I must admit that I’m upset about a lot of things:
- Associates who scorn what is most important to me - my faith (and I feel like scorning them!)
- The secular media, which also scorns the Christian faith, although often obliquely
- Western governments that either remain silent or abet the extermination of Christians in numerous Muslim nations.
However, Scripture does not leave us comfortless, as the Psalms demonstrate:
· Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good…Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret--it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. (Psalm 37:1-9)
Persecution is inevitable:
· In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim. 3:12; John 15:18-20)
But why is it so hard to accept this fact, and why do we allow anger to control our thinking? Why do we continue to be tossed about by the viciousness, lies, and hypocrisy of the world? Perhaps to draw us deeper into His Word and glorious promises! The Apostle Paul has given us precious guidance:
· Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)
We are required to love even those who have mistreated us. And this love has to be proactive. It can take many forms – feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, and through hundreds of other ways.
I find that my days are often characterized by impatience, irritation, and irritability. However, there is nothing that counteracts my nasty tendencies better than a determination to seek ways to love others, sometimes simply by sincerely smiling at those who have rejected me and seeking their welfare. How liberating this has been!
However, according to Paul (and the Proverbs, from which he quoted), by loving the unlovable, we “heap burning coals on his head.” Burning coals purify, getting his attention and changing his thinking quicker than anything else. And when we do so, we honor and exhibit our Master for all to see.
This doesn’t mean that we remain silent before injustice; nor does it mean that we don’t expose evil (Eph. 5:11) and pursue justice! While, on a personal level, we must overcome “evil with good,” we are instructed to “leave room for God's wrath.” This doesn’t mean that we remain passive in view of God’s final judgment. Instead, “God’s wrath” is also exercised in other ways. In the next chapter Paul wrote about one of them:
· For he [the criminal justice system – courts, judges, and punishment] is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:4)
There is nothing wrong with appealing to “God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Our Lord has given us the freedom and privilege to love and not seek revenge, because He has placed “revenge” into the hands of His ordained legal system. The assurance that justice will be done gives my mind rest and allows me to devote myself to loving my enemies.
The law of love is a God-given law that God has placed in the hearts of all of us. It is so powerful that it can even overcome fear. Just ask 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who had nearly been killed by a Taliban gunman:
· "If you hit a Talib, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib … You must not treat others with cruelty … You must fight others through peace and through dialogue and through education."
The world’s reaction to Malala’s testimony is just as remarkable as the testimony itself! Love has awed and silenced the world – burning coals! Perhaps her testimony will not silence everyone. Indeed, the Taliban have vowed to finish their job.
However, love must become the testimony of all of us, as we seek to honor our Lord, who would have us receive others as we have received Him, in love.
Please understand that I am also preaching to myself. Love doesn’t come naturally to me, but it is available to all for the taking and using. May God enable us to take hold!