Thursday, July 22, 2010

not worrying, when we are being killed all day long

What can separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or peril, or nakedness, or sword? As it is written, for your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered. Yet, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

and Jesus says to His disciples

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven

and later, still in the sermon on the mount, he says,

“Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

I want to understand the way Jesus wants me to trust Him. I listen to the last passage a lot, and quote it myself, in times of uncertainty. And I usually interpret it to mean: stop worrying about whether to give that money or not; the cattle on a thousand hills belong to the God who loves you and he will take care of your needs. But Romans 8 specifically mentions famine and nakedness, as things which will not be able to separate us from the love of Christ (and therefore that love does not always protect them from). My sense (from having prayed with, say, chronically unemployed people) is that a lot of us feel obliged to make excuses for Jesus when we pray and our (perceived) needs aren't really being met. Ie, he CAN, of course, but he just chooses not to right now, probably to make me stronger or trust Him more.

One thing that stands out in the first two passages is that the unpleasantness seems to happen for the sake of Christ. I guess this can be taken in a couple of ways. To one who lives for Christ completely, most things you do or go through can be said to be done or endured for his sake. That is, even if the famine comes to everybody in the area, the one whose life is Christ's may have the attitude that he must live cheerfully and generously even in his hunger, and will thank God for building his strength and faith. Maybe. His next door neighbor might have the same famine, but not for Christ's sake. In this way, all the Christian's suffering is redemptive inasmuch as it is regarded by him as being undergone for the sake of Christ. Another way one could take it is that when suffering comes as the result of our own stupidity or carelessness and not for Jesus' sake, no particular good will come out of it. This last sounds silly, and not really like grace.

So, does the first case make sense with the passage about not worrying? I think so; my new motto of "When you become a person to whom becoming like Jesus is the greatest good, all things work together for that good" seems to apply... that is, if you are seeking first God's kingdom and righteousness, everything you need to do that (and since you are seeking it first, that's enough) will be given to you. Therefore, you don't need to worry, because even famine or persecution or nakedness won't be able to separate you from the love of God.

Again, this feels a little bit glib... I wonder if I would say the same thing if I knew chronic hunger. I'm sure Christians have died of starvation before. And, all the disciples, for that matter, ended up dying of persecution. But they probably all died praising God, because He had given them all they needed up to the end, and even at their deaths was using them to glorify himself and build his kingdom. So, it would have been silly of them to worry.

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