Are Christians weak? Is following Jesus the same thing as assuming a defensive posture of inactivity or defeat? This may seem like a ludicrous question because of course it isn’t, but the truth is that God’s ways are not human ways and following Christ simply makes no human sense at times.
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NIV)
Christianity–because it really is God from whom it derives its existence–is difficult for the non-believing to understand. Those who don’t know Christ recognize and value physical and political strength, aggression and conquest; the way of Christ is foreign to them and–quite honestly–they don’t know what to make of it. Jesus said:
“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” (Matthew 5:38-42 NLT)
This seems like submission to injustice to some, but listen as Jesus explains WHY we are to do this:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on good people and on evil people, and he sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong. If you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward. Even the tax collectors do that. And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don’t know God are nice to their friends. So you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48 NCV)
The reason we are not to respond in kind when someone mistreats us, why we are to pray for them rather than wish–or even actively plot–them ill as others would is because God, our Father, gives good to all and as His children we are to be like Him–regardless of how hard it is.
And while this in no way excuses another’s bad behavior, what this means is that our disposition of heart and mind when we are wronged must be such that we are completely resolved to respond with good toward them–not because we can’t figure out how to get back at them or because we are too weak, physically or mentally, to do so, but because by doing good to those who do evil to us we are reflecting the nature of God who made and called us. And who knows, but that perhaps this will cause that person to recognize His existence and authority over him and come to saving faith?
Listen to Jesus again:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit [those who aren’t arrogant, but think of themselves as God sees them], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12 NIV)
And why is this so–why do we act in such counter-cultural seemingly nonsensical ways? Because:
“You are the salt [the Christlike distinctiveness; the preservative] of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16 NIV)
We engage in counter-intuitive seemingly self-disadvantaging behavior so that those who do not yet know their Maker and Savior will see our good deeds and glorify their Father in heaven–and possibly, “…come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:26 NIV)
Help me, through the counter-intuitive Christlikeness You work in me, be used of You to help those who do not yet recognize Your authority over them “…come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” Amen.