Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

Romans 12: 16

 

Harmonious living in the body of Christ is a very different creature than the concept of harmony that is often portrayed in our culture where it is frequently discussed in terms that relate to compromise. It is expressed in the idea of not making waves, of seeking the middle ground, and of peaceful coexistence. These ideas sound good and the image of the calm, restrained communication that should result promises a more civil society. Yet there is a flaw in this idea, for we humans don’t actually function well in this sort of environment, and honesty, truth, and righteousness suffer under the requirement to surrender God’s values to the world’s ethics.

 

It seems that there are two primary requirements for remaining true to God’s word while continuing to live in harmony with others in the world. The first involves an attitude of total submission. We need to remain continually humble before the Lord’s mighty capacity to communicate accurately and honestly and our own flawed skill in this area. Christ speaks to our hearts and into this world with language that demonstrates His total love and His willingness to go to the lowest of places and to embrace the least lovely of people in order to bring them into the presence of God. We need to continually realize that each of us is the recipient of this sort of absolute grace; then, we need to give it, in Christ’s name, to others.

 

Next we should stay continually aware of the true source for all of our wisdom, understanding, and capacity to solve challenges and problems. Every skill, talent, and gift that I posses was granted to me by God, my Creator. The wisdom that forms the foundation of my thinking comes from His word, and any ability that I have to understand and to apply that wisdom comes as a result of the instruction and the guidance that God’s Spirit continually provides. The Lord does want to see people living in harmony; however, His harmony is focused on truth and righteousness, and it is centered on Christ.

 

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”

John 8: 58

 

We have all heard the expression, “He has seen everything”. Well, that is something that could have been said about Jesus; only, in His case, it would have been an emphatic comment that actually included all that had ever happened or that had even been thought. In this radical claim of His that was made to the self-righteous people who had gathered in the Temple to hear Him teach, Jesus states an essential truth that we can rely upon at all times in our lives. He has existed since before everything else came into being, and He has knowledge of all that goes on in this world and in all other places as well.

 

In light of this reality, there is no one else who can respond to each of our lives with the same understanding, wisdom, and righteous direction as can Christ. His direction is reliable. His Word stands as the supreme answer our entire enquiry. God’s will is the singular one that we should seek to understand and to follow as well. He has had a plan that includes every person who has or ever will exist, and that plan is intended for the betterment and for the restoration of each of us. In Christ we are truly and totally alive. The death that has been eroding and corroding our hearts, minds, and bodies since the day we were born has met its match. Christ has already claimed my victory over Satan’s desire for me. All that is left for me to do is to surrender to God’s will and to act on His direction.

 

There is undeniable value and worth in each of us. There is unrealized potential for us to grasp and to achieve for the sake of God’s Kingdom. Jesus knows the road map that will lead us along our personal journey. His Word expresses the truths that are required in order to understand our place in this world, and He provides us with a community to join with us in our journey. We need to stop denying Christ and surrender to His unrelenting will. He is the only truly unstoppable force in all of nature; so, holding onto my own sense of false security and stubborn pride will be futile. Christ calls and speaks His desire for my life. It is up to me to respond to the great I Am with my humble, “Here I am Lord, use me.”

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.

1 John 5: 4

 

Let’s face it, we live in an age where we have access to information, whether accurate or wildly distorted, about everything that is happening around us, and there are days when this world and its news just seem overwhelming. We are hit in the face with wars and other forms of human violence on an almost hourly basis while personal tragedy and losses are played out in a relentless procession of pain and suffering. Even those among us with the greatest of resources available cannot begin to meet all of the needs that are presented for our consideration. There seems to be a giant hole growing in the center of the world’s heart where all that is civil, human, and good is falling in and getting lost under the tons of debris that is the fall out from our world’s relentless chaos. As we look into God’s Word, none of this should come as a shock or a surprise. Yet, as we know and understand God’s heart, it should still cause us concern and bring about feelings of grief and empathy for those who are in pain.

 

As I view the news from around my world, Christ points my mind to the human suffering and loss that is woven throughout these stories. He tells me of His own feelings of anguish and agony that are felt in response to what we people do to and with each other. My Lord leads me into appreciation for the struggle that millions of others are engaging in as they go about living through this day, and He also points my stunned and overwhelmed mind toward the only answer that carries with it real hope, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This thought may seem simplistic, detached, and even delusional in that the problems of this world don’t appear to have easy or readily achievable answers; yet, I hold that the opposite is true. The Gospel of Christ does not stop with a profession of faith, but rather, it begins there. As a follower of Christ, as one who has accepted on faith the reality of Jesus and the living truth of His transformative message of hope, I am compelled by my Lord to enter into my world for the sake of His name and in service to His will and desire to bring love, grace, and peace to every corner of this planet.

 

This is how those of us who have been born of God do overcome the disastrous mess that is this world. We may not change a single global story wherein brutality and oppression seem to rule the day; however, we can impact a life or two or so with a form of love and care that can lead to relationships that transcend eternity. God has overcome all that is evil in this world and beyond, and His Word makes it very clear that there is soon to be a day of great reckoning when Christ will set right all that has gone wrong in our world. Until then, we join Him in this victory over the evil that is attempting to overwhelm us with the volume and the intensity of its message of hopelessness and defeat. In Christ, we are called to live out His victory by loving others without regard for their response to us as we seek to bring people who are distanced from each other by worldly systems and ideas into our Lord’s peace and understanding. It is our faith in Christ and in the saving truth of His Gospel that makes the miracle of deep and true love possible, and it is this love that overcomes this world.

There will be no poor among you, for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess.

Deuteronomy 15: 4

 

This is a hard thought to figure out. It certainly goes against the reality that we experience, and it also suggests some things that are quite uncomfortable to consider. One way of responding to this mandate would be to become very restrictive in who we allow to enter into our land. Another is to define the area of responsibility as being as close to our physical homes as is possible. Certainly we can say that this is a thought that God expressed about living in the times of Moses and that it has no direct application to our times and culture. There are many ways in which we can attempt to escape the possibility that there are truly large numbers of poor in our land and that we have a God-ordained responsibility to care for them. Yet, is that how God, Himself, views it?

 

I believe that there are some underlying truths that place the application of God’s will here in perspective. The first of these is faith in God. This is followed very closely by trusting Him to be the sole provider of everything that is needed. The Lord had promised His people that they were going to be dwelling in a land that lacked nothing. They were being given a land to claim and to occupy as His commissioned agents of restoration. Yet, our human tendency is to never settle down and be comfortable until we are fully in charge of the situation at hand. We always want more, seek to have it sooner, and don’t much like to share what we have acquired. The next underlying truth is that God wants us to function as His agents for change and restoration in the land. In order to do this we must look, sound, and act a lot more like Christ than most of us do today. We need to realize that we have many patterns of thought and of living that are both spiritually and practically antagonistic to His will.

 

Simply and perhaps brutally stated, most of us have far more than we need. We have more than we could possibly use in several lifetimes. We expend tremendous amounts of our resources in going after it all, too. We live in a culture that appreciates power and that exploits the disadvantaged. Many of us strive to gain a position of superiority at every opportunity. This is not just a characteristic of national leaders or even of people who hold political office, for I believe that most of us, if we look closely enough, will see this ungodly characteristic in ourselves. Christ desires for us to embrace a heart that joins Him in seeking to eliminate poverty and oppression from our land. This starts with a deeply-rooted faith in God. We need to trust Him to the degree that He is trustworthy, and in my understanding and experience, that is absolutely and totally. As I see it Christ wants me to be fully engaged in doing His restorative work in the land that He has given me to occupy for Him. I believe that no borders or boundaries define this land. In our times we have the God-gifted ability to touch lives in every corner of the world. God’s mandate that there be no poor in the land starts with a call to righteousness, and it is accomplished by fully embracing Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and do confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands.

Psalm 90: 17

 

The singular most favorable thing that God has ever done was to come into my world, Himself, to spend His days with people who were just like me, and then finish those days by volunteering to climb onto the altar of sacrifice in order to make real the fact of salvation. God, the Father, sovereign over all of creation, and owner of everything has granted me the favor of His presence in the world of corruption and loss where my body dwells, and He has given me the favor of a total relationship with Him. There is nothing else that I need that actually counts for much of anything; yet, Christ continues to shower me with gifts both great and small.

 

The Lord is present in the person of His Spirit throughout every moment of my life, for He speaks courage to my heart and wisdom and understanding to my mind, and His Word brings knowledge and grants me perspective on every situation and issue that comes my way. Christ has paced me into a family of people who also know Him, and it is through Him that the barriers that our human, sinful selves construct to keep us safe and others at a distance are removed; so, I am blessed daily by the riches of the diversity of the people that are with me in the body of Christ. Jesus, through His life example, by His blood, and in His Spirit grants to me the favor of His purpose, direction, and capacity for impacting my world with the truth of salvation.

 

In my humanity it is easy to become confused or to lose sight of the continual fact of Christ’s presence and provision; yet, all I need to do to be reminded of His presence is to open my heart and calmly listen to His voice, and the truth that, in Christ, fills my world becomes evident. What I do matters far less than who I am doing it for, and the results of my efforts are insignificant in comparison to living in the center of Christ’s love and to demonstrating it while I am working. Still, my God does grant me the favor of doing His will, and He makes His delight in my humble and too often flawed obedience clear to me. The Spirit speaks words of quiet assurance to me as I enter into living as Christ’s servant in this world. Christ’s will revolves around loving others, granting grace and mercy to the broken people of our world, and living out God’s righteousness for all to see. So, as I yield myself to serving my Lord, my life grows ever more pleasing to Him.

 

And the effect of righteousness will be peace,

and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.

Isaiah 32: 17

 

Isaiah lived in difficult times. Those were not peaceful days, and the concept of the sort of quietness that is being discussed here was not known. The leaders of the nation were quarrelsome and rancorous with themselves and with the world round them. Judah’s internal problems had disabled its ability to be what God had intended for it to be and to do all that the Lord had ordained for it to accomplish in the world. Instead of being God’s own hands and feet of reconciliation, truth giving, and justice, they were defensive, self-serving, oppressive, and profane. They were in very real need of the sort of revival of their faith that Isaiah was sent to proclaim, for they needed to turn away from their focus on self-reliance and enter into repentance before the Lord and seek out His righteous path for themselves and for their nation. That is why Isaiah is looking ahead in these words to the effect that the coming of Christ will have.

 

The description of the world above could be said of and about our own world and the days in which we live. We are in a period of almost unheard of anger, frustration, and unrelenting drive to see personal objectives met at the expense of true care and concern for the cause of peace, justice, and truth. There is little that is said or done by our leaders that is worthy of any sort of praise or that is truly in alignment with God’s call to govern righteously and justly. I fear that this last statement is true regardless of political affiliation or nationality. We live in a time where people have determined to go their own ways with such defensive stridency that there is no longer room for reason or civility in their engagement with each other. So, it seems that almost all of the real responsibilities and the moral mandates of governance are being set aside and even abolished for the sake of all of this posturing and power seeking behavior. We live in a world wherein our public figures and governmental leaders are no longer fit role models for us to consider.

 

It would seem that we all need to turn in the direction that Isaiah was indicating so that we move away from the caustic and abrasive approach to handling conflict and difference of ideology that is pervasive in our culture and enter into a prayerful and Spirit-led process of determining the direction for our world. I think that this sort of revival begins with each of us and in our own hearts. We must decide that we desire the sort of deep flowing peace that comes about only by and through following Christ in all matters and that leads to the type of quietness in the spirit that is formed out of total trust of the Lord and in His Word. In Christ, we are not citizens of nations, and we are not to be followers of any political system or point of view. By Christ’s guidance and in the power of His Spirit, we are to proclaim the truth of His righteousness by all that we say and do. With Christ we can impact our world for the sake of peace, justice, and righteousness. This begins with personal repentance and proceeds in trust with confidence and courage into the way we engage in the public sector. Then it goes forth as we demand righteousness and godliness from our leaders and in our processes of governance.

When Jesus heard it (the Pharisee’s question about eating with sinners), He said,

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”

Matthew 9: 11

 

Wellness is a big topic today. Health insurance companies offer incentives to members of group insurance plans to engage in lifestyles that they view as healthy. Preventative medicine has become almost as important to our doctors as the treatment of diseases used to be. We all want to be well. This is a fundamental truth of our day. Yet, well-being, a deep and unshakable peace and contentment of the soul, is elusive. The benefits of all of our preventative care, preemptive intervention, and proactive planning can be robbed from us in a matter of seconds. Life goes off on tangents that are unpredictable at best and that regularly disrupt our plans and sense of control.

 

Matthew was living a life in which he had a lot of power and where he was allowed to call the shots. People in his community didn’t like or respect him, but as he was able to take their wealth as taxes, he was the one who truly got the last laugh. Yet, he was dying. He was infected with a disease that had no cure. His soul was withering and wasting away. Then he encountered a simple country doctor, and he was healed. Jesus came seeking Matthew. Their encounter at a toll booth along the side of the road was no accident, it was not fate, and it was not karma. It was the result of God’s plan for Matthew’s life. Jesus walked up to him and invited the foul, unclean sinner into the throne room of God. Then Jesus joined Matthew in a celebration of the tax gatherer’s healing and new life. Christ also invited other likewise diseased and dying people to join with them in order to meet life face to face.

 

Christ is still calling upon the people of our world. He comes to offer God’s wellness to all. The roadside toll booth encounter that Matthew experienced comes in many different forms and settings today, but it does happen continually and everywhere. God desires for all people to be healed; so, He gave us Christ as that ultimate and total way to health. This is a health that matters, for this is the health of our spirits, of our souls, that is the only way to live fully in the peace and the joy of God’s presence. When we are wounded, injured, and made ill by the troubles and challenges that life causes us, we can turn toward Christ and seek out His healing and restorative truth. He is present in our lives through His Word, Spirit, and the community of faith. In turning to the healer, we are made well.