For the last few weeks, our pastor has raised the issue of missional living. As one of the congregants listening to these sermons I am struck with a sense of urgency to respond. For the last few weeks, I have asked many questions not only of myself but also of my God. Mostly I ask Him how He would use me to further His kingdom.
Simply put, I have lost count of how many times I have asked God to use me in a mighty way. With each request comes a simple reply; seek peace, show peace, promote peace, teach peace. The still small voice has been growing into a deafening roar over the last several months and now is a full blown scream. I suppose it is unlikely to believe that God would scream, but for some of us, screaming is the only way to break through the din of this world.
I have been constantly reminded by this noise in my head to search the book of Matthew, primarily the sermon on the mount. Through some studies and commentaries by noted theologians on the subject, I have found this (from Matthew 5);
"First, kingdom people do not try to force God's whole will on a world unprepared for it. Many first-century Jews had begun to think that revolutionary violence was the only adequate response to the violence of oppression they experienced. Matthew's first audience no doubt could recall the bankruptcy of this approach, which led to crushing defeat in the war of A.D. 66-73. But Jesus promises the kingdom not to those who try to force God's hand in their time but to those who patiently and humbly wait for it-the meek, the poor in spirit, the merciful, the peacemakers.
Of course Jesus' demand does not merely challenge the bloodshed of revolution. Peacemakers means not only living at peace but bringing harmony among others; this role requires us to work for reconciliation with spouses, neighbors and all people-insofar as the matter is up to us (Rom 12:18)."
In my opinion, it is clear that we are to first seek peace, while at the same time seek to bring the good news of God's amazing story of salvation to the whole world. While we are doing this we are going to be persecuted by people who are cold to the reception of God's word. In that moment we are blessed (Matthew 5: 9-12). However, there seems to be an even larger paradigm here.
By the time you reach Matthew 5: 23-24, there is a pattern emerging for how this cycle of peace works. First, at the start of chapter 5, Jesus proclaims that when there is less of you, there is more of God. Then Jesus says we should show people how to work together instead of compete and fight. However, when we are persecuted for this we are blessed even more! Furthering this, Jesus says we are the light of the world. We are to shine for all mankind to see the greatness of God.
But then Jesus really dives in. First it was all about being in Him and then shining for Him. Next he says not to murder (well duh!). Then it gets real deep. You can't even be angry with your brother for fear of the fire of hell. Whoa! And now Jesus gets to verse 23 which says,
"If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God. "
By the time you get down to verse 38, Jesus hits you the hardest. Turn the other cheek, live generously, love my enemies?!! Jesus was considered a radical for His day, but that's radical for this day. Surely He can't be serious, no one lives like that. There must be a way around that one.
Putting chapter 5 in perspective and making it concise for a world that is looking for its next sound bite looks like this....
Be meek so that God shines through you.
Be peaceful towards all mankind.
When (not if) you are persecuted for your faith, thank God for it and you will be blessed.
With God shining through, be a light for all to see.
Love your brother (and your sister).
Let no grudge come between you and a friend.
Make all these things right before coming before the Lord.
Love your enemies.
Pray for everyone, not just the ones you love, but for your enemies too.
Be generous and gracious toward others, the way God is with you.
You could call that a Mission Statement for right living.
And in case you didn't think the secular world was listening and waiting for someone of sound mind to step to the plate to lead this charge, consider these lyrics from a current radio hit from a very popular rock band of today....
Singing Amen, I, I'm alive Singing Amen, I, I'm alive
[Chorus:] If everyone cared and nobody cried. If everyone loved and nobody lied. If everyone shared and swallowed their pride. Then we'd see the day when nobody died.
And I'm singing Amen I, Amen I, I'm alive Amen I, Amen I, Amen I, I'm alive.
This world wants peace, let's step up and show them how.
my life is not mine, and yet it is mine to live for Him. Peace to you all.