February 3, 2016

A challenge . . .

Sitting in my husband’s hospital room while they took him for a test, I grabbed a deck of cards and played a very mindless version of solitaire that is hardly ever won. As I played game after game (it goes quick), I started to think how I was willing to do this over and over without much chance of success, yet not as willing to share the gospel over and over for the same reason. Success, as in having the listener respond to Jesus, is just about as rare.

Chamber says in today’s reading that behind that excuse of “what’s the use” is that I might have certain affinities that keep me from speaking the good news, that is, an unwillingness to suffer the rejections that are part of the package. He quotes Paul who said:

For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. (1 Corinthians 4:9–13)

Being considered the scum of the world and treated like garbage is a lot more loathsome than repeatedly losing a game of solitaire. Chambers says this repulsion is part of the flesh, mere humanness. When the ordinary person comes in contact with baseness and immorality and treachery, “the recoil is so desperately offensive to human goodness that the heart shuts up in despair.”

He is right. I do recoil in horror to baseness, even when others are treated like scum. A patient in the room next to my husband was overheard yelling at a nurse saying she didn’t belong in Canada and should go back where she came from. Another nurse told me that patients sometimes strike her. Such things offend me, even though they are not happening to me.

Christians are told we are idiots, brainless, and all sorts of other negative descriptions just for believing what we believe — whether we share it with them or not. Many times, their concept of our faith is skewed, but no matter; the criticism is enough to silence me . . .  at least far too often. I am repelled by rejection and verbal abuse.

But Peter wrote, “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you . . . .” (1 Peter 4:12) Chambers says that if I think that the fiery trial of rejection is a surprise, it could be because I am craven-hearted, another word for “cowardly.”

That could be true (do I want to admit it?), but whatever the reason, Chambers reminds me that I am free to be “saved by the skin of my teeth” and do nothing at all, or I can say: “I do not care if I am treated as scum as long as the Gospel is proclaimed.” This begs the question: who am I the most in love with – Jesus or myself?

Servants of Jesus Christ are willing to go to martyrdom for the reality of the gospel of God. I don’t know if I would die for the good news. I do know, as Chambers says, the marvel of God’s redemptive love is that the worst and the vilest sinner can never get to the bottom of it.

God loves me, vile or not. He loved the world so much that He sent His Son to die for those who will believe in Him. He also gave each of us who do believe an incredible purpose . . . to be like Jesus. Paul did not say that God separated him to show what a wonderful man He could make of him, but “to reveal his son in me.”

Jesus died for me so my sin is forgiven, but also so I can reflect the image of Jesus Christ. How selfish of me to be willing to reflect only His glory and not His suffering.

Bob was given the good news that he can finish the healing process at home. I picked him up at noon and we will celebrate. May this month of viruses, germs, fever, bruises, shortness of breath, weakness, and other nasty things eventually be only a memory! We are grateful to the Lord for His grace and comfort, and to all who prayed and expressed their concern and love. Thank you!

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