Dec 22 Advent Reflection: Favor

December 22, 2015 at 1:02 am Categories: Digging Deeper

Church_and_Mosque

[Given the extended length of this reflection, I chose to publish the portion that is more immediately relevant to certain current events here, even though it is less immediately relevant to today’s word, “Favor.” For the full reflection, which includes a discussion on the “Lord’s favor” in its relation to what is written below, click here.]

Favor

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor” (Isa. 61:1-2).

This is news worth reading: “Kenyan Muslims shield Christians in Mandera bus attack”

“A group of Kenyan Muslims traveling on a bus ambushed by Islamist gunmen protected Christian passengers by refusing to be split into two groups, according to eyewitnesses.”

I can’t help but be reminded upon reading this of the God who wrapped his righteousness in “sinful flesh”(Rom. 8:3; 1 Cor. 5:21) that day he was found wrapped in “swaddling clothes” (Lk. 2:12), because he refused to let Himself and His creation be split into two groups.

If this doesn’t call Christians to their own faith, I don’t know what will. In a few days, we will celebrate the Incarnation of God, the day two infinitely different ‘groups’ became One in the person of Jesus Christ, the day which began The Hour when the “enemies of God were reconciled to God through the death of his Son” (Rom. 5:10). And every week, when we put that piece of bread in our mouths, we remember the One who was made flesh who was broken in order that we who are broken can be made One in Spirit by his flesh.

If Muslims, who do not know Christ, stand with those who do on pain of public execution, then I hope that Christians, who do know Christ, will be willing to stand with those who don’t on pain of public opinion. *And not because everyone just worships the same God anyway(!), but because Christians worship the God who became the same as us, indeed, the God who became a shield for us.* I don’t know the reasons these particular Muslims acted the way they did, but I do know the reason every Christian is called to act this way:

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:17-21; cf. esp. Eph. 2!).

If we are going to be entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation, then we are going to have to take seriously that our witness to Christ has at its very center a way of transforming our categories, so that “enemies” are given a new name. Our witness extends beyond the walls of the Church, even if it compromises the walls of our nation, just as Christ extended beyond the walls of heaven, even when it compromised the walls of Jerusalem. If our Muslim “enemies” are ever going to come to know their Savior, we are going to have to learn that our Muslim “enemies” from some other nation are nothing other than our fellow “neighbors” in some Other Kingdom (Lk. 10:25-37).

How else can we celebrate Christmas with a clear conscience? Is Christmas not the day Jesus crossed enemy lines to set up a neighborhood called the kingdom of God that is no respecter of borders, the day God made his dwelling with sinners?

Christians don’t identify with non-Christians on some higher ground than God–whether it be “humanity” or “peace” or “justice” or “love,” whatever, as is the popular way of our ‘peace-talking’ these days. Rather, Christians identify with non-Christians on the lower ground of guilt, where crosses are raised, because it is there we find our fellow man who has been found by our Fellow God.

“Precisely when we perceive that we are sinners do we perceive that we are brothers.”

~ Karl Barth

“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

~ The Apostle Paul

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof, the world and all who dwell therein.”

~ God

10 Around the Table

Identify your enemies. This may be easier than you think. In Greek, the word “enemy” and “hostility” are interchangeable. Enemy refers to a person, whereas hostility refers to the relationship one has with an enemy. We likely wouldn’t call, say, our spouse an “enemy,” but I bet we would all confess that sometimes our house seems full of hostility. This can be detected in any number of relationships, from the foreigner we’ve never met to the neighbor next door, from bosses to employees to colleagues to anyone we might run into at a family reunion. Once you’ve identified your enemies or areas of hostility, discuss or reflect on your contribution to the problem. How have you justified holding grudges, pointing fingers, making excuses, and, perhaps most damning of all, keeping a record of wrongs. Whose got a record in your mind and heart that the Lord is telling you to expunge? If the Lord cleared your record, is there any ground for you not to clear theirs?