Those of us who claim that we are Christian in America or anywhere else in the world have a calling–from the poorest and/or unemployed and/or homeless to the richest and including Presidents, Prime Ministers, Dictators, and/or Kings and Queens. And this calling is true for everyone who claims the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior . . . no exceptions . . . .
None . . . .
In Romans 1:16, the Apostle Paul stated the following: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” And he lived out what he believed and suffered a “litany of abuses once he became one of those whom he had [previously] persecuted” and “after an intense missionary career spanning twenty years or more (45-66/67 A.D.), Paul (on the same day as Peter) paid the ultimate price for his Christian faith: martyrdom. He was beheaded outside the walls of Rome on June 29, 67 A.D., and remains one of the Church’s brightest witnesses of radical, self-giving discipleship” (quote source here). I wonder how many of us are willing to live out our faith like that as we go about our daily lives living in a secular culture full of excesses and distractions with a great pull to “fit in.”
Talk is cheap. Living it out isn’t. And there is a huge difference between talking about it and walking it out in our daily lives. Lots of folks talk about the Christian life, but the proof is in their actions and how they treat others. That’s where the rubber meets the road, and where the rest of the world can clearly tell if we mean what we say or not.
His [God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Our calling is clear–we are to add to our faith in Jesus Christ these attributes–goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love–for if we possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (vv. 5-8). And if we don’t possess them, we are nearsighted and blind, forgetting what Jesus has done for us in forgiving our past sins (v. 9).
In a recent blog post, “The Power of Love,” I discussed I Corinthians 13, the chapter in the Bible best known for it’s description of what real love looks like. If we don’t have real love for others, all other attributes are meaningless. Jesus even stated in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And in Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus stated:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
One of the most difficult things we are called to do as Christians is to love our enemies and to forgive those who abuse us. I know how I’ve struggled in my own life in the past five years with trying to genuinely love and forgive those who caused my unemployment through no fault of my own. While I have personally wished them no ill will, my anger at them as vacillated back and forth over these past five years, especially since I have been unable to find work due to that very unfortunate experience. However, even in the most vitriol times of my anger, I can honestly say I didn’t hate them, but you wouldn’t have known it by the anger that I spewed out at them in the privacy of my own apartment. Maybe beating a pillow would have been better, but the boil had to be lanced in some way. That’s an explanation and not an excuse.
However with that being said, I also believe that God is in control, and that nothing happens by accident. I wrote about it back in September 2013 in a blog post titled, “Contemplating God’s Sovereignty.” While several areas of my life have changed for the better in significant ways during these past five plus years, one of the biggest areas of challenge for me has been my anger due to this very long time of unemployment. Of course, God knows just what we need in order to change a destructive habit in our lives, and sometimes it’s a life altering circumstance He brings our way. And our response is crucial. It’s hard to love others when anger is so apparent. And God knew I had to deal with it in the right way (and I must admit I’ve stumbled a lot getting there over these past five years). Yet I knew I had finally–after all this time–reached an end to that severe anger that I felt when I recently sent my former boss who fired me a congratulatory email when I found out that he had recently been promoted to president of one of the number of institutes housed under the umbrella organization I worked for at the time I lost my job. It’s been a long time in coming (the loss of my anger, and his promotion to president, too). I remember him telling me when I worked for him that his goal was to become president. And I knew when I read that he had become president and I wasn’t angry about it or at him (in fact, I was happy for him) that my anger had finally subsided.
We are called to love, period. And it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are or who our enemies are in the process. If we profess to love and follow after Jesus Christ, we don’t get any wiggle room to continue living with destructive habits. The option, of course, is always ours as to whether or not we change, but God has a way of bringing to light those areas in our life that need attention. And the improvement may not happen overnight, either (such as in the case of my anger against my former employer), but the struggle for me has always been in the right direction and I knew that I desperately wanted and needed to get over it and not be angry anymore.
We are not perfect, but we should never use that as an excuse not to change or to keep on sinning in any area of our lives when God has shown us our need to do an “about face.” And God knows our heart and whether or not we are willing to change. We live in a culture saturated with “self” and it pulls at us every single day to live our lives like the rest of the culture. But Jesus calls us to a higher calling of self-sacrifice and loving others, regardless of the situation or circumstance.
How are we loving others, including our enemies?
They will know . . .
We are Christians . . .
By our love . . . .
YouTube Video: “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love”: