God’s Kindness Changes One Life at a Time

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, 
not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 
Romans 2:4 ESV

It is easy to become overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness, when reading the headlines of the latest cruelty, perversion or political movement that seems to hate even the merest vestige of Christianity. Such temptations to despair sometimes can get our eyes off of what God has called us to do and call us to respond with harshness, criticism or sarcasm. But Jesus had another way when He faced an unreasonable and seemingly hopeless mission. The path that Jesus took, unleashed the power of God’s kindness.

Yes, Jesus wept over the city, but then He walked down into it and gave His life. No, Jesus did not stop teaching the hard things about the Kingdom of God, but when they nailed Him to the cross, He didn’t hurl angry accusations against His opponents, instead He prayed, “Father forgive them.” How foolish and weak that must have sounded! Forgive? What good would forgiveness do? How could that change the situation? The answer came not only on the third day, when they found Jesus alive again, it also unfolded on the day of Pentecost when three thousand of the people He had wept over repented and believed. Soon all of Jerusalem was shaken, and tens of thousands became Christians. It all began in a moment on a hillside, when judgement seemed the more logical response, but Jesus chose the power of kindness, and that kindness has changed the world. Kindness doesn’t win military victories, elections or Hollywood awards but God’s kindness changes the world one life at a time. I know it has changed mine!

Did He really say that? – Praying for enemies

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:43-44 ESV

Many of us (myself included) have been earnestly praying for the people of Ukraine during this last 6-8 months as we have seen the terrible suffering of her people. But the current media reports over the victories that Ukraine has been winning lately, also brings us face to face with a heart issue that Jesus addressed about our attitude towards our enemies. When I read of soldiers being wiped out or large numbers of casualties on the Russian side, it is too easy to fall into a celebratory mood, saying under our breath, “serves them right!” But we cannot call ourselves Christians forgetting the fact that our Lord Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and to pray for them.

You see, the people of Israel faced some very real, very evil enemies, like Pontius Pilate, who slaughtered a number of people from Galilee while they were going to the temple to worship. Then there was Herod, who had John the Baptist decapitated and Pharisees who were plotting some way to have Jesus killed. None of these guys would have been anywhere on my prayer list, and that is a shameful disobedience to Christ’s command. So, as the sunsets tonight and we start our prayers, we need to add some people to the list. There are poor young teenagers from Saint Petersburg and Moscow, and farmers from little villages in the Caucuses. They have chosen a different side in this war than we would have liked, but their lives are also precious to Jesus. He also chose to die on the cross for them, as He did for us, and for all of us, He cried out, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they are doing!”

Broken Windows

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and  took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross. Colossians 2:14 KJV

When I was about twelve, my mom separated from my stepdad and took my sister and I to move hundreds of miles away to live her parents. Leaving behind all that was familiar, I was eager to make new friends, so when I found three guys about my own age in our new neighborhood, I immediately joined their circle. Just down the street from my grandparent’s home was an elementary school with a playground where we liked to hang out. Right next to that playground was a house which the school had bought, with the plan of tearing it down to make room for an addition. Since the house was soon to be demolished one of the guys in our group wondered who would care if we broke a few windows. We were astonished at his brilliant and exciting plan! Wasting no time to think of things, such as the town hall and police station being only blocks away, we quickly filled our pockets with stones and began a contest to see who could break the most panes. Of course, it wasn’t long before someone called the police, and soon the sirens and flashing lights of two patrol cars came racing up and we all ran inside the house to hide. It didn’t take the officers long to round us up and trot us all into the elementary school. There they lined us up in the hallway just outside the principal’s office. By the time it was my turn to enter, my knees were shaking and though I forget what was said, I remember that the principal took out a black book where he had written our names. Then he showed me that he was marking a large black circle right next to mine. I had no idea what that meant, but it felt as if I was doomed for life!

Photo by Kevin Malik on Pexels.com

Looking back on how we were then simply released to slink quietly home, I am pretty sure that all of our parents were in on the elaborate ruse. It really was a great plan, because not one of us got into any trouble again that summer! In fact, we did not even have the courage to speak about our moment of infamy to each other! That time reminds me of today’s verse. Just as we each received a black mark next to our name, so everyone who has ever lived has been caught by the justice system of God. We have all sinned and the penalty for our sin is death. We have broken, not only the windows of heaven, but also the heart of God. He has sadly marched us in and one by one placed a black mark by our names. But unlike in my childhood experience, God’s plan did not end there. Instead, God sent His only son, to die in our place, so that He could erase the black mark. And the even better news of the Bible is that instead of simply releasing us to go to our own homes, God has invited us to come to live in His forever!