Back to the key verses we see that we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Why? So we may live in harmony with one another. Christians are not supposed to be this cut off group of strange people who demonize everyone in their world for not sharing their beliefs. We are supposed to stand for the truth. If a situation calls for rejoicing we are to rejoice but if it calls for weeping we are to weep. Paul said he became all things for all people. He met people where they were at. We cannot allow our personal worldview or feelings interfere with who we are supposed to be as believers. The world needs to see Christ, not our worldview.
I love the next instruction beloved. We are not to be haughty, but associate with the lowly. What does this mean in practical terms? Never consider anyone beneath you. There has been a whole lot of this going on in these recent stories. People referred to as animals. People marginalized because of race or socio economic status. By Christians. Who did Jesus seek out in His ministry? The prostitutes. The lepers. Those cast to the fringe of society. The "lowly." Our church should not look like a social club. It should look like an emergency room. Haughty? Remember that he who insisted on being first will be last. God does not promote the proud. The next command here is going to shake a lot of trees but we are called upon to never be wise in our own sight. We cannot rest upon our subjective worldview and seek out someone to confirm it. We have to seek the truth wherever it may lead us. How much "wisdom in their own sight" is going on in these stories? Too much. Everyone is suddenly an expert on choke holds, ballistics, grand jury proceedings, and everything else that is relevant. People have been talking as if they were there in Ferguson Missouri. Why are we instructed to not be wise in our own sight? Because that denies the truth. Our wisdom must come from the truth of every situation measured up to the Word of God. Our wisdom should begin with fearing the Lord. Of not wanting to say something that will further hurt people, divide people, or make people hate one another anymore than they already do.
We are to repay no one evil for evil. Instead we are instructed here to actually give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all! Think about that for a minute! First we have to give thought. Well what does that mean? It means we have to be considerate. We have to actually think instead of reacting. These tragedies are very easy to react to. We are angry. Two innocent people are dead and they should not be. We want to lash out. We want someone to blame. No no no says God. STOP. CONSIDER. GIVE THOUGHT. To what? To doing what is honorable in the sight of all. Whoa, there is some deep theology for us. Most would look at a situation like this and say there is no way to be honorable to both sides. That they are too polarized. That the differences are too stark. That is not what God says. When we focus on Him and matters of the kingdom, then honor is always achievable. We can always pray for people. We can always love people regardless of what side they are on. We can show them the love of Jesus. We can preach the Gospel to them. We can always act in a way that honors God and stands for the truth over our personal worldview. It starts with not taking a side other than Christ. It starts with acknowledging that both sides are human. Both sides deserve love. God wants both sides to come to repentance. It starts with our realizing that we are not to be found on either side. We are to be found saying - here are my mother and my brothers! Those who do the will of my Father in heaven. If it is at all possible - we are called to live peaceably with all. I know that can be tough because we have our personal feelings but God asks us to put them aside for the kingdom. I have seen pastors come out strongly after yesterday's incident, seemingly not to care that there are other people on the side they are maligning. People who also matter to God. They do not need our worldview. They need our Savior.
But what about justice preacher! Well what about it? They key verses deals with that too! Never avenge yourselves! Leave it to the wrath of God! Do you remember who we serve? Justice is not merely a quaint attribute of God. It is who God is. Beloved, no one gets away with anything on earth. We keep looking at things simply from a temporal perspective. We need to build a kingdom perspective. The man who pulled the trigger yesterday and then took his own life will stand before God and answer for his life and his crimes. The punishment will be sufficient and eternal. The men who took the lives of Eric Garner and Michael Brown will stand before God and answer for their lives as well. God does not need a Grand Jury. He is the Grandest of Jurors because He sees everything and knows the deepest reaches of our hearts. That should not be a source of comfort beloved because deep in our hearts is where we lie to ourselves. It is where we bury our secret hates and prejudices. They will all be bare before the God to whom we all must give account. No one gets away with anything. That includes us beloved. We will answer for our own words. We will answer for the hate we spread. We will answer for our careless words. That is why it is even more crucial that we seek the truth over our personal worldview.
God concludes by turning traditional carnality on its head; as He always does! If your enemy is hungry - feed him! If he is thirsty - give him something to drink! It matters not that he is your enemy. The only thing that matters is he needs Christ. That is the eternal perspective. We live in such an "eye for an eye" world. We fancy ourselves more civilized but we remain barbaric in nature right down to our core. We cannot fathom the love of God to be willing to redeem the man who pulled the trigger yesterday and that is where our hearts remain blackened. That is where we look down upon the lowly and think that while we were somehow worthy of redemption, they are not. It must stop beloved. There cannot be hate running through the body of Christ like a cancer. I offer up two examples for your consideration. The first is David Berkowitz. Also known as the Son of Sam, Berkowitz killed six women in the late 1970s and wounded seven more. Decades later, Berkowitz refuses parole because he does ministry work inside the prison and as he states, "I have been pardoned by Jesus already." That's right, the Son of Sam got saved in prison and now serves for the kingdom to bring others to Christ inside the criminal justice system. We should rejoice at such a testimony but imagine if you will, one of the family members of the six slain women. Not so easy now, is it?
The second example I offer is the criminal on the cross, crucified next to Jesus. We do not have great details about who this man was. One Gospel refers to him as a thief but the Romans generally did not crucify common criminals. This was their most severe form of punishment. I think it is safe to say that this man did something really bad to someone else. Yet in his dying moments he simply asks to be remembered and is saved by the grace of almighty God. What a powerful testimony to the unspeakable grace and mercy of the God we serve! Except, what if you were this criminal's victim. What if your family was? Not so easy now is it?
Beloved, this is why the key verses from God implore us to not overcome evil with evil but rather with good. We have to develop and show a kingdom worldview not our own personal worldview. The kingdom worldview rejoices in the truth. It sees people as separated from God and in desperate need of a Savior. It recognizes that the families of Officers Liu, Ramos, Pantaleo, and Wilson will have enough anger and grief to deal with on their own. They do not need us to further fan the flames of hatred inside of them. The same goes for the families of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. These people are still precious to God, regardless of how we feel about them. The kingdom mindset says, of these I am the least. I am not surprised that God saved the Son of Sam. I am not surprised that He saved the criminal hanging next to Him on Calvary. I just remain surprised that He saved me. That is the kingdom mindset that leads to a kingdom worldview. They do not need our hate, outrage, and divisiveness. They need His grace. His mercy. His salvation.
Reverend Anthony Wade - December 21, 2014