God Showing Through
God Showing Through
The demands (or commands) of Jesus have never been easy. If they were, more people would follow.
*Love your enemies...
*Do good to those who hate you...
*Bless those who curse you...
*Turn the other cheek...
*Give to everyone!
Really? I mean... goodness, talk about a “high-calling”! I struggle with just the first one... and Jesus rattles off a whole list of challenging - seemingly impossible acts of forgiveness, and mercy, that are overwhelming (on the surface, at face value) and cause the most faithful among us to cringe, or to squirm a bit!
It reminds me of my college days, as a young religion major, in my early 20s, when I was asked by an antagonist playing devil’s advocate, if I believed the Bible was true.
“Yes,” I said.
“Do you obey what Jesus taught?”
“I try,” I answered again.
“Do you believe Luke 6:30?”
I read it: “Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.”
“Yes,” I said somewhat cautiously.
“Good. If you believe that, then give me all the money in your bank account. You can write a check!”
I couldn’t do it!
I didn’t have much money. But what I had I couldn’t just giveaway for no reason… right? I tried to rationalize why I could not literally obey Jesus’ command.
And my antagonist said, “you’re a hypocrite.”
And you know what? He was right. I was a hypocrite. I still am. I claim to believe in, and I profess to follow Jesus... yet I consistently fail to live up to what Jesus commanded me to do.
In fact, I sin every single day in either thought, word, or deed, and many times it’s all three at once (in fact, there’s already a list of people I need to apologize to, today! And it’s not even Noon!). And I struggle with failing to live into Christ’s calling? Can you relate?
So what are we supposed to do with these “insanely perfectionistic” and honestly “impossible demands”?
One popular option is to make Jesus’ commands/demand less than they seem to be. In other words, “He didn’t really mean that!”
And, to be fair, I think Jesus does use hyperbolic language and figures of speech that were never meant to taken literally (e.g., pluck out your eye, Matt 18:9).
Another option, I suppose, is to just ignore the parts of God’s Word that we don’t like. To read right over Jesus’ Words as if they’re not there. To act as if it’s not a command, or at least not a command directed at us.
But God’s law is not like an outfit we can change as we see fit!
So what can you & I do? How do we respond to such demands?
Well; we could start by keeping things in context! The “high view” of scripture that we share as Presbyterian Christians teaches us that “scripture interprets scripture” - and reading, “the rest of the story” (as Paul Harvey would say) helps us uncover the truth behind what Jesus is saying.
After giving us a list of difficult commands... Jesus says:
Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you (Luke 6:36-38).
It turns out the severity of God’s evaluation of us (his people) depends (to a large degree) on how you and I treat our brothers and sisters. Did your parents ever evaluate your behavior based on how you treated your brothers and sisters? If you’ve got brothers and sisters they did! And it turns out that God, our Father, places a lot of value on how you and I treat one another, too!
Given the fact that we all utterly fail to live up to Jesus’ commands, what can we do? What do we need?
I know what I need—God’s mercy and forgiveness and grace! If you need that, too... if you find that living-up to, and living into the call of Christ is too lofty... Jesus says, “be merciful,” “judge not,” “condemn not,” and “forgive.” If you do not judge your neighbor’s failings, then you won’t be judged for yours. If you do not condemn your neighbor’s flaws, then God will not condemn you for yours. If you forgive others for their sins against you, then God will forgive you for your sins against Him.
In other words, when it comes to living-out Jesus’ demands, and following Christ, what you give is what you get.
When I compare my life to Jesus’ words, I realize that what I need is mercy, and lots of it! And isn’t that Jesus’ point?
For you and for me to become disciples of Christ; for us to become a people who show mercy... requires convincing us that we need mercy, right?
Ponder this... A little girl, on the way home from church, turned to her mother and said, "Mommy, the Preacher's sermon this morning confused me."
The mother said, "Oh! Why is that?"
The girl replied, "Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?"
"Yes, that's true," the mother replied.
"He also said that God lives within us. Is that true, too?"
Again the mother replied, "Yes."
"Well," said the girl.
"If God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn't He show through?”
At the end of the day... when all is said and done... there should be so much of Jesus “showing through” us, as his followers, his disciples, his children... that when we fail to keep his commands, there’s so much of him showing through, that it’s all others can see.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Then... your reward will be great!