by Linda Rex
I was chatting with some volunteers one day as we waited for our next round of clients. As I listened to the comments they were making about some Christians of other faiths, I felt acutely uncomfortable. The condemnation in their tone and words was severe because they believed that these particular Christians should accept the same position they held on secondary matters of faith. I felt that the position that those that were being critical held was based on prejudice and a theologically unsound understanding of certain scriptures. I guess I was uncomfortable because, unbeknownst to them, I was one of the ones they were mocking.
But I felt very much like the apostle Paul when he underwent such persecutions and sufferings. Because he at one time had persecuted and condemned Christians, he accepted his persecutions and condemnations as a Christian with great grace. For he knew at one time he was such as they were. I also had a time in my walk with God when I was equally critical and condemning of those who did not believe as I did. So I must approach such things with the great grace God in his mercy showed me in bringing me to a more accurate and healthy faith.
The key is understanding in whose image we were made. We were made in the image of God to reflect his likeness. Humans have the unique ability to replicate the image of God through childbirth. We were created to bear the image of God in that we might be temples of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling place of the living God. In Christ we have been reborn into God’s image, purified and renewed by his pure and holy life, death and resurrection. And in his ascension God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.
When we see ourselves through Jesus Christ as God sees us, we see that we are all one in him. There is no male or female, no Jew or Greek, no slave or freeman. These distinctions no longer apply. We are all one in the same way that the Father, Son and Spirit are unique and yet one, living in “perichoresis” with one another. And God has included us in this divine life and love in Jesus Christ, who died for all that all may be forgiven.
If our salvation and faith are based fully on Jesus Christ, on what he did, has done and will do, then there is no basis for prejudice or condemnation. We all stand at the same place, the throne of mercy, at the feet of the One who is both the judge and the condemned sinner who was sin for us, in whom we died, rose again and ascended to the Father’s side, our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
So whatever differences we may have find their unity and diversity in Jesus Christ. In him we find a place of unity where we can reconcile our differences in grace. In him we find a standard by which we may accurately judge but not condemn those who reject his saving grace and choose to find their own path of salvation.
Yes, we will be different, but there is no need for cursing others. For God has called us to bless not to curse. Are we not even to bless and pray for our enemies? So let us rather pray for and bless those who oppose Christ or who do not acknowledge the centrality of his grace. But let us not curse. For that does not reflect the image of God in Christ we are to bear.
Lord, forgive us for our prejudices and our condemnations with regards to others of different faiths and beliefs. Open our eyes to see what you are doing in each person’s life we meet and grant us the grace to bless, not to curse, to forgive, not to condemn, to pray for them, not to reject them. Unite our hearts and wills in you, Jesus, that we may worship at your feet forever in the unity in which you dwell, Holy God. In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, we pray and thank you. Amen.
“With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”
— James 3:9-10
by Linda Rex
Last summer my daughter and I made the difficult transition of moving from a quiet rural town in southeast Iowa to metropolitan Nashville. We have noticed not only the change in climate, but also the change in the number of people and homes and cars that we see on a daily basis. No longer can we step out of the house at night and see a blanket of stars. Instead we see only a few of the brighter stars, and we hear the noise of the city with the cars, trains and trucks constantly on the move.
We have been blessed with a nice home in a pleasant neighborhood. We have enough room and all that we need. But it is not the same as our home back in Iowa, no matter how we look at it. At times we feel uprooted like plants lying on the ground, with our roots withering in the hot sun. At other times we feel like transplants stuffed into hard clay soil, with no soft loam tucked around us to comfort us or ease the transition. Sometimes adjusting to the transition can be very difficult.
But there is one thing that has enabled us to weather the transition in positive ways. It is the knowledge that when all is said and done, this physical home is not our ultimate habitation. God has invited us to make him our habitation, our dwelling place. God has invited us to rest in him, to take up residence in Jesus.
When we live and walk in him, there is a comfort and peace that passes all understanding. When we live each day in his presence in this way, God brings people and circumstances into our lives that are encouraging and healing. He surrounds us with his love and feeds us with his grace.
It is his body, the Body of Christ, who expresses his love and care for us. We are blessed by the support and generosity of our brothers and sisters in Christ, whether members of our fellowships or not. God has shown over and over that he is with us in this transition, that in Christ, in him, “we live, and move and have our being” as the apostle Paul wrote. We are held in the center of the life and love of Father, Son and Spirit, for God is our dwelling place. We are truly grateful for this blessing.
Thank you, Lord God, that we may dwell even now “in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Thank you that in the midst of upheavals and transitions in life and those times when we feel uprooted we have a permanent dwelling place in you. You are our refuge, our place of safety, our comfort and peace. We praise you and thank you. In Jesus name. Amen.
“For you have made the LORD, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place.” Psalm 91:9
by Linda Rex
“For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” 1 Peter 2:15
Sometimes we may find ourselves asking the question, “What is God’s will in this situation?” There are many verses that talk about the will of God. In this particular instance, Peter is talking about the will of God in the midst of a pagan anti-Christian culture with an oppressive government.
The people of that time lived under Nero and other Roman caesars, who took pleasure in the persecution and destruction of Christians. Peter himself would eventually experience a martyr’s death. This was a difficult, and no doubt, fearful time in which to live. Many of the issues Christians faced in those days are similar to ones Christians face in their world today.
Peter wrote that the way to silence those who know nothing about God and the way of life Jesus taught his disciples was to live in love with fellow Christians and others in the community in the face of suffering, rejection and death. What got the attention of the people of the day was the love and affection of the Christians. They had formed communities in which those in need were cared for and relationships were built. Not only that, but they reached out to those who were not Christians and showed them love and compassion even when it meant putting their lives at risk.
The Christians may have been ridiculed by their neighbors and community members for their funky observances like eating the body and blood of a dead guy (participating in communion), but the criticism was often silenced by the love and compassion these people witnessed these Christians sharing in the midst of suffering and difficult circumstances. It was the “doing good” and the non-violent response to martyrdom and suffering that eventually silenced the persecutors and paved the way for the Roman empire to embrace Christendom.
As we go about our daily lives and experience troubles and trials as Christians, it would be good for us to keep in mind the impact we have on others by our words, actions, and attitudes. We are preaching the gospel in the way we “do good” in our daily lives. As we reflect to the world around us the grace and love and truth of Jesus Christ, we pave the way for God to ultimately silence those who oppose him by transforming their hearts by faith. This is the path toward accomplishing the will of God–giving his Spirit full expression in and through us in the midst of a broken and hurting humanity who are ignorant of or live in opposition to God’s love and grace and truth in Jesus Christ.
Dear Lord of Life, please grant us the vision to see beyond our daily trials to understand the impact we can have on the world around us by living upright, godly, loving lives no matter what we may face or suffer. Help us to fully reflect the wonder of your love and grace in Jesus as we go about our daily business. You have worked mightly through your people to change the world. Please work mightly thorough us as well. Grant us the strength, wisdom and courage to bear whatever suffering or sorrow this may require and to do whatever you may ask of us. For Christ’s sake and by your great power. Amen.