I wonder sometimes how the rules and laws of the first century, Middle Eastern Jewish community have managed to bind chains around this 21st century, Western Christian community in a way that causes the latter to beatify those chains.
Until the freedom of God’s love, mercy and grace are longed for, we will not have the unity of faith Christ desired. We as followers must continue through all hardship to build His kingdom here on earth through His love, mercy and grace no matter the cost. I think this is the daily cross Jesus referred to:
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
And here we are again, anticipating the 2016 election, tossing words around like weapons. Heaving Bible verses as hand grenades. Instead of offering shelter to the lost and weary, instead of offering mercy to the ones who may feel like weeds in a meadow of flowers, we sling insults and condemnation. We need to give living water to those dying of thirst, not kick sand in their parched faces.
Let’s take one, single, hot-button example.
Is abortion wrong? Does it kill human life? Most Christians would say, “Of course.”
Is our accompanying accusation or condemnation righteous? Not according to Jesus.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-3)
“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:36-38)
“You spend your time judging by the wrong criteria, by human standards; but I am not here to judge anyone. If I were to judge, then My judgment would be based on truth; but I would not judge anyone alone. I act in harmony with the One who sent Me.” (John 8:15-16)
If we want to end abortion and follow Jesus, what should we do?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)
“If you’re listening, here’s My message: Keep loving your enemies no matter what they do. Keep doing good to those who hate you. Keep speaking blessings on those who curse you. Keep praying for those who mistreat you. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” (Luke 6:26-28, 35)
Our natural instinct is to quote Scripture, declare ourselves right, to allow our passions to kidnap us away from Christ. Derek Flood in his book, Disarming Scripture*, writes,
“Just as Paul’s religious audience in Romans was longing for wrath, so too was the audience of Jesus [in the Temple]. They believed – like so many still do today – that the way justice is fulfilled is by the destruction of their enemies. This violent view was at the heart of the common Jewish messianic expectation which hoped for God to come in vengeance, and thus understood the messiah as a warrior king…However, when they understand that this will involve showing grace and not vengeance to [the enemy], they become furious with Jesus and try to kill him.”
Somehow, we need to hold the dichotomy of loving our enemies in our heads, our hands and our hearts with grace and with mercy, with prayer, and with the power and compassion of the Holy Spirit. Practically?
When we focus on being “right,” quoting “right” Scripture, or determining we have the “right” biblical interpretation, we thoughtlessly marginalize and demean people – God’s people. We must pray for women seeking abortion. We must pray for doctors who perform them. We must welcome them into our homes and to our tables. We must pray for those who don’t comprehend life begins at conception. We must pray for their hearts and minds to be transformed, for their eyes to see and understand. We must engage in civil, loving and respectful conversation without allowing our emotions to enslave us. We must, instead, allow the Spirit’s fruit to reign.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against these things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
We must not dress ourselves again in the chains Jesus died to remove.