loving our enemies by trusting God

Category : God, Jeremiah, bible, different, sin, trust

……….

Is there anything harder than loving our enemies?

If there is, I don’t know what it would be.  And frankly I’m not sure I want to know!

Until recently I have never had anyone I considered to be an enemy.  Sure there were people I didn’t like.  There were even people I found annoying.  And of course there were people who I didn’t trust.  But never anyone who has actively worked against me.

The one thing about living out a life of faith is that there is always more to learn.  God always has a way of giving us new homework.  Despite all of my study, all of my understanding of who God is, and what Jesus taught, I find I am really struggling with loving my enemies.  I would much rather destroy my enemies.  Or at the very least, make them look foolish.

But that’s not where Jesus is.  That’s not what God wants.

The book that drives this home to me is Jeremiah.  Now Jeremiah was just a normal guy.  He could easily be you or me.  Yet God called him to a unique mission.  And for much of his life he went around telling Israel they were about to be destroyed.  Talk about a crummy job description!

His life was in constant danger.  He was beaten.  Arrested.  Harassed.  And suffered an isolation that very few of us can understand.  To say the man made some enemies would be an understatement.  Yet he kept working at it.  He never gave up.  Despite his enemies, he never stopped moving towards God.

I have a hard time relating to that.

But when I look at it in light of who Jesus was, it makes more sense.  Jesus calls us to lead a counter-cultural life.  He wants us to be radical, revolutionary, and most importantly different.  (That’s why you see that phrase associated with R3.)

To prove this point, in his first public declaration of his mission, Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Man that’s not what I want to hear.  I want to hear “Blessed are those with bigger baseball bats, because they will win.”  Or “Blessed are those who are quick witted, because they will make their opponents look dumb.”  That’s not where Jesus goes though.  He takes a different path.  A radical path.

If I’m honest, part of why loving your enemies is so hard is a lack of trust.  I simply don’t trust that God will take care of things.  I don’t trust him to be the arbiter of justice.  I think he needs my help.

Now I don’t think this consciously.  (Well until now).  But that’s how I behave.  I act as if I’m saying, “God, look I know you created the universe and can perform miracles.  But clearly you’re a bit out matched here…why don’t you let me handle this one.”

If I am to live a life of faith, I need to get with the game.  To focus on these revolutionary teachings.   To learn to really trust God when it’s all on the line.  At times that feels impossible.  As it did to Jeremiah.  But Jeremiah found a way to trust God.  And so can I.

I don’t like having enemies.  But sometimes that can’t be helped.  So instead of focusing on complaining, I am going to focus on trusting God.

I want to become more like Jeremiah.

biblical leadership: owning stuff

Category : God, Jeremiah, living a life of faith, taking action

……….

“Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?” (Jeremiah 22:15)

Most of us don’t want cedar.  What would we do with it anyway?  I’m not even sure you can sell it on Amazon.  But during the time of Jeremiah, cedar was hugely important.  It was the sign of wealth, power, and affluence.  It was the Rolls Royce of building materials.

And God is calling out Shallum son of Josiah.

Shallum wanted to prove his “greatness” by building a palace to himself filled with cedar.  It would be like you or I building a house out of marble.  Sure it’s nice, but does it really matter?  That’s the question God is asking.  You see, God doesn’t measure greatness by how nice your house is, or what kind of car you drive.  God measures greatness by different standards.  He measures your greatness by your heart and by your actions.

In short, it’s who you are that matters, not what you have.

It is all too easy to confuse the trappings of office with true leadership.  We think that just because someone has a corner office, a big desk, and an impressive title that they are a leader.  But that’s not how God measures leadership.  Biblical leadership isn’t defined by how much stuff you have.  It’s defined by your heart.  It’s defined by who you are and what you do.

In short, it's who you are that matters, not what you have.

Biblical leadership is about self-sacrifice.  It’s about doing something with what you have.  It has nothing to do with looking like a leader.

The next time you are tempted to buy something because it makes you look important, remember that biblical leadership isn’t about nice stuff, it’s about the core of who you are.  You don’t want to find yourself in the same position as Shallum son of Josiah.

This is part of an ongoing series on Biblical Leadership.

politics and faith

Category : God, Jeremiah, barbarian, different, faith, hope, living a life of faith, trust

……….

Election day.  There may not be any other day that so many Americans get worked up and angry over.  Besides the obvious Sunday of football.  While some people say that elections are becoming more “vicious” and “partisan”, I think they’ve always been that way.  Last time I checked there haven’t been any pistol duels in Washington recently.

Politics can be exciting.  A lot can ride on an election.  We’ve seen this in the last few elections.  About a third of the country despised the direction of the USA under George Bush.  Now about a third of the country despises the direction of the USA under Obama.  We seem to be evenly balanced in our dislike of political trends.

So if there is so much tension, anger and animosity, why do we get so worked up about politics?

For some elections and politics represent the hope of change.  That’s what Obama campaigned on.  Although he wasn’t the first, he might have been the best at it.  For others it represents the continuation of the status quo. Their party gets to stay in power.  They get to call the shots.

Ultimately it boils down to one fact: elections can have profound consequences.

So what does this mean for someone who believes in God?  How do politics and faith mesh?  Especially when you are living out a life of faith?  I wish I had an answer for you.  I don’t know how you balance the two.  I don’t know if people of faith should be involved in politics.  I don’t know if they should stay out of politics.  There are certainly disadvantages to both choices.  And there are compelling reasons to do either.

But what I do know is God warns us to be careful of believing too much in human-only solutions.

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who depends on flesh for his strength
and whose heart turns away from the LORD.”

(Jeremiah 17: 5)

For many believers I think politics has taken on a primary importance because at their core, they don’t fully trust that God is in charge.  They aren’t quite on board with believing that God really is acting.  I recognize that paints with a broad brush.  I know many Christians who are fully on board with God’s plans.  But I also know many people who don’t know what it means to submit to God and trust him.  And there are some days I can’t fault them for that.  When we hear news of disaster, rape, murder, or other horrific things, it’s easy to wonder exactly how all this fits into some kind of “plan.”

God, though, is very clear on this.  We need to trust him in all circumstances.  Not just when things are running smoothly.  That’s the point of the book of Job.  Job needed to trust God, not because Job’s life was good, but because God is, well, God.

God hammers this point home to Jeremiah too.

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
(Jeremiah 17: 7-8)

Jeremiah’s mission was to deliver a message of destruction and punishment to his country.  That’s not easy sailing.  But God reminds him – don’t place your trust in the human solution.  Place your trust in my solution.

Whatever your politics, if you are a believer than it is your responsibility to put your trust in God, not in elections.  Elections can be important.  God may even want you to be involved.  But never at the expense of your first allegiance: to the Kingdom.