Sunday, April 10, 2005

Resisting Evil with Good

Today we were studying the Non-Resistance passages of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. You remember them don't you? Turn the other cheek, give not only your tunic but also your cloak to the one who is suing you, go two miles with anyone who forces you to go one mile, and give to those who ask from you. These are four "case studies" on the command of Jesus - "Do not resist." While these words are easy to understand - ask a child what they mean if you are confused - they are extremely difficult to practice.

Friday night my college devotional was on this same topic - and a lively discussion resulted from the class concerning the possibility (or impossibility) of obeying Jesus. I am also reading "The Divine Conspiracy" by Dallas Willard and he spends a lot of time with this material. So most of the week I have been thinking about Jesus' ethic of non-resistance. Last night I was dropping Leanna off at the entry to our building and another car approached in front of me. Since the road is narrow, two cars cannot pass without one leaving the road. While Leanna was exiting the car, the other car pulled up and almost touched my bumper. There was room on his side for a car to pull out of the way, but in the place where I was there was no room. I honked the horn and waved him off. In reply he honked and waved me off. I thought "What a jerk!" But then I backed up and let him pass - but I was not happy about it! I then parked the car in the garage and walked home. It occurred to me while I was fuming about that inconsiderate guy that I was successful in teaching the ethic of non-resistance, but I was failing living it! And all I had experienced was a honking horn and a mean look, not a slap or a cross!

Dallas Willard says that people who think it is impossible to obey Jesus' non-resistance ethic are right - because they assume that they will have to obey it without fundamental change in themselves. "You cannot stay the same and live in this non-resistance lifestyle." That is why Jesus demands a new birth. We are not the same as we once were, that is why we can live like Jesus.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Forgiving Like God

Yesterday at worship we discussed the command of Scripture for Christians to forgive one another. We used as our text Colossians 3:13. "Forgive as the Lord forgave you." That is no small task. We discussed the way God forgives us - by taking the first step, by desiring reconciliation, by not keeping track of our sins, and by forgiving as often as needed. We decided that we, too, should learn to forgive in these ways, because anything less is not imitation of God and not capable of restoring "shalom" to the world.

Following the lesson we always have time for questions and answers. This week there were lots of comments and questions. One man said, "It is hard to forgive, especially when someone has hurt you deeply. But if they ask, and I believe they are sincere (usually they are crying), then I will forgive them." A teenager responded, "I am so mean that I will not usually forgive even when the person is crying!" She was not proud of that fact, just honest enough to admit that she needs to grow in this area. One elderly woman said, "What if the same person does the same thing over and over again? Do I still just keep on forgiving?" When I rephrased that question to apply to her sins against God she admitted that she is a multiple offender herself! The depth and breath of discussion following this lesson confirmed that we have a lot of work to do in forgiving others and receiving forgiveness from others. There is nothing more important in the life of discipleship than learning to forgive like God forgives.