The Lord is showing me that many times our frustration towards the moral climate in our country is often misdirected. I watched video recently of a Muslim father in court hugging and forgiving a young man who was convicted of murdering this father’s child. He told the young man who was heading to jail that he was not angry at him, but that he was angry at the devil for influencing his decision to kill. This was a powerful moment in both of their lives, definitely a mile marker. It made me think about how I view people who live, act and are just plain different than me, or who are directed by a different moral compass. I don’t know that I could have done what this father did in court that day, let alone forgive some of those who have hurt and disappointed me over the course of my life.
Let me just say that I am a firm believer that the world’s hope for healing and unity lies only within the redemptive blood of Jesus the Christ and His forgiveness. He alone is the way, the truth and the life. Yet, unfortunately “the church” (me included!) has so often misrepresented the name of God in our righteous indignation, that we have repelled more lives than we have embraced. Politics, social media and the news all play an influential role in shaping our world view. Yet, we can no longer use that as an excuse. As followers of Christ, we must hold ourselves personally accountable to God, His word and His Spirit in being our priority and our dominant influence.
As I put down my phone and it’s connectivity with the world and sit quietly with Him, He is revealing to me that I can be more effective for the kingdom of heaven by remembering that “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
What does that mean practically? First, it means that when I personally come into contact with those who speak and carry themselves in a way that opposes God and His word, I gotta remember that there is a spiritually demonic influence behind them. I am called first to love and care for their souls, and second to intercede on their behalf.
Love. It has many meanings and is displayed in many ways. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
(I Corinthians 13:4-8)
The most accurate definition and display of love is Jesus Himself. He is the source, He is the manifestation and He is the example. Spend some time examining His conversations, His life. He was the master of exposing people’s sin without shaming them, and pointing them to redemption. He showed them that He was their Hope. He took all our shame to the cross. That’s real love. Speaking truth while offering hope, all motivated by caring for their soul. If we (I) could just work on that, the world would be a better place.
Prayer is powerful. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (II Corinthians 10:4-5)
I’ve got to take these promises seriously and activate them by praying for, and over those who oppose God, who oppose His word, and may not even know they’re doing it. They may have been lied to, been hurt by a “religious” influence, or were victims of abuse of some kind. I may not be the one to lead them to healing, but I can certainly be a seed planter and move them closer to redemptive freedom by standing with them in prayer.
I want to change. I want to be less critical. I don’t want to be so jaded by the world that my “Christianity” appears oppressive, rather than freeing. As I encounter those on the street and in my realm of influence, may I open the door to their freedom, if by nothing else with a smile, maybe even a “Hello.” I think that operating that way may be more effective than an eye roll. That simple gesture could be the beginning of their road to redemption, to real freedom, to living the life God intended here on earth, and securing their soul in the kingdom of heaven forever.