It’s a major understatement to say 2020 is a unique year. The cultural atmosphere is full of fear of the present and anxiety over the future. But it’s not unique or scary for Jesus’ Church. Actually, this is rather mild compared to what Christians face in some parts of the world today, and what the early church faced under severe persecution.
We must remember that we belong to the ultimate counter-culture, one that subverted and transformed the Roman Empire, which was arguably both the greatest and most brutal regimes in human history. We belong to Christ’s unstoppable Kingdom! “Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isa.9:7).
Here’s what Paul said to the Thessalonian church about living in times like these:
14 We appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, to instruct those who are not in their place of battle. Be skilled at gently encouraging those who feel themselves inadequate. Be faithful to stand your ground. Help the weak to stand again. Be quick to demonstrate patience with everyone. 15 Resist revenge, and make sure that no one pays back evil in place of evil but always pursue doing what is beautiful to one another and to all the unbelievers. (1 Thess.5:14-15 TPT*)
As I said last time, this is quite the opposite of some of the insanity we’re currently witnessing in our cities. What we’re seeing is brutal harassment, revenge, and malicious hatred masquerading as social justice, as the following clip shows so graphically:
The problem with this kind of demand is that it always produces the very opposite of the desired effect. It only increases the disconnect, dividing us even further as a culture. There’s no meaningful communication going on here, just mean-spirited rants.
Here’s a tip: when you’re going to people’s homes and threatening them with your angry tirades, you can be sure they won’t be listening to you! As believers, we should already know that human anger never produces the righteousness of God (James 1:20).
The Kingdom of God moves in the opposite spirit. We’re told in the passage above that we are “be quick to demonstrate patience.” This kind of counter-intuitive patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22).
What patience does is give space for broken relationships to heal. It denies anger any oxygen to further inflame the situation. It deescalates the violence and allows the brain to go from our reptilian “fight-or-flight” instincts to the higher level of rational thought that comes from our cerebral cortex.
In other words, it extends grace to the other so communication can begin, because people in pain or in danger aren’t being rational. They’re not being their true selves while acting out of their tiny reptilian brain (only the size of a large almond!) You cannot bully anyone into listening, even if your demand is righteous. This is why rioting never works.
As followers of Christ, we’re to have no part in this; we’re told not to pay back evil for evil, which these riots are engaged in. We’re called to “pursue doing what is beautiful to one another and to all the unbelievers.”
This is a variation to what Paul said to the Philippian church:
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Phil.4:8-9 NIV*)
This also means we don’t keep feeding and inflaming our minds on the news and much of social media, Instead, we’re to binge on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy…” and then put that into practice, for when we do, the peace of God will be with us.
Beloved, this is no small thing! The peace of God is the greatest weapon you and I have against the enemy of our soul. He is absolutely powerless to counteract it!
20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet…(Rom.16:20a NIV)
Instead of hatred and revenge, I must step back, exercising His patience, and see others as God sees them. I must remember that these are people for which He bankrupted heaven. All human beings have infinite value to God. But I can only see that when I view them from my position in Christ in heavenly places.
While we don’t bow to bullies and tyrants, we don’t view them as our enemies either. And we can only love them the way Jesus loves them if we abide in His love ourselves. Otherwise, we’re likely to just pour more gasoline on the fire. Selah.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:9-12 NIV*)