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Faith

As far as I know, there is only one verse in the holy book that defines faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11.1-3). Faith has its sights set on home. It sees the evil of the world, but is assured that God is doing his part. It knows by experience, that there is no purpose going into suffering, but there is purpose coming out.

It is not just an intellectual idea, but a reality grounded and rooted in an understanding that I died with Christ, and if I died with Christ then I am in him and he in me. It stands in a reality of the incarnation, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It lives in a way that these things are true, that the old man has been buried, and the new is risen in Christ. By faith I am forgiven, and I live, as it is true. Faith holds firm upon the rock of God whose kingdom will not be shaken by any other force thrashing about in the darkness. Faith chooses to believe what Jesus believes to be true about me, even when I feel as though it is not true.

When talking about the power of God, we also have to talk about the “weakness of God” (1 Cor. 1.25) –Simon Tugwell. His great a mighty power is manifest in the image of the blessed baby in a manger, of the man who contained every power available in the universe, but yet had no place to rest his head. The same man resisted temptation, not by his own strength, but only by what was given from the Spirit. In fact, he did not come to be served, as would have been totally appropriate, but to serve the will of the one who sent him. It was he who said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2.17).

It is rare, I believe, for us to see our God, for understanding that in every way God is Jesus and Jesus God. Perhaps, we might be right in saying that his power is summed up in his humility. Humility, or right relation to God, is Jesus praying in the garden, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” He prayed this three times. The power of God is that love is the only force capable of saving the world. And this love he has is tender, gentle, and strong. Ultimately, his power is not what we expect. It is not power of this world, but power of the Kingdom of Heaven. How blessed are those who know his love, who stand in the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven come to earth, who sit in contentment with his grace, and who walk according to his will.

Righteous men of history have willingly died for righteous causes. Guys like William Wallace charged headlong into certain death, with courage and great strength in the midst of fear and darkness. MLK was killed by a man filled with anger in his heart against a man of peace and love. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Lincoln and JFK were assassinated. These men and women had great ideas, ideas that could inspire the world to change, and that is what scared their killers enough to tear them down, thinking that their idea would die with the man or woman. Jesus on the other hand, born of the seed of God, not from the seed of Adam, did something a little different. He died for an unrighteous cause; the cause being you and I.

Romans 5 tells us that when we were powerless, Jesus died for the ungodly. It is rare for anyone to die for a righteous person, yet for a good person or good cause someone might dare to die. But here is how God’s love is different. While we were still sinners, still enemies of God, he died for us. When is it ever been honorable to die for one’s enemy? How is that even possible?

Let me tell you this, that the way of the world is different than the kingdom of God. In the world it is good and honorable to fight for freedom, with violence, or nonviolence, it is still a fight. Anger is still welling up in our hearts. More often than not our non-violent demonstrations are violence in disguise, violence in our hearts. Maybe I don’t hit with my fist, but I hit them where it hurts the most, right at the center of personhood.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. What? How? . Jesus said, “for if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it’s dry?” They made fun of him on the cross, saying, he saved others, why not save himself if he is indeed the chosen one. The temptation in the desert echoes in our ears here, when Jesus was tempted to demonstrate his power to serve himself instead of living in obedience to the Father’s will.

Jesus showed us on the cross; when he prayed to God, forgive them all because they are not even aware of what they are actually doing. Paul said in Galatians, that the flesh and the Spirit are in opposition. What the flesh wants is contrary to what the Spirit desires. Jesus understood this well, and thus understood that if man does not yield to the Spirit, then they won’t be able to accept the gift of his love. This didn’t stop him. Our crucifying of him did not stop him. He knew and had practiced the way of obedience his whole life, even unto his death for his enemies.

Let’s imitate Jesus, follow him with our cross, and dare to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us. And I am not just talking about the murders of the world, or the politicians, or the terrorists. Jesus is also asking us to pray for those close to us, our neighbors, people at work we don’t get along with, the family member who has betrayed us, and the thief who took what didn’t belong to him. Jesus, thank you that the cross changes my reality, and that you do give me the power, not to curse, but to love and to pray. Thank you that I am not longer your enemy, but a beloved child of God. Thank you for showing us how and giving us the power by your Spirit to do it.

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