him that he forgave him. The church cannot even love Barak Obama and yet this man showed love and forgiveness to his daughter's killer. I cannot fathom the spiritual dimensions active in that courtroom on that day. Isn’t it time the church walks in that kind of love and forgiveness? Isn’t it time the church walks in His steps? Isn’t it time the church allows Jesus to live in our place?

It’s way past time.

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