2012-09-16 - Primary Focus
The Epistles of John ~ Part 61 ~ 1 John
It seems to me that the most important thing we can take from this passage isn't that we are going to be hated. While we are not to be surprised, this isn't to be the primary focus of our lives.
We hear so much today about the attack of society on the church. A lot of discussion is carried on about how we can fight back and protect ourselves. Because we live in the representative form of government and therefore have appropriate ways to affect law, we can try to slow some of these attacks. In fact, considering many of the issues that concern us do have a detrimental effect on society, we have an obligation - as salt and light - to try to slow down the process of corruption.
But our primary responsibility isn't to try to instill Christians values into a fallen society. John's point is that the distinguishing characteristic between the believer and nonbeliever is our love - versus their hate. We must love even those that hate us.
"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," (Matthew 5:44).
Our responsibility is to present God's truth, that is, the message of salvation to a fallen world. And that truth must be presented in love. Remember that John called us to love by what we do. If the gospel is the message of love,
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16),
then it must be presented with love. Yes we must make it clear that people need to be saved because of their sins.
" for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 3:23, 6:23).
But, at the same time we need to have God's love for the lost, being pained at the thought of their eternal destiny. The message of sin and damnation should be given out of love and pain, with the desire to help the lost escape their future. The message of judgment shouldn't be preached judgmentally, but with a spirit of compassion. No matter how wicked someone is, by our perception, our desire should be for their salvation and the escaping of damnation. Remember what Paul said to the believer in the church at Corinth.
"Nor you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
As we give out the message of salvation, let us do so from the position that we too were dead in our sins, and therefore we have no right to judge. Instead, let us present the message of hope and love, God's desire to save the lost from His soon-coming judgment.
In the final analysis, we won't be used to save anyone by our biblical orthodoxy, as vital as this is. Our witness isn't dependent on the fact that our life may look Christian. After all, the Pharisees were certainly religiously orthodox, and a number of cults "look" really good.
The factor in our lives that will turn others towards Christ, is the real presence of God's love in our lives. As we reach out unselfishly towards those who hate us, allowing God's agapé to flow through us, people will be confronted by the supernatural presence of the Lord in our lives. Being exposed to God in that way can cause them to react with either hatred, or openness to the moving of the Holy Spirit. They will react with hatred, because of a heart that is rebellious against God. Or they will react with acceptance, because of the moving of the Spirit. Remember God is responsible for results. We are responsible for loving.
And so we are called to move in love, regardless of the response of the person we are moving toward. This is why John says don't be surprised by the world's hatred. When surprised, we tend to respond in like manner. When prepared, we will depend on the Lord to move in love.
The most unusual aspect of being Christian is not demanding justice or fairness from the lost, but instead moving with God's love towards them, desiring only that which is best for them. And by doing such, we truly fulfill the command of Christ.
"But I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you," (Matthew 5:44).
Yes, stand for the truth at all costs, but as you stand, stand in prayer for those who come against you. And in such manner, you will please the Lord, and force the individual to be confronted by the living God.
"If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you" (Proverbs 25:21-22).
To be continued.