What happens

Hosea 3:1-5

Why do we need to be more patient with one another? More willing to forgive? And more at peace? There are a lot of emotional and psychological reasons I’ve learned. More peace means less stress, for example. But in doing so we also learn to appreciate more the depth of God’s love.

Think of it this way. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean they forgive you. They may not even accept your forgiveness. In the end, you may need to be so much more patient than you could have ever imagined. And some people take your peace as a personal offense.

What happens then?

An important part of our identity in Christ is becoming more like our Lord. The first sermon Jesus preached was one he repeated often. Repent for the kingdom of God is near. Repentance is not saying sorry. It is changing your mind and the way you think. To repent is to change the attitudes of your heart and the way you live.

How many of us struggle with offering forgiveness to someone that doesn’t make it easy? If they don’t respond the way we want them to, aren’t we less likely to offer it next time? It’s okay to admit that’s who we are. That’s how we know what needs to be changed.

But we are learning, more and more, that’s not who God is. God is love. Lord, forgive us when we take that as a sentimental notion. The love of God is not sappy emotions. It is a scandal (1 Corinthians 1:18). As difficult as it can be for us to show mercy, how many of us would be able to follow through with a calling like Hosea’s?

Yet his entire relationship with his wife, as tumultuous as it must have been, is a reminder of who God is. Hosea was to love his wife while she was unfaithful because God loves us even in our unfaithfulness. We can “Amen!” that, for sure. But what happens afterward and you’re in a position to forgive or show love to an enemy?

To know if you understand and appreciate what God’s love really means, look at how willing you are to be gracious and merciful, patient and loving to others.

Stay blessed…john

No denying

Luke 12:4-12
Persecution is a strange topic for most of us. To be sure, there are still Christians who face injustice and suffering today. These are direct consequences of their belief in God. The stories are painful to hear, much less endure.

Pray for the persecuted church! I encourage you to make those prayers a priority in your local congregation.

As you do, it makes it hard to accept many of the cries of persecution coming from our country. As you’ve heard me say many times before, we are not persecuted. You’re right to recognize the Christian faith has lost some of its entitlement. But that’s a loss of privilege, not maltreatment. There are challenges to religious freedom we need to follow and address. But those apply to all religions, not only ours.

Pile on to that another conversation. If we have faced persecution, we haven’t responded all that well to it. It feels like many Christians want to fight fire with infernos. We’ll scorch everything if we sense any potential infringement on our rights. I’ll let you reflect on what that might mean.

Many early Christians responded differently.

We’ve affirmed the widespread, ongoing persecution of Christians is a myth. Persecution was typically localized and sporadic, although there were exceptions. Many Christians embraced persecution. No, they weren’t itching to be murdered. But they understood their circumstance as a way to honor the Lord’s sacrifice. When they suffered as he did, they glorified Jesus even in their death.

Let’s not speculate what we would do if we were in that situation. Instead, let’s pray we would have the strength to hold onto our faith and not deny Jesus.

Other early Christians did not take persecution well. This sparked an early controversy of the church. We created labels for people who confessed Jesus in spite of persecution and for those who did not. Confessors were those who did not offer worship to other gods or the emperor. They confessed Christ and endured the torture that ensued. Others lapsed from the faith when confronted. They did not persevere and were called the lapsi.

The controversy began in a time of peace. How would you receive those who had lapsed if they wanted to return to the church? Would you make them offer certain forms of penance? Be rebaptized? Would you reject them from the fellowship altogether? These were the sides of the controversy.

So, why does this warrant a devotional for us?

Maybe it doesn’t. You’re gracious enough to let me wander from time to time.

But it may also offer a chance to reflect on what expectations we have of one another as the body of Christ. Some of what I hear and read online from Christians does not honor Christ. It does not glorify God. How, then, do I respond? Do I sever ties with people who won’t see the harm they do? Do we act like character and witness don’t matter?

In many ways, Christians still find ways to deny the lordship of Jesus. What should our response be?

Stay blessed…john