A nagging thought has been plaguing me lately. As I look around me at a culture that is passionately on one side of the political spectrum, a culture I in many ways very much identify with, I began to wonder how much of what I believe is fueled by the influence of my peers, and their passions. How many of the stands I take (or don’t take) are truly from the Spirit in me, and how many are coming from the ideas of people (even well-meaning ones) around me?
Feeling a little lost and pretty sure this wasn’t something I was going to be able to see objectively, I started praying.
Lord, I want my heart to be Your heart. I want to see as You see.
It was as if the Jesus of Revelation with eyes of flaming fire, eyes that reveal His purity and purifying nature, turned to look at me, and the Spirit seemed to ask in my heart if I was prepared then to go against the crowd, to suffer as He did.
I was not expecting that. But I felt like Peter when Jesus asked his disciples, after a great desertion by many of His followers, if they would leave Him too.
“Simon Peter replied, ‘Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69
Friends, I believe that God is good. That all good things come from His hand, that He created us for fulfillment and joy in His presence. And that there is no true, lasting peace or joy or fulfillment apart from Him. So I said, yes, I want the truth and to speak the truth.
And I began to see a culture that has compromised with sin, as a value. We sometimes turn a blind eye to sin in people’s lives, excusing it because they are broken and needy. Saying that God is kind, and Jesus invites us to come as we are.
Yes, He is so very kind. He sent His son as a sacrifice to pay for our sins. So why would we trample that kindness underfoot and treat it as nothing, by continuing to sin? To ask, if it was possible, for Him to be more kind? To not only forgive the sin but also pretend it isn’t sin?
When God created us and set rules in place, those rules were to ensure our joyful, thriving survival, and that of the entire planet we were set to care for. This is why Paul says, for example, that those who sin sexually, sin against their own body. We were made to function according to certain parameters, and when we reject those, we break the delicate circuitry. And not only our own circuitry – we mess with others’ too. We are not able to see the long term effects, not for us or those around us. Some sin may seem to be small to us, but the effects it has are sometimes beyond our perception and always beyond our comprehension in their scope.
We all do this, me included. We participate in breaking the world God gave us. Or turn a blind eye when others do. Maybe someone has an affair, or is only attracted to the same sex and so decides to embrace that sexuality in their life. We might say, “Their spouse was unkind,” or “how hard to be born longing for someone you can’t have, I’m sure God understands.” God does understand, yes! He aches with us over the brokenness and loss of this world! He entered it as one of us and suffered (including being celibate for the sake of His calling). But He cannot call our malfunction a good, or say “yes, you should keep doing that.” If a starving man is eating poison, wouldn’t you bat it out of his hand?
And yet we rail at God and call Him unkind. As though Jesus Himself didn’t suffer homelessness, hunger, public abuse and abandonment by His own dearest friends and family; as though He wasn’t cruelly murdered by His enemies for His obedience to God.
It’s as if we gave a child a room stocked with wonderful toys and foods and the freedom to enjoy them, asking them only to take care of these things, and then they trashed the place, and called us mean because they stepped on a lego and called us cruel because they ruined all the food and tried to eat dust instead.
Every one of us has contributed to the state of the world we live in, and suffering comes to us in it. Only God can put it right, through us. We must walk in step with the Spirit -wholly turning from sin in ourselves and not excusing it in others, but rather gently and joyfully calling them to walk with the Lord of Creation, being part of His rescue plan that is founded in truth and righteousness and brings real, lasting, never-disappointing hope.
To live in the light, the truth, in this decaying world is hard. It is costly. We aren’t promised happiness in this phase of life any more than Jesus was. But we are promised eternity in a glorious, remade world, one free of sickness and suffering and death. And even now we can have Him, the One who truly loves us and satisfies our deepest longings with Himself. There is the joy and hope to press on!
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Rom 8:18