FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE WAY FORWARD IN CHRIST
UNITY AND PEACE – 3
September 10, 2015
The Lord continues with hard teachings that are essential to living the authentic Christian life in general, and in maintaining unity and peace in particular. The world does not believe in such teachings and values, and that is why there is so much strife and division. But unfortunately, many Christians also do not live out such divine directives, and so even inside the Church and Christian communities there is much division.
Yesterday we saw what we are to avoid, nay, what we are to put to death within ourselves. Today we are told what we positively are to do, what we are to “put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Col 3:12a). What are these?
- “Heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col 3:12b). Especially for situations of conflict. Quite different from the usual responses of anger, bitterness, antagonism, impatience, intolerance, etc.
- “bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another” (Col 3:13a). You have a grievance because of something done or said, or not done or said, to you? Bear with and forgive the one who hurt you. What? After what he/she did? Yes, “as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.” (Col 3:13b). Know that someone’s causing you hurt is nothing compared to how we continue to hurt our Lord. Know that Jesus said God’s forgiveness to you is dependent on your forgiving others.
Whoa. That is too difficult. Impossible. No way. How can we even start to do those?
It is all a matter of focus. Are you focused on Christ, or on yourself and the one who hurt you? If you claim to be a Christian and are thus focused on Christ, then what are the virtues you must hold, which lead you to the actions you must do?
- The love of God. “And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” (Col 3:14). Love is not self-seeking, right? Love is self-sacrificial, right? Do we need to demand justice for ourselves?
- The peace of Christ. “And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body.” (Col 3:15a). You were called into the community to be a peacemaker, not a peace-disturber. But it starts with you, with your own heart. And we cannot reason out that there is someone who disturbs our peace. If that were the case, we would all be ineligible for community. Rather, despite having our peace disturbed, we let the peace of Jesus control our hearts. Try it. Forgive. Get rid of the poison of anger and bitterness. And begin to feel the peace that surpasses understanding, the peace that God provides to those who try to purify their minds and hearts.
- Gratitude. “And be thankful.” (Col 3:15b). There is so much to be grateful for. Why focus on the things that disturb our peace? A truly grateful heart is a heart that can overcome suffering and pain and even injustice.
- The word of Christ. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3:16a). All these are in the Bible, and much of these I have been teaching in my From the SG articles and my books, which are mostly based on scripture. Read the Bible. Meditate on God’s word. Pray with the scriptures. Allow the very word of God to radically transform you.
- The wisdom of God. “as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Col 3:16b). Consider your household meetings. You start by singing songs of worship. You have prayers of thanksgiving. Then do you gossip and malign those who hurt you? If so, then let everyone else teach and admonish one another whenever this starts to happen. Otherwise, both the gossiper and the ones who listen to the gossip, who do not take the opportunity to teach and admonish, are lacking in wisdom that comes from God, and actually manifest human wisdom.
- The glory of God. “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:17). We start our prayer meeting with the sign of the cross, in the name of the triune God. Do we then proceed to engage in the works of the flesh (see yesterday’s piece). Do we do or say anything that is actually displeasing to God? Are we acting in the name of Jesus?
Double whoa. Too difficult. Impossible. You ain’t seen nothing yet. You want impossible, here it is: “But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Lk 6:27-28). Did you hear Jesus? Are you listening? Did Jesus say it is OK to hate your enemy and malign him (her)? Or do bad to him by gossiping about him? Or to wish him ill?
Why does it have to be this way? Well, it is the way of Jesus, and it is the topsy-turvy world of the Kingdom of God as against the kingdom of this world. “For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.” (Lk 6:32-33). We pride ourselves in loving our children, in having caring households, in trying to do good to others; but that is not just what being Christ is about. We want unity and peace in our homes and in society, but we do and say wrong things that cause strife and disunity in our community. There is something seriously amiss there.
So Jesus points out the way. “But rather, love your enemies and do good to them” (Lk 6:35a). Listen, we often find satisfaction in tearing down our opponents, oftentimes behind their backs. How shallow our happiness is! Rather, follow the way of Jesus, and “then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” (Lk 6:35c). It is not about your opponent; it is all about God. It is not about what the other person did to you, but what God has already done for you.
Look to God rather than to your sinful brother. Look to God’s perfection rather than to your brother’s faults. Look to how God has bountifully blessed and loved you rather than to how your brother has fallen short in his relationship to you. Give thanks and praise to God always in in everything (Ps 150:1-5).
So in a nutshell, what is one way to unity and peace (and know that it is not just about what happens in community, but what will happen to you as well)? “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” (Lk 6:37). And if we do not? Then we can expect the same from God. “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Lk 6:38b).
So difficult and challenging. But is that not what the Christian life is? It is a call to holiness, to perfection, to being another Christ. It is mercy. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Lk 6:36). God allows bad things to happen to us, so that He can draw out the good that He desires for us.
Thank you, Lord, for your great goodness and mercy. “Let everything that has breath give praise to the Lord! Hallelujah! (Ps 150:6).
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