The love of Christ is radical. Sometimes I under-estimate how distinctive the changes are for those who choose to follow Jesus. Indeed, the early Christians had a solid grasp of what constituted real faith. In a time when our world is deeply divided, we have a chance to show a different way.
Consider the following quote from Justin Martyr:
"We who formerly treasured money and possessions more than anything else now hand over everything we have to a treasury for all and share it with everyone who needs it. We who formerly hated and murdered one another and did not even share our hearth with those of a different tribe because of their customs, now, after Christ’s appearance, live together and share the same table. Now we pray for our enemies and try to win those who hate us unjustly so that they too may live in accordance with Christ’s wonderful teachings, that they too may enter into the expectation, that they too may receive the same good things that we will receive from God, the ruler of the universe."
At New Year's a number of us gathered for fellowship and as the New Year dawned we were enjoying people's reflections of the past year/decade and how God has led them, through both good times and real trials.
Today this quote from Henri Nouwen reminded me of those thoughts. As we think about our lives, if we keep the Cross at the center of our vision, the perspective Jesus offers is ALWAYS pointed to hope.
"Jesus calls us to recognize that gladness and sadness are never separate, that joy and sorrow really belong together, and that mourning and dancing are part of the same movement. That is why Jesus calls us to be grateful for every moment that we have lived, and to claim our unique journey as God’s way to mold our hearts to greater conformity with God’s own. The cross is the main symbol of our faith, and it invites us to find hope where we see pain, and to reaffirm the resurrection where we see death. The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment of our life can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads us to new life."
- Henri Nouwen.
We often hear how hard it can be to respond with forgiveness when wronged. Yet we are called to it nonetheless. What we don't hear about as often is the power that lies within this act of forgiveness. The triumph of Jesus over evil is shared with us as we forgive others as we have been forgiven by God.
The following was found written on a wrapping paper at Ravensbruck concentration camp in WW2:
"Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember rather the fruits we brought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown out of this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness."
As we prepare to look at Acts 2 and the events of the day of Pentecost this Sunday, this quote from John Stott offers an eloquent perspective:
"Without the Holy Spirit, Christian discipleship would be inconceivable, even impossible. There can be no life without the life-giver, no understanding without the Spirit of truth, no fellowship without the unity of the Spirit, no Christlikeness of character apart from his fruit, and no effective witness without his power. As a body without breath is a corpse, so the church without the Spirit is dead."
Thank God for his wonderful Gift poured out upon us!
Pastor Ward Parkinson