These are unprecedented times in which we now live. A pandemic whose ongoing impact is yet unknown. Hate, anger, fear, polarization within and outside the church.
Our future is unclear. Yet the role of the Church is not. Although having a different face, these struggles are not unknown. The Church has faced war, pandemic, plague, persecution, threats coming from within and without. And our Lord faced hardship throughout his short life. It had a different face, but he was met with extreme trials, ultimately resulting in his death.
And it is to him that we look for our response—both individually and as his body. That response? Love. Jesus responded with love. He stood up for what was right, but his actions were not based in hate, but love. In the Sermon on the Mount, he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. The Father brings rain on the just and unjust. Be like him” Jesus is telling us that we emulate our Father in loving all people-both those who think like us and those who are in the opposite camp. We are to love.
This is at best hard and often seems impossible. My fears and hate are at times justified. This is when will power does not suffice. Rather, I let go of control and plead for Christ to love through me. Brother Moody, who founded the Moody Bible Institute, told of a time in his early ministry when two elderly women came to him. He was a young minister and was leading a vibrant, successful church. The women said, “Brother Moody, God placed it on our hearts to tell you to pray for a deeper understanding of God’s love.” He was a bit put off at the needless interruption, but he dealt kindly with them, thanked them, and sent them on their way. He thought, “why would they tell me to pray for that? It’s obvious that I know God’s love! I am doing so well! Just look at the success with which God has blessed me!” Yet the Spirit continued to work on him and a few days later, he realized how silly it was to resist such an invitation. So, he began to pray in earnest that God grant him a fuller understanding of God’s love.” In retrospect, looking back at a much later point in his career, he said, “After a time of seeking this understanding, I was overwhelmed. I had to say, ‘Stay your hand, Lord, it’s too much!’” He said that before he was carrying bucketfuls of love to people out of his own resources and abilities. But, now he was washed away in a river of God’s love. He became a conduit for God’s love.
That is how we love in a way that makes no sense to the world—a way that seems impossible. We plead with the Father to love through us—to give us the ability to let go of our fear, hate, and anger and love each person God places before us. And as we accept that command, we join the stream of believers through history who accepted this call to live in a way indicative of the one whose name we claim.
Grace and peace to you,