After sitting with the questions of my identity and purpose for a while, with pretty sudden and perfect clarity I found answers: I am a barbarian.
I think that there is something very TRUE about our faith being lived out in our actions. It is RIGHT that we associate our good works with pleasing our God. Those are very sacred, holy things. What isn’t so holy is when my perspective isn’t just a vertical glance, but a horizontal one as well. It’s when I start looking at what others are offering Jesus and feel either defeated or superior that things get a little crooked.
The heart of this story is very easy to miss in all of the details of locations and people and subplots woven in the text. Twenty years passed since the time that Jacob fled due to Esau’s vow to murder him upon their father’s death. But twenty years had changed Esau.
The way of the cross might be a pathway to the joy of being aligned with the One who will eventually make all things right, but it is also the path of a Savior who is chose to empathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). To erase these very real parts of Christ’s identity is to rewrite who he actually was. To act like we are to do anything other than to emulate him is to place ourselves above him.
For some reason we have pictured Hell storming toward us. If that was the case, hiding in the bubble of the Christian community would make sense. That would mean that we are in a defensive position. However, if this is the image that we get when we think of the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light, we have gotten it backwards. Gates are not offensive weapons; they indicate a defensive, buttressing position.
What could not be learned from Christ alone is that God’s movement toward us occurs not in spite of our sin, but precisely because of it. Our sin is NECESSARY to reveal God’s mercy, and in an unexpected, fabulous shift, sin gives birth to grace.
The beatitudes, I believe, are given with the exact same point. They are about the character of the people of God (the “blessed” if you will). Each applies to all followers of Jesus. They are statements about who we are. The beatitudes are not encouragements or exhortations for us to act a certain way. They are statements about the reality of our blessed-ness.
It struck me that we should be applying the same principles to patience as we do to love. Patience is an attribute of God coming from his love (2 Peter 3:9), and therefore Satan has no part in it because he has no capacity for love. Satan is an impatient being, and impatience, as much as hate and unkindness, is a tool that he uses to destroy us and damage the work of God’s Kingdom.
My heart, brimming with love as I despise everyone around me
Come into this Church that I hate and meet the groom of the hideous, breath-taking bride
Drowning in grace while suffocating in my sin. Clinging to faith, and searching for peace
Confident of my rights to lay them down… I am so right about being wrong
Using these biblical texts and the insights of ancient church historians, we can learn about the early history of the Christian community in that city. A close study of early church history reveals both the challenges faced by the Ephesian church at the time and a living example of church leadership devoid of manmade hierarchies…