Tough Encounters

The events of recent days have tried many people’s patience and understanding. We are seeing it all; from the sickness of the Covid19 virus to marches in the streets, to rioting and looting, and political intrigue. In the midst of it is easy to lose a focus on what being a Christian is all about.

Written by: George J. Elling

The events of recent days have tried many people’s patience and understanding. We are seeing it all; from the sickness of the Covid19 virus to marches in the streets, to rioting and looting, and political intrigue. In the midst of it is easy to lose focus on what being a Christian is all about.

Some side with a particular political or activist group. Some side with the police and others with the call to defund the police. Some identify with this racial or ethnic group and others with a different group. There are plenty of viewpoints to go around. As we all respond to people and the issues of the day here are a few things to keep in mind from a Christian perspective.

What has been happening is Nothing New nor a Surprise to God

There have been intergroup misunderstandings, dissentions, inequities and wars since the beginning of human history. Education, politics, police, armies, etc. cannot solve the basic problem of people’s hearts. Only God can change us from within. That is why Jesus told a very religious and pious man that he needed to be “born again” or “born from above” (John 3). God is in the business of changing us.

Also, remember that all of what comes your way is “filtered through the hands of God.” He knew this was going to happen and is with you through the midst of it.

“…and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
Matthew 28:20b

Act as God did, out of Love

“For God so loved the world that He gave…
John 3:16a

God was under no obligation to rescue us and save us from ourselves. He acted from a pure, self-giving love. This type of love always has a cost. This is why God’s actions to save us are referred to in the Bible as redemption and as God “paying” a price for our redemption.

Jesus instructed us to love as He loved, and to go so far as to love even our enemies.

If we are to have this type of giving love for enemies, how much more should we have this love for those who simply disagree with us or advance a different cause? Also, note that we are to pray for those we believe persecute us. Some of our problems are because we are not praying for those we disagree with.

See people and people-groups as God does – See them from Above

Our basic perspective is very limited. All we do is see things from our natural limited point of view and time on this earth, which is all too brief and self-focused.

Paul wrote that he no longer saw people after the flesh, i.e., from the viewpoint of a natural man who is without the Spirit of God in his life.

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh:”
2 Corinthians 5:16a

Instead, Paul urged the following:

“1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
“2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”

Colossians 3:1-4

Our present and future is not to be that of the natural man or woman who has not been born again of the Holy Spirit. We are to see people from the perspective of God and eternity. Our own rewards and glory will come when Christ is revealed again in all of His glory.

Resolve to be an Ambassador who is a Peace Maker

An ambassador is someone who represents another person or a country. An ambassador does not represent himself or his own self-interests. As we interact with others, we need to keep in mind that as a Christian we are to be ambassadors for Christ.

“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
2 Corinthians 5:20

Christians are to be God’s ambassadors to bring about reconciliation between God and man and between men. Jesus taught his disciples:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Matthew 5:9

And,

10 “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 
12 “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven:”

Matthew 5:10-12a

A peace maker is one who brings reconciliation. We should ask ourselves what would Christ have us do to reconcile a person to God and to bring about reconciliation between people we interact with.

Your actions are not to focus on You, but about the needs of Others

Your needs will be met in Christ:

“But my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” 
Philippians 4:19

With your own needs met in Christ you can move forward with confidence in helping others.

Listen carefully, you don’t know the Whole Story

Each person you meet is coming to you with a lifetime of experiences, both good and bad. They are most likely acting out of that compilation of cultural inputs, teachings, successes, failures, rejections, and hurts. So, listen carefully to understand before you try to speak. This isn’t about you winning a Harvard style debate. It is about you being an ambassador for Christ (see above).

19 “…Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
20 “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” 
James 1:19b-20

God is at work to Change You as much as He wants to Change Them

“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
Philippians 2:12

Each believer is called upon to apply the Word of God in everyday situations as part of “working out” or the “out working” of his or her salvation. As noted above, God knew you would be in an interaction with whoever it is that you are interacting with today. Now is the time to be the man or woman God intends you to be.

James teaches us:

22 “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 
23 “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
24 “For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 
25 “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein
, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”
James 1:22-25

God will bless us through interacting with others in a godly way in spite of tough or challenging circumstances.

Count it all Joy

James wrote:

2 “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 
3 “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 
4 “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” 

James 1:2-4

God is more interested in you becoming a complete man or woman in Christ with Christ in you (Colossians 1:27) than He is in your “solving” whatever challenge you are facing. The trial or challenge you face helps accomplish this goal. Therefore, rejoice in challenges as an opportunity to grow as a person and help fulfill the mission of Christ.

“And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Christ’s name).”
Acts 5:41

You also may be helping to fill up what was “lacking” in Christ’s suffering on behalf of others in the body of Christ. Paul wrote of himself:

“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:”
Colossians 1:24

What you are going through is not without purpose for your life and others.

Take Courage!

As stated in the beginning of this essay, Jesus told His disciples that:

“…and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
Matthew 28:20b

The apostle Paul was so convinced of his life being “in Christ” that he could therefore confidently say:

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:21

In life, or death, Paul’s life was safe in Christ. Yours is too if you have received Him into your life.

Abide in Christ

Trying to do any and all of the above will be futile self-effort if you are not abiding in Christ. Give up on your self-efforts to control people and situations. You are not God. Give up on trying to have an immediate answer for everything and focus on Christ and His word. Jesus told His disciples:

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
John 15:5

Some ways to abide in Christ include:

  • Read and meditate on God’s word
  • Memorize God’s word
  • Listen for God’s voice
  • Pray for God’s direction, for the needs of others, and to be an instrument of His love.

-GJE

©Mark Davis 2021

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2 Comments

  1. No, we do NOT know the whole story! I hesitate to read or listen to any news story, because different people are saying opposite things, and one is made to feel as though (s)he needs to “stand up for the truth!” But until I know the truth about all the political and medical issues, I’ll stick with what I KNOW is true – the gospel. That’s the only hill I’m willing to die on.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
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