“Love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.
‘Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven…’” ~Luke 6:35-37
Over the past week I have been reflecting the physical transition of Bruce Jenner, and I have purposely refrained from saying anything specifically to avoid being another voice drowning the man in the sea of self-righteousness. Frankly, I have felt tremendous sorrow for him. It’s not the type of condescending sorrow that people will give at times, but it’s honestly a sincere sadness for him and his situation. I feel grief that he felt the need to go to such measures because he believed it would provide some degree of happiness and peace. Unfortunately, I do not believe he will find either.
Recently, I posted something on Facebook directed toward Christians who combat other Christian’s aggressive actions toward people like Bruce Jenner throughout social media and other avenues. The former (the grace/mercy-team) have a tendency to justify sin by believing that we are “all sinners saved by grace.” Although those sentiments are accurate, that type of rhetoric, which is easily misunderstood and interpreted, tends to strike a vigorous chord with individuals who openly refuse to repent of their sins against God. It is a Christian policy of negligence by grace.
What many fail to understand (myself included) is the incredible wrath that God will show against those who do not place their faith in Christ through repentance. We also tend to forget the Gospel’s specific mandate to all unbelievers to repent and believe. The Apostle Paul wrote, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). In other words, the Gospel is certainly a message of grace and hope in Jesus Christ, however the Gospel also demands repentance. The reality is that if you do not believe in Jesus and make Him Lord (Master), which leads to grace and salvation, then your disbelief will be the seal of your coming judgment via the wrath of God. The Church cannot preach one side without the other, because that would be disingenuous to the people who are present. What all people must understand is that God only shows grace (for salvation and eternal life) to those who repent and believe.
If repentance (a public admission of our crimes against God and a public renunciation of self-autonomy) and faith (placing all of one’s stock in Jesus Christ, that His death and resurrection appease God’s wrath) are not practiced by an individual, the full measure of God’s wrath will be poured upon that individual. Jesus’ replacement sacrifice doesn’t apply to those who don’t repent and believe. That is Gospel 101! Unfortunately, it is a doctrine that has been lost (or ignored) because our culture is vastly hyper-grace, hyper-love, and hyper-tolerance. Let this reality be clear: God does not tolerate sin – AT ALL. Our only hope is Christ, and in Christ alone.
While what I posted confronted the issue of negligent tolerance among Christians, it also confronted many Christian’s disregard for service, and service with compassion. It seems like there are few who can find the perfect balance. It’s as if the balance the Christ portrayed (in grace/mercy and judgment) is at a pinnacle that we cannot arrive to, and when people try to get there they just fall to the bottom of either side. Many in the Church have become either too self-righteous or too tolerant, and few find the necessary balance.
Jesus was the Master servant. We all know of His life and of His famous words, “I came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45),” but for some reason many of us can’t grasp that – for ourselves or others. Many Christians tend to be the ones who would leave the beaten Jew on the roadside instead of being the Samaritan who mended him and paid for him to be mended (Luke 10:25-37). We are torn apart by political ideology, religion, race, doctrine, denomination and all other sorts of issues that really don’t matter (although some do). I find myself battling with this very issue. However, enough is enough! When it comes to division, and when it comes to Christians keeping their distance from the “lepers” of our society, we must refuse to be like the Pharisees. Gays, transgender, bi-sexual, illegal immigrants, liberals, socialists, communists, welfare abusers, black, white, Hispanic, republican and democrat should all be welcome at our tables, and while they are there they should hear the Gospel – repent and believe, for our only hope is Christ!
My older sister responded to the post in a fashion the struck me and actually caused me to write this blog entry. She prayed, “God, give us compassion.” What a prayer! Nothing makes us more like Jesus than when we serve, than when we are sacrificial, and when we have compassion. The message of Christ is HOPE, and HOPE to the lost. The message of Jesus is that there is way out of all the madness, the sin, the confusion, the death and the darkness. He, the Light of the world, makes a way to God and peace. He makes us whole emotionally, mentally, and physically, and even when those things aren’t in perfection He gives us the grace to endure. In faith, we conquer whether we see the immediate results or not. Through depression, confusion, suffering, and even death, in Christ, we are victorious.
God’s Spirit within me desires to serve, but, in my flesh, I fail at it all the time. Sometimes, I am just flat out horrible at it. I pray for God to grant me the grace and power to overcome my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9) that I might serve Him, and others, as I should. I pray the same for the Church. There are far too many lost and confused people in world (who are seriously hurting) for us to be so worried about the actions they take/make as a lost and confused people. This is the reason Jesus responds the way He did in Matt. 9:36, “Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Shouldn’t we be the same? Didn’t God treat us all (and continues to do so) with that very compassion?
I have sincere sorrow for Bruce Jenner because I know exactly how it feels to be confused, to have mental anguish, and to be in agony daily. I KNOW exactly how he feels. My life has been ridden with mental and emotional anguish because of things that have happened to me, because of certain parts of my upbringing, and because Life sucks sometimes. Mental agony is a terrible thing.
Although I have known pain and suffering, I have also known grace and mercy. The pain and suffering I have endured (that not many know about) are not to be compared to the grace and mercy that I have received in Christ. The anguish cannot be compared to the compassion shown to me by God through Jesus. There is no parallel to His faithfulness, His enduring mercies, His wonderful grace, and His everlasting goodness. Peace, hope, and life are only found in Him.
Hurting individuals, like Bruce Jenner, try to find solace in what the world offers, such as materialism, success, power, wealth, and relationships. Or even in surrendering to carnal passions and/or whatever else is out there these days. Unfortunately, they seek these things in vain because those things will never satisfy. It is like King Solomon (who had EVERYTHING – money, women, power – and divine wisdom from God) who said, “I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I decided to study and to use my wisdom to learn about everything that is done in this life. I looked at everything done on earth, and I saw that it is all a waste of time” (Ecc.1:12 -14). Nothing on this earth (outside God’s mission) will ever satisfy us or be meaningful in eternity.
So what do we do? How do we respond to people like Bruce Jenner? I say, invite them to dinner. We should invite all the lost, all the broken, all the disdained, and all of life’s “failures” to our tables. Let’s show them the compassion and love of Christ. Let’s unleash God’s mercy on them, and show them the beauty of the cross, like it was revealed to us. Let’s show them that peace and hope are only found in Christ. Jesus is everything, and if He is everything to us we should be concerned with making Him known to all. How do we make Him known? By our love (service, sacrifice, self-denial). God certainly doesn’t tolerate sin, but that’s why He sent Jesus. Jesus never tolerated anyone’s sin (even the “sinners” He might have associated with), but He was certainly compassionate. As a response, this is what I pray for myself and the Church, “God, break off religion. God, make us like Jesus. God, give us compassion.”
But I say to you people who are listening to me, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Ask God to bless the people who ask for bad things to happen to you. Pray for the people who are mean to you. If someone hits you on the side of your face, let them hit the other side too. If someone takes your coat, don’t stop them from taking your shirt too. Give to everyone who asks you for something. When someone takes something that is yours, don’t ask for it back. Do for others what you want them to do for you.
“If you love only those who love you, should you get any special praise for doing that? No, even sinners love those who love them! If you do good only to those who do good to you, should you get any special praise for doing that? No, even sinners do that! If you lend things to people, always expecting to get something back, should you get any special praise for that? No, even sinners lend to other sinners so that they can get back the same amount!
“I’m telling you to love your enemies and do good to them. Lend to people without expecting to get anything back. If you do this, you will have a great reward. You will be children of the Most High God. Yes, because God is good even to the people who are full of sin and not thankful. ~Luke 6:27-35