“Therefore, ridding ourselves of falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, because we are parts of one another” (Ephesians 4:25).
In today’s cancel culture, afraid that they might find themselves ostracized, boycotted, shunned, and in the crosshairs, the people of God have been pressured into silence, not saying anything that might offend, upset, or trigger the over-sensitized emotions of some particular politicized social movement. What is the result of the gospel message having been squelched and the historical teaching of God’s word compromised so as to accommodate? Well…is it not a world that looks like ours? In so doing, we have done the world no favors; having withheld from them the One that brings deliverance and redemption.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity, planning, knowledge, or wisdom in Sheol where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Life matters! What you do matters! Created in the image of God, and being called the children of God, we are the progeny of a people steeled by fortitude; an enduring ancestry of those having stood tall over millenniums of time. As such, we must reject the present culture’s entitled embrace of cynicism; its dismissal of virtue and all things noble; the nihilistic view that nothing matters. Activity, planning, knowledge, and wisdom reflect a faith characterized by a hope-filled anticipation of what lies ahead. The absence of such faith, and its accompanying apathy, makes not only for a despairing existence, but a hopeless final destination.
“Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (Romans 13:2).
Seeing that God has established all governing authorities (v.1), resisting such authority is to stand in opposition to God. Though Paul knew what it was to suffer at the hands of the Empire, he was nonetheless assured of God’s sovereign purposes in the midst of it all. Even as Pilate boasted of his authority over who lives and who dies, Jesus informed the arrogant governor of Judaea that he would have no authority at all, if it had not been given from above (Jn 19:10-11). Knowing that God is a God of peace and not disorder (1 Cor. 14:33), believers are not to be insurrectionists, nor is revolution the means of progressing the Kingdom of God. Drawing such unfavorable attention from the governing authorities only hinders our Great Commission task.
“Every person is to be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1).
Whether a democracy, monarchy, oligarchy, theocracy, or a totalitarian regime, whatever form of governing authority believers might find themselves under, Paul’s concern focuses solely upon the Christian’s responsibility, as to how we are to live, regardless of political context. From Assyria (Is. 10), to Cyrus (Is. 45), to Babylon (Jer. 29), God has a long history of using pagan nations and leaders to carry out His purposes. Paul’s missional strategy doesn’t preoccupy itself with campaigning for a particular form of government, whether it’s good or bad, legitimate or illegitimate, but that whatever the form we would be a particular and holy kind of people; a people that hold forth the politic of Jesus, a politic that points to the One who is the way, the truth, and the life.
“For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not recognize us. You, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is Your name” (Isaiah 63:16).
The acknowledgement of what God has done in the past is but an assurance of his working in the present. While believers seem to know what God has done, we struggle to see what he is doing. By our praying, reading of the scriptures, lives of obedience, and being the presence of Christ for others, the “Redeemer from old” continues working as a present tense reality.
“Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me” (1 Corinthians 4:16).
Because there was no precedence of faith for the church in Corinth, Paul was the only role-model they had as to how the Christian faith ought to look and be “played out” in one’s life. For those in your life who would never go to church or read the bible, you may be the only one modeling the life of faith. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and wear him well.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned” (Luke 6:37).
How easy it is to judge without discernment; to see what others have done wrong, while being blind to the demons they battle. How easy it is, in our arrogance and ignorance, to cast disparaging remarks about others, while only an omniscient God knows who we are, and why we are what we are. And, yet, even with this complete knowledge, he chooses to extend grace and mercy to all who turn to him in faith. For those seeking to live in a manner worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:10), it leaves little time to be the performance police over the lives of others.
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
Just as circumstances are a present tense reality, so is the peace of our Lord. This peace is negated, however, when we seek to add to our present circumstances the worries and fears of what our future circumstance might be. The entirety of life is filled with challenges. Don’t make it more difficult by fretting over anything beyond the present moment. By choosing to carry and address only today’s burdens, not only will you abide in peace but, in so doing, you will look back over the years with amazement at what you have, both, endured and accomplished. A present peace makes for a productive life.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as thought something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
What are you afraid of? What creates anxiety just thinking it could happen? What do you worry about? Have you actually sat with those concerns, and given reasonable consideration to how you would respond if they were to even occur? Airline pilots train on simulators that replicate every imaginable scenario, athletes study the tendencies of their opponents to know what to expect, top students immerse themselves into a subject so they won’t be surprised on test day. Saying, “I just don’t like to think about it,” leaves one fearful. Thinking about it makes one prepared.
“The Lord is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6).
Have you noticed how the human mind tends to multiply the voice of isolated critics and naysayers into an imagined multitude, while disregarding the assured presence of the One whose opinion, alone, matters? As a young minister, a wise and seasoned mentor offered this counsel, “When someone says, ‘Pastor, some people are saying…,’ give it no mind. It’s never some people; it’s the person in front you, their spouse and, perhaps, the couple with whom they play dominoes on Friday night.” Don’t give exponential power to the keepers of status quo. Progress, growth, and invention is accomplished not by those with “rabbit ears,” but those who have learned to drown out the noise and stay focused on the task.