Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Divisive Gospel

I don’t know why you want to be around all of those Christians all the time. All they want from you is your time and money. If you were strong, like I am, you wouldn’t need that kind of support. In fact, you wouldn’t need anyone,” it seemed that this is what he said to her week after week. They had been married for 17 years, and she loved him dearly, but it was certainly difficult to live with him and be a follower of Jesus Christ at the same time.

Do you know people like? Are you that person that is struggling to live in household filled with unbelievers while you try to grow in the Christian faith? Jesus tells us to expect this struggle in life.

In today’s Bible reading from Luke 12:41-59, Jesus says that He has not come to bring peace, but division. What? Now, this does not mean that Jesus does not provide peace. He certainly does. He gives us peace with God through the forgiveness of our sins. He gives us peace through the One that is actually called the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. There are numerous ways that Jesus gives and promises peace. However, He does not promise that the Christian life will be all peace. No, in fact He promises that there will be turmoil.

So, how do you deal with this problem of divisiveness in your relationships with family, friends and coworkers?

Do Not Return Evil for Evil

First, recognize that Jesus does not call us to return evil for evil. When non-Christians say derogatory things to us because of our faith, we are not to return their snide remarks. In fact, we are to speak to them in kindness even though they persecute us through their words and actions. This is difficult battle. Our sinful desire is to fight fire with fire. Yet, we are called to be a witness to even the most difficult people in our lives. This leads us to our second way to deal with hostile non-believers.

Be A Light for Christ

The second way we can work through this strain is by realizing we have a wonderful witnessing opportunity. Remember those fights back in the school yard? When one boy hit another, and the match was on that seemed very predictable. Yet, when one boy hit another and the victim walked away, we were left with questions. In a similar way, when a non-believer mocks or ridicules you, they expect you to return the venom. When you don’t it leaves them to wonder how or why you could walk away. Make it your hope that this mysterious behavior will eventually lead the non-Christian to ask you why you react the way you do to hostility. Then, you will have the opportunity to be the light Christ desires you to be in a dark place.

Pursue Peace

Finally, we are called to be at peace with all people if at all possible. As we have already said, even though you are being assailed, you should not look to return the evil. The Apostle Paul tells us that we should be at peace with all people if at all possible. There are some people that will not allow peace to exist around them, but there are others that can live peacefully around Christians when they feel as if they are not being judged or bashed over the head. Our responsibility, then, is to find ways to share and live out the Gospel without doing it in a preachy way. Stand firm, but do it gently and thoughtfully.

Jesus promises this will be hard. The Gospel will turn people against us. Our love for Christ will remind them of their sin and rebellion against God. While we certainly don’t want to minimize our faith to the point that we fade into the background, we must strive to speak and live the truth in love. Remember, God uses these challenges to help us grow to be more like faith and to share the Gospel with those we love.

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