These words from Martin Luther King Jr. are still needed today, and they are our calling as followers of Jesus.
"I'm concerned about a better world. I'm concerned about justice; I'm concerned about brotherhood; I'm concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that."
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."
I came across this quote from Frederick Buechner recently and I think it is a good reminder for us as we continue to reflect on the events of Easter.
"Inspection stickers used to have printed on the back, “Drive carefully: the life you save may be your own.” That is the wisdom of men in a nutshell. What God says, on the other hand, is, “The life you save is the life you lose.” In other words, the life you clutch, hoard, guard, and play safe with is in the end a life worth little to anybody, including yourself; and only a life given away for love’s sake is a life worth living. To bring this point home, God shows us a man who gave his life away to the extent of dying a national disgrace without a penny in the bank or a friend to his name. In terms of men’s wisdom, he was a perfect fool, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without making something like the same kind of fool of himself is laboring not under a cross but a delusion."
Our hope is founded on Jesus Christ. As we approach Easter we celebrate what he has done for us. His resurrection points to our glorious future. The following quote from C.S. Lewis was an encouragement to me today, as we look forward to Spring in Manitoba, to live in anticipation of that glory.
"I believe that God really has dived down into the bottom of creation, and has come up bringing the whole redeemed nature on his shoulders. The miracles that have already happened are, of course, as Scripture so often says, the first fruits of that cosmic summer which is presently coming on. Christ has risen, and so we shall rise… To be sure, it feels wintry enough still: but often in the very early spring it feels like that. Two thousand years are only a day or two by this scale. A man really ought to say, “The Resurrection happened two thousand years ago” in the same spirit in which he says, “I saw a crocus yesterday.”
- C.S. Lewis
We all need a little encouragement along the way as we follow Christ. The quote below is from J. Heinrich Arnold, and he captures the essence of discipleship quite well. May this encourage you in your small corner of the kingdom.
"We know that by ourselves we cannot change the world. But Christ will, and we want to give ourselves voluntarily to him. He demands our whole personality and our whole life. He came to save the world, and we believe that he, not any human leader, will one day govern the earth. For him we live, and for him we are willing to die. That is all that is asked of anyone. Jesus does not expect perfection, but he expects us to serve him wholeheartedly."
More thoughts on the road to the Cross. The encounters Jesus had (actually during the crucifixion!) at Calvary were very brief and very powerful. The following is a quote from Fulton Sheen on the exchange between Jesus and the thief on the cross beside him.
"A dying man asked a dying man for eternal life; a man without possessions asked a poor man for a kingdom.…In the divine plan it was a thief who was the escort of the King of kings into paradise. If our Lord had come merely as a teacher, the thief would never have asked for forgiveness. But since the thief’s request touched the reason of his coming to earth, namely, to save souls, the thief heard the immediate answer. “I promise thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). It was the thief’s last prayer, perhaps even his first. He knocked once, sought once, asked once, dared everything, and found everything. When even the disciples were doubting and only one was present at the cross, the thief owned and acknowledged him as Savior."
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."
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Today we focus afresh on what it means to follow Christ in his steps to Calvary. The love and grace that are bound up in the Cross are the gifts of God meeting my greatest need. That love also then becomes my greatest pursuit.
Lord, lest I forget, lead me to Calvary.
Came across the following from Charles Spurgeon. It ties in with us following God's leading and recognizing his glory and grace in our lives. More on that this Sunday. For now, enjoy Spurgeon's good words:
"He whose life is one even and smooth path will see little of the glory of the Lord. He has few occasions of self-emptying and, therefore, little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God. Among the huge waves of bereavement, poverty, temptation, and reproach, we learn the power of Jehovah because we feel our own littleness. Thank God, then, if you have been led by a rough road."
Today's Lenten thoughts come from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book "The Cost of Discipleship," talking about Jesus' call to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him:
"It is laid upon every Christian. The first suffering of Christ we must experience is the call sundering (splitting apart) our ties to this world. This is the death of the old human being in the encounter with Jesus Christ."
Pastor Ward Parkinson