In my last blog post we saw how Jesus is the solution to mankind’s heart problem and to the problem of hate and division in the world around us. We saw how God, through Jesus’s death on the cross, served our death sentence for us, sparing us from an eternity in Hell (the greatest danger facing mankind). We saw how God gives each believer a new heart which is able to love God and other people with the same supernatural love which God has loved us with; and we saw how this heart change can change bitter enemies into loving brothers.
OUR HEARTS COMFORTED, OUR WOUNDS HEALED, OUR EYES OPENED
So what does this mean to you? How does this apply to your situation! Are you among the hurting? Are you reeling from the wounds inflicted upon you by some hateful heart? There is immense evil in this world, far beyond what most of us can comprehend, and in the wake of this evil is immense suffering of which most of us cannot fathom. Yet, Jesus can, for He bore the full weight of all sin (past, present, and future) as he died on the cross! In Him you will find one who knows from experience what it is like to sufferer, one who understands and can sympathize like no one else can. In Christ you will find compassion and love like no other, and he will grant you full healing for your soul and body if you come to him in faith.
Have you found yourself numbered among the hating? As Jesus begins to change our hearts, he opens our eyes to see the truth about ourselves and about others. He shows us the truth that there really is only one race, the human race, for we all are descended from one man, Adam, and one woman, Eve. He shows us the truth that every human life matters whether black or white, king or pauper, elderly or yet unborn, genius or handicap. He shows us that every human being needs to be shown the utmost respect, for we, like Adam, are all created in the image of God, and God holds human life in very high regard (just remember that God loves that person you hate enough to die for him or her!). As Christ opens our eyes, we likewise see that as Adam’s descendant, we too share in Adam’s sin and rebellion, and that we, just like the hate filled sinner who is opposing us, desperately need God’s forgiveness (Romans 3:9). This should cause us all to approach others with humility and sympathy. And finally, as our eyes are opened, we will see the truth that God loves the diversity in the people he made, (he created us different on purpose), and our skin color and cultural differences are something good that we will keep when we are in heaven someday! (Revelation 7:9)
OUR PART IN THE SOLUTION
So has God been stirring your heart? Have you felt the prompting to do something? Is God calling you to be part of the solution?
CHECK YOUR OWN HEART
First of all, we need to look to Christ and the condition of our own heart. How often do you find feelings of hate or bitterness welling up in you? Are your thoughts consumed with the love of Christ or something else? Do you truly believe God has forgiven you? If you died today, are you confident where your soul will spend eternity? If these questions leave you wondering, then maybe you haven’t experienced the heart change that we have been discussing.
The way to knowing Christ and his forgiveness is simple- admit to him that you have sinned and ask Jesus for his forgiveness; then honestly seek him. If you struggle with unbelief, ask him to show himself real to you, to give you faith. This is a prayer which God loves to answer! You will find Jesus in the pages of the Bible, and that is where you will most often hear him speak to you. If you are a believer and are concerned about the attitudes you see in your heart, the solution is the same- turn to Christ, ask for his forgiveness, ask him to change your heart, and then dive into the pages of the Bible. If you are a believer and feel pretty good about where your heart’s at, turn to Christ anyways and ask him to show you any areas of sin in your life which you might be blind to, and stay daily reading the pages of the Bible.
You see, when God is actively working in our hearts, it shows on our outside, in our attitudes and actions. We exude joy, hope, and peace, that isn’t tied to our circumstances. We find that we have a growing love for others fueled by a growing love for Christ in us. We desire to know Jesus better and develop a hunger for His words in the Bible. We become living examples of God’s heart changing power and love to the world around us and God uses our changed lives to attract others to Himself.
Now it is natural and right for our growing love for Christ and others to cause us to want to share the good news of heart change through Jesus with others. This is actually a command (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15) and a calling as the Bible teaches that we are the hands and feet of Christ in this world (1 Corinthians 12:27). Ever since Jesus returned to heaven, his plan has been to deliver his love and message of heart change (the Gospel) through us believers! So it is God’s plan for us believers to reach the world with God’s solution to hatred and division! (nowhere else in our culture will people find this message!) Unfortunately, our heart change (sanctification) is a process, and a degree of blindness and sin remains in us which can hamper our efforts to help others know Jesus. It is easy for our words to say “Jesus loves you” and our actions to say the opposite.
LOOK TO OUR FAMILIES
So we again need to take inventory of our own hearts, and a good place to start is in looking at our influence among our family. Are we showing the same forgiveness, love, compassion, and patience with our family members that Jesus has shown us? It may be good to ask both God and our family members how we really come across to them. It is unfortunate, but too often it is true, that we end up being the harshest, and most hateful in our actions and words to the family members we claim to love the most in this world! Are we representing Jesus well to our children, spouses, parents and siblings?
SHOW JESUS TO THOSE IN OUR EVERYDAY LIVES
After considering how we are influencing our families, the next step is to look at our influence on the other people in our lives who we regularly come into contact with at work, at church, and in our neighborhood; the coworkers, clients, and friends who know us by name. Are we also communicating the love and gospel of Christ to the people we meet each day? As Christians, we know the solution to their greatest needs! There are many people we will meet today who are currently on the pathway to an eternity of torment in Hell. The only one who can change their eternal future, and the only one who can truly heal the painful struggles in their lives right now, is Jesus Christ. Our interaction with people around us may be the only opportunity for them to see Jesus today. Are we showing Jesus’s love to others by genuinely taking interest in them, sharing a smile, taking the time to say “hello,” and listening to them? We particularly need to notice and take time for those around us who are different from the majority, whom others ignore or look down on, and those whom are hurting. Jesus’s heart is especially compassionate to the down trodden and broken hearted. Jesus spent a lot of time while on earth helping the “sinners” and the “unclean” whom the religious leaders of Christ’s day looked down upon. Jesus dared to touch people with leprosy. Jesus, a Jew, purposely traveled into Samaria (Samaritans were a racial group looked down upon and hated by the Jews) to minister to them (the story of the women at the well). Likewise He healed the beloved servant of the Roman army officer (that would be like an African American doctor going out of his way to treat and help a white police officer who had been unfairly profiling African Americans).
We need to love like Jesus loves. When asked to define God’s command to love your neighbor, Jesus used the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). This story demonstrates that God expects us to have compassion on, and help anyone in need, even if it is inconvenient or costly to us. He calls us to reach across racial and social lines, even if it means breaking religious taboos.
Our greatest opportunities to influence our world for Christ and to counter the hate, division, and racism in our country, are not going to be through marches or protests, picket lines or posters. They are going to be through how we treat people at home, in our neighborhood, at work, school, or on the sidelines of our kids soccer games. These are all opportunities to reach the perishing in the world all around us.
OUR WORK SHOULD BE A MINISTRY
Yet, I admit that I often let myself get too busy and preoccupied with my work and the demands of my own life to pause to share God’s love and Gospel! If we however, look at Jesus’s example during his earthly ministry, he always made time for people (despite teaching and healing people from dawn to dusk). This was because Jesus’s job was people; to love them, heal them, teach them, to proclaim to them the good news of the Gospel, and to give his life for them. As Christians we are called to imitate Christ, and whether our job is that of a farmer, janitor, doctor, plumber, computer programmer, mechanic, or any other vocation, the focus of our occupation needs to likewise be in loving, helping, and sharing the good news of salvation with other people.
Too often I hear reports of people praising the Lord in church on Sunday, and then cheating someone on Monday in the workplace, or posting a scathing rant on FaceBook about a business or person who has done them wrong. Is this behavior drawing people to Christ or driving them away? When making a business deal, are we more concerned about getting every last dollar or about the welfare of the people we are doing business with? When someone treats us unfairly in the workplace, are we more concerned about the justice of our cause, or rather the hurt, pain, and fears in the heart of the person who mistreated us? Jesus understands us like no other, and we, as Christians ought to be the quickest people to seek to understand and sympathize with those around us, including those who mistreat us. If we truly understand Christ’s forgiveness in our own lives, we will be quick to forgive others. That alone will open up many opportunities to share with others about God’s forgiveness through the Gospel.
Yet, I also believe that God wants us to be more than reactive to the world around us, He wants us to be proactive in reaching others with his love and gospel. Several weeks ago while working on one of the farms I service, it dawned on me that I was spending much more time talking with the English speaking employees, than the Hispanic employees. It isn’t that I like them any less, I just don’t speak Spanish. I wondered what my silence was communicating to those workers- that I didn’t like them as much as the English employees? That they weren’t as valuable? I don’t know. But I started to realize that I needed to get off my duff and learn Spanish and not just wait for them to learn English. Though it is a little more work to communicate with those who speak a different language, I realized that I need to proactively make the effort to communicate with them because I want them to know that I care and that Jesus cares. We should go out of our way to strike up conversations with those who are different from us, to become friends with them. Not only will they get to see that we care, but we will better understand their point of view, their life, their struggles. On a focus on the family broadcast discussing the racial tensions in our country, the suggestion was made to regularly invite families over for dinner at your house who are of a different race or political persuasion, for just that reason. There are many ways to touch the lives of others with Jesus’s love and Gospel; what is God calling you to do?
“The lost,” (those who have no relationship with Christ), generally are not going to be found inside the four walls of our church, so we need to proclaim the gospel as we live our lives outside the church building. Yet, at the same time, it is believers functioning together who form the living, breathing, body of Christ here on earth, so my next post will focus on the church’s part in addressing the problem of hatred and division in our world.
-TO BE CONTINUED-