Polarised Positions

When we enter a polarised debate, where each side looks at the other as the enemy, then war can enter our hearts.

As for my companion, he betrayed his friends; he broke his promises.

Psalm 55:20

Polarisation can divide friends. We see someone who was once a companion in our pilgrimage with Jesus. For whatever reason we find ourselves on opposite sides accusing the other of breaking their commitments.

His words are as smooth as butter, but in his heart is war.

Psalm 55:21

Since the players are godly people, their words are smooth as butter. They try to behave themselves. But there is a problem – In each heart is war, and war seeps out. So, the words might be contained and measured, but ultimately the real intent will come out.

 His words are as soothing as lotion, but underneath are daggers!

When war is in the heart, no matter how reasoned what is spoken, it conceals a dagger and the intent is violence. A self-righteous urge to force the other to their side of the division.

When I find such thoughts coming into my mind (how embarrassing), I must recognise that I have made an idol of “my” side. I have made my position more important than the love of Jesus, who loves these people whom I find myself treating as enemies!

Polarised views

Crises unfold, we are on tenterhooks. Are our leaders up to the challenge?

The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created.

Psalm 33:6

The fact that we divide ourselves over the opinions and decisions of mere people shows how far our eyes have wandered from the Lord.

Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him.

Psalm 33:8

We say we believe God. but our eyes are on people, thinking the answers lie in their hands, or even our own. Let us stand in awe of the Lord, who knows far more and controls all.

The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes.

Psalm 33;10

The schemes of our divided nations fail. Unpredicted factors come in, but the Lord always knew.

the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.

Psalm 33:11

The Lord has a plan. It might not be what we want, for he has a purpose we cannot see. Are we willing to trust him for it?

the Lord watches over those … who rely on his unfailing love. He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine.

Psalm 33:18-19

The situation could deteriorate. If so, the voices will become sharper still. Are we willing to let go of these opinions and the tribal mentality and look up to our Lord who has a different plan. Are we able to rest in his presence, confident of his unfailing love?

Fruit of darkness

When we are being targeted by wicked people, we have a hard time waiting for the Lord to rescue.

Who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel? When the Lord restores his people, Jacob will shout with joy …

Psalm14:7

Out of nowhere, the Lord comes to rescue his people. In relief there is great rejoicing. Yet, who is the Lord saving from?

The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt.

Psalm 14:2-3

Everyone is included. We too are abusers from whom the Lord needs to save. So, maybe we can be grateful that he is so patient with the abusers!

The start of corruption is significant: our turning away from the Lord-though only slightly. When facing him, we receive from him. When away from him, we are filled with darkness which brings corruption, and bares its fruit as we fail to do good.

They eat up my people like bread and wouldn’t think of praying to the Lord.

Psalm 14:4

People who turn from the Lord find their nourishment consuming God’s people. Rather than go to Jesus, who promises to feed us. When darkness finds lodging in us, our greed drives us to take the life giving gifts entrusted to others.

Terror will grip them, for God is with those who obey him.

Psalm 14:5

The outcome of allowing the fruit of darkness to be expressed is tragic.

Freedom for what?

We should be free to live as we want! But there are other players in the game, and what of the Lord?

“Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”

Psalm 2:3

To be free of the constraints we feel God puts on us, we make him a monster.

Why are the nations so angry? … the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one.

Psalm 2:1-2

Even after pushing the Lord aside, that is not enough. Our conscience gnaws at us, driving us to join the plot against the Lord. We twist his Word to justify the freedom we have taken.

“The LORD said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father.

Psalm 2:7

The Lord has a different approach to our need. His name is Jesus! He invites us into relationship as adopted sons with his Son. The one he has appointed as the king we are trying to break free from.

Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession.

Psalm 2:8

In love, the Father offers the whole world to Jesus as his inheritance. If we relinquish our pursuit for the satisfaction that so frustratingly eludes us. If we embrace Jesus as our king, we will discover that his gift to us will be a far deeper fulfilment of desire, and a freedom to express it in love.

Peace in fearful times

Woman sitting in fear

We live in turbulent times with messages of fear. The fruit of these messages is anger, attempts to control people and ultimately, hatred. Jesus speaks into this,

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart.

John 14:27

What a contrast between the messages of fear and the gift of peace. Fear drives us and those around us. Peace is free to live and to extend a hand of love.

And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.

John 14:27

Those who project the future speak as if they were God. Yet, their view and their authority are limited. Jesus is Lord of all. He may indeed permit terrible times, we must entrust that to him in prayer while we learn to receive his promise of peace.

So don’t be troubled or afraid.

John 14:27

When I allow fear to rise up, I am tempted away from love. It may be that I will sink into depression, or try to take control, or lash out in anger, or spend energy and effort preparing for what in fact will not happen, …

I demonstrate that I am living through Jesus and in the light of his promise when I am free to extend his love and hope to the fearful people around me.

Limits of Knowledge

There are people so clever they think they can disprove God. I have met a few. One asked, “Can God do anything?” I replied, “Yes.” Now he had me! “Then could God make something so heavy that he could not lift it?” The underlying message being, if I can dismiss God with a paradox, then I am free to live any way I choose.

Jesus met some people like this. They presented him with a paradox about marriage and heaven; their hidden aim being, to dismiss anything in the spiritual realm.

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

Matthew 22:29

Jesus’ response was that they might be intelligent enough to come up with a paradox, but they lacked knowledge of two critical factors that could have spoken to their understanding. This is ironic, because these religious people would have prided themselves in their knowledge of both the Scriptures and God.

Paul’s response to people who considered themselves experts is illuminating –

We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.

1 Corinthians 8:1-3

The key to real understanding is when it is framed by the love of God. So, when I find my mind caught up with theories, can I make them practical, living them out to others with the love of Jesus? The key to the real knowledge of God is through applying that knowledge in love.

The Answer

Can we receive a challenge to our entire world view?

A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” 

Matthew 16:4

Pharisees considered themselves righteous. Paul said of himself, “As for legalistic righteousness [I was] faultless.” Jesus’ view of them as wicked and adulterous meant their view of life was fundamentally wrong.

We are adulterous when we follow a path other than Jesus. We are wicked when we are so sure of our path that we persuade others onto it. Pharisees elevated their reading of the Bible. What path do we elevate? Path to God? Environmental action? Political opinions? ..?

We know we are on an adulterous way when we catch ourselves denying compassion or honesty to those of an opposite persuasion. We know what the way is by the congratulations we embrace.

“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Matthew 16:6

This is not just a personal quirk. Jesus says such influences are to be guarded against.

Given this context, Peter’s response to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” is extraordinary.

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:16

Peter is throwing away all credibility. This is an “All in” moment. Am I willing, at the cost of my credibility, to lift up Jesus as the only answer for the world’s problems?

Temptation to bulldozer

When I have a strong desire, I want to bulldozer people into it. Paul shows another way-

We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive …

Romans 15:1

Convinced of my cause, I confuse my will with Jesus’.

We must not just please ourselves.

If I push my will, I become self-righteous and if I succeed, I have taken God’s place in the one who succumbed.

We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.

 Romans 15:2

Instead of forcing others to my view, I can enter their perspective, and help them discover Jesus and his way. The whole atmosphere changes.

For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.”

Romans 15:3

At each stage of Jesus’ trial we find him serving his accusers by helping them towards God’s perspective rather than using his intellect and wisdom to save himself.

… the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement …

Romans 15:4

I shift from a hope in myself and my desire to a hope in Jesus. He who is both good and Sovereign, will intervene, with his salvation.

Victory at the cross

The outcome of Jesus’ ministry on earth was that he returned to heaven victorious. He had expressed faith and love and the reward was glory.

The king rejoices in your strength, Lord. How great is his joy in the victories you give!

Psalm 21:1

This rejoicing is in the immediate aftermath of the cross! We look at the cross as a tragedy, but in the grand scheme it is glory.

You have granted him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. You came to greet him with rich blessings and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.

Psalm 21:2-3

If Jesus’ heart’s desire had been on earth, then the cross would have been complete failure. His reward was with his Father.

Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy  of your presence. For the king trusts in the Lord.

Psalm 21:6-7

Jesus’ joy was to live in His Father’s presence to eternity in the knowledge that nothing had been able to drive a wedge between them. It was through trusting in his Father that this splendour was worked out.

So what motivates us?

Looking for a generous heart

The faith of the Centurion asks big questions of us. The way it follows Jesus’ main teaching in Luke added to his amazement at the Centurion indicates it exemplifies that teaching.

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. [Luke 6:20]

The centurion, rich enough to build a synagogue, expresses poverty by telling Jesus,

I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. [Luke 7:6]

 

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. [Luke 6:21]

This roman officer, demonstrated hunger when a “servant [he] valued highly, was sick and about to die.”

Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

He who would have seen much death was upset at its coming through this servant.

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. [Luke 6:22]

This gentile Roman who would never have been received in a Jewish home, had shown love by building their synagogue!

The Question? Do I have faith to see through God’s eyes my need and loss? Do I have faith to believe that God has power to transform the situation with a single word?

But say the word, and my servant will be healed. [Luke 7:7]

God looks for generous hearted people, willing to risk all because God is big enough; willing to give all out of their poverty for others, even those who have illtreated them. Am I willing to be such a person?