The Lord is with Us!
Photography by Don Blais
Inside Out and Outside In
OCTOBER 18, 2020
What is outside of you? There is much in the world around us that is good; the beauty of creation, loving, caring people; stories about strangers helping others. There is also much happening in the world that I don’t like and don’t approve of including recent acts of violence, looting, and arson. I also think much of the tone of political campaigns have become hostile, divisive, and ultimately destructive to our society. Much of what I am critical of are also things the Bible tells us have been true from the time of the Garden of Eden forward.
Can we somehow only let the good in and keep the bad out? What options do we have? We could withdraw, stay at home as much as possible, and isolate ourselves from other people. We could continue to live in the world and try to ignore those things we don’t approve of. We could assume a fatalistic attitude concluding that society is deteriorating and nothing we can do will change that. We could give in and adopt the values, ethics, and morals of those we are critical of. We could put our hope in political leaders, although, it seems to me that for the past several years the lack of cooperation among our political leaders have made things worse instead of better.
Let’s look at what the Bible suggests. In John 17:15-18 we have Jesus’ prayer for his followers. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” Jesus’ final words to his disciples in the book of Matthew are “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a) Jesus was sending his disciples into the world to show a better way, a way of faith in him. He was also sending them into a world that had many people in it who were corrupt, wicked, and hostile to the message of God. In other words, quite similar to today. If we are to take the role of Christians seriously, we cannot ignore what is happening around us. In Matthew 5:13 Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.” He said that to his followers meaning that they are here to make a difference. Are you one of his followers?
We need to let the outside in to the degree that we know what is happening around us and become sensitive to the struggles of others. The question then becomes, how do we let ourselves care about the problems in our world without becoming overwhelmed. The answer for me is to worship the Lord more than I fear the world and its problems. King David had many enemies and yet he also had an ongoing attitude of worship of the Lord and regularly celebrated God’s goodness. In 1 Chronicles 16:8-13 we read, “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, O descendants of Israel his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.”Then in Psalm 100 we read, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Before you go out to change the world, make the time to remind yourself who’s world it is and who it is that really has the power to change the people in it. Then we need to seek his direction of how to go about being his agents for change. This is where we begin to let the inside out. As a Christian, I believe that God is real; that God is powerful; that God is loving; that God is kind; and that God cares what happens to all people. Paul’s thoughts in Colossians 3:12-17 provide us some good practical guidance. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Just as you choose what clothes you are going to put on, we can intentionally choose to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient with others. Forgive others remembering that the Lord has forgiven you. And over all these virtues put on love. Instead of being anxious or angry about what is happening around you, choose to let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. Also, let the word of Christ live in you. Let it’s strength sustain you.
There is a truth that needs to be shown through us. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Romans 5:7-8 reminds us, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” And if Christ died for us, it is important to remember that he also died for those around us.
In John 15:13 Jesus said, “Greater love has no one that this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
One of the most dramatic reminders of Christ’s sacrificial love in expressed in communion. Mark 14:22-24 tells us, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.
Then he said to them “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
Much of the good in the world today is because Christians throughout the centuries did not keep the outside, out, but let it in and were moved by compassion and empathy. They also did not keep their faith inside but let what was inside, out. They responded to the suffering and evil around them by letting their faith in Christ influence the way they lived on a daily basis. We aren’t to try to force the world to change using human weapons. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 tells us, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” It is more than human behavior and human institutions that are causing the problems. This is also spiritual warfare.
Ephesians 6:10-12 adds, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”