We're in a series where we will see how the gospel of Jesus affects every area of our lives. Each post will look at how the truth of the gospel changes how we view a certain aspect of life and its implication in our lives.
It seems as though we can't turn on the TV, check Facebook, or even talk to a distant relative without being told that "they" are what's wrong with the wold. Who are they? I guess it depends on who you're listening to. It could be the liberals, the immigrants, the millennials, the union workers, the conservatives, the retired, the refugees, the Christians, the universities, the rural blue collar workers, the homeless, or any other group of people. I'm sure you could even add more to this list of groups of people you've been told are the problem.
But like we've been doing throughout this blog series, we're looking at how the gospel (the good news of Jesus' perfect life, his death in our place for our sins, and his resurrection conquering sin and death) changes us. It does more than only change our eternal destination, although it does do that. It changes who we are. It gives us a new identity. And out of that new identity, we see the world differently. Our worldview changes. And we view others differently.
Apart from a saving faith in Jesus, we really might believe that any of those groups listed above are our enemies. But when Jesus saves us, our minds are renewed and they begin to change. Through the gospel, we now have the same mind as Christ. "Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant." (Philippians 2:6-7).
So because Jesus first did this and because he's given us the same mindset, the gospel will create in us a similar way of viewing others. We'll begin to see them as Jesus sees them. We'll consider others as more significant than ourselves. The Holy Spirit will empower us to look to the interests of others more than our own.
No longer do we see others as fools, opponents, or even enemies but through the gospel we see them as image bearers of God, so loved by him that he died in their place. We see ourselves in their sin, knowing the not yet sanctified darkness of our own hearts. We see ourselves in their weakness, remembering how spiritually powerless we were apart from Christ.
We know we cannot love our enemies, right? It is hard enough to love those who're different than us. The reason that we even can love our enemies is not because that is what good Christians do, it is because Jesus first did it and now gives us his Spirit to empower us to do the same. Jesus forgave those who betrayed him. Jesus forgave those who falsely accused him publicly. Jesus forgave those who tortured and mocked him. Jesus even forgave those who executed him unjustly. And Jesus offers this same forgiveness to the world. When we've believed this, this enemy forgiveness become our reality. And out of it, through the power of the Spirit, we're able to do the same.
Not only do we view outsiders differently now through the gospel, but we're able to see fellow Christians through a new lens. Our salvation experience is called an adoption into God's family. Pastor and author Jeff Vanderstelt helps summarize this: “Who is God? He is our Father. What has he done? He has loved us by sending his Son, Jesus, to die for our sins. Who are we? We are the dearly loved children of God—God’s family. If we believe this, what do we do? We love one another as brothers and sisters in the same way God has loved us.”
Now through the gospel, we have spiritual brothers and sisters and it is through that identity that the New Testament calls Christians to sacrificially love other Christians. We're to carry each other's burdens because Christ first did that to us on the cross. We are exhorted to "be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves" (Romans 12:10). We are to use our freedom in Christ not for selfish reasons but in order to humbly and lovingly serve each other. And when we're strong, we're called to "bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: 'The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me'" (Romans 15: 1-3).
So today when you're tempted to hate someone different than you, when you're told some other group of people are the real problem, or when you come face to face with an enemy, remember how Jesus interacted with you. He loved us when we were very different than him (he was holy, we were far from it). He loved us when we were the problem (he was sinless, we were sinful). He loved us when we were his enemies.
And we're not just called to view unbelievers differently, we're to see other Christians as our new family. We're saved into God's spiritual family and now view other Christians with great love and commitment. We don't just see people who bother us or who are different than us but we now see them as blood - as sisters and brothers and mother and fathers. And as with any family, there will be crazy uncles, overbearing mothers, annoying little sisters, and awkward fathers. But we have ownership with our family. We fight differently with our siblings than we do with our enemies. We have loyalty and compassion. Blood is thicker than water. And it is through Jesus' blood, that we now have an unbreakable identity in God's family that cannot be taken from us.
SPENCER PETERSON / COMMUNITY LIFE PASTOR