Tag Archives: suffering

Misunderstood

Alien-Immigrants and Strangers

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul (1 Peter 2:11).

Christians live as both alien-immigrants in the world and as strangers, visitors just passing through the world, picking up those things needed for eternity.

Peter’s letter has three sections. Section one is chapter 1:1-12. God the Father works eternally in the lives of those who are alien immigrants in the world. Section two is from chapter 1:13 through chapter 2:10. The Holy Spirit has set apart the Christian and they are strangers in the world looking forward to their home in eternity.

Finally, the third section is in 2:11-5:14, the work of God the Son is made known through both suffering (for righteousness’ sake) in the world and with obedience to the Divine will. Peter combines both words (parapedemos and paroikos) into one phrase (2:11) to show the essential dichotomy faced by Christians as they live in a world which causes their suffering while remaining obedient to Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior, who also suffered for them.

Scripture recognizes the difference between the alien-immigrant and the stranger, between those who accept the host county as their own or those who are just passing through using the host country to meet their needs. During the exodus, in the Hebrew Scripture, God is clear on His position concerning the alien-immigrant and the stranger in the larger context of His people. As the nation of Israel was exiting Egypt, God commanded them to eat a Passover feast, and to celebrate this feast and their miraculous release from slavery by the powerful hand of God.

And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. No foreigner or hired worker may eat of it. It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” (Exodus 12:43-51 ESV)

Foreigner means the son of an alien or someone who does not consider Israel their home, either by birth or by decision. No person who refuses to identify with God or His people may eat and celebrate the Passover. Non-native people can celebrate the Passover. A servant or slavewho is circumcised, and by circumcision has identified with Israel, may eat the Passover. This is an important distinction. God recognizes the difference between those who are separated out from the world and dedicated to Him, and those who are separated from Him and identify with the world. The Passover was an annual celebration of remembering those who are God’s being saved from death as the Destroying Angel kills all the first born of those people who are in rebellion against God. In this case it is the Egyptian, and any who were in the borders of Egypt during the last plague.

Peter calls the Christian alien-immigrants and strangers. “Beloved, I urge you as alien-immigrants and strangers to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1Peter 2:11). Those who identify with Christ are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, temporarily residing as citizen of an earthly kingdom. They are refugees, unable to return to their real home until the war is over and God calls them home. Their attitude is one of knowing they are different yet accepting the citizenship in a place without embracing all of the cultural norms of the citizen of that place. They are displaced for a time and placed by God where they are His witnesses. They are the parapedemos.

But, Christians are also the paroikos, the stranger who is temporarily in a place to gain what they can before returning home. God is preparing the Christian for eternity and uses the trials and persecutions of the world to form the Christian into a spiritual being fit for eternity with Him. Because Christians are not citizens of the world and do not identify with the cultural traits of the world, the world and those in the world hate them, are suspicious of them and disdain them.

Christians live their lives in dichotomy. On one hand they live and vote and act like citizens of an earthly kingdom while knowing they are not. Our home is in eternity with God but we must act like our temporary lives in the world have significance and purpose. On the other hand, we reject the morality and culturally acceptable practices of the world when they conflict with God’s will. We act like our temporary lives in this world and the things we have and collect have no eternal value because we look forward to an inheritance that is eternal. Is it any wonder Christians and Christianity is misunderstood, compromised and disparaged?

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Pain

It’s still Saturday, November 18th. A few hours after surgery I’m walking and sitting up. Then, the anesthesia started to wear off and my head started to clear and my chest started to hurt. I had to learn to cough to clear my lungs, which had been deflated. Part of my recovery was to work to re-inflate my lungs without catching pneumonia. There was fluid in my lungs I needed to cough out. But my sternum was broken which meant no deep coughing but a gentle action to slowly move the fluid out of my lungs.

There was a foot-long incision with staples down the center of my chest. My sternum was cut open and needed to heal. I had nerve damage. Lungs were deflated and needed to expand but had fluid in them. And I was starting to wake up completely which means I was starting to completely feel the consequences of the surgery.

Pain may be necessary but it is never liked. God gave pain to warn and inform us that something is wrong that needs making right. In the spiritual sense, physical pain is designed to drive a person to God. God’s intent is for every person to intimately know and love Him. He will not force anyone to have a relationship with Him but everyone will eventually stand before Him.

“We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities; and anyone who has watched gluttons shoveling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eating, will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, chapter 6, Human Pain.)  

We even accuse God of forgetting us or ignoring us in our pain. Why did He not stop the pain or the circumstance? Why did He allow my suffering? He allowed His Son to suffer pain beyond our puny understanding at the hands of the Roman while on the cross. He took upon Himself the agony we all deserve. This does not mean we will not feel pain. It means our identity with Christ includes pain and suffering as a way of preparing us for eternity with God. There will be no pain in eternity in God’s presence. There is always pain in this world.

People will do whatever is possible to avoid pain. We have good drugs. I was asked the level of pain I was in by a nurse and I said 7 out of 10. She gave me a drug that made me feel good. It took away the pain. It also convinced my wife and family there was no need to stick around because I was so loopy. No sense being with someone who is just going to sleep.

 

Adam’s Sentence

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; (Genesis 3:17 ESV)

God now turns His attention to sentencing the man. In this verse God uses the word man as a proper name for the first time. Up until now the word adam means man, the human race comprising the gender man and woman. In this verse, there is an article preceding the word Adam making it a proper name.

Adam’s sentence, because of his rebellion, is the third declared by God to those present. This just sentence carries the gravest consequences for all people. To the Deceiver, inhabiting the serpent, God’s sentence is a “curse” truthfully predicting that a Son who will come from the woman will crush it even as it tries to hurt Him. To the woman, God sentences her to pain in childbirth and conflicting desires for her husband, to be over him and protected by him. God does not use the word “curse” with the woman. To the man, God uses the word “curse” as He did with the Deceiver. God’s just sentence is pain and suffering in work.

But first, God declares the reason for the sentence. For the Deceiver, the reason is “because you have done this” tempting and lying to the woman about what God said. For the man, the reason is “because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it’” (see Genesis 2:17). The Deceiver cast doubt on the words of God to those created in His image. Adam completely rebelled against the word of God, spoken directly to him.

Listening to the voice of his wife does not mean everything she said up until or following this time was contrary to God’s will. Adam cannot claim ignorance of the debate had between the woman and the Deceiver. Nor can he claim ignorance about from which tree the fruit came that she gave him to eat. We have none of the words spoken by the woman to Adam at any time after she was created and while they were living in the Garden of Eden. They talked. When she handed him the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil we do not know what was said but he knew from which tree the fruit was plucked. We do not know if he questioned her about what she was doing or why she plucked the fruit and took a bite. We do not know if they argued or if she went through the entire discussion she had with the Deceiver. We do know she plucked the fruit, took a bite then gave some to her husband and eat also ate.

Adam was given dominion over the earth. He was put in charge and was given the responsibility of caring for that which God had made for Himself. His act of rebellion showed he could not be trusted to do that for which he was created. Adam bears responsibility for his rebellion.

God confirms what theologians have labeled “federal headship” by making Adam ultimately responsible for the sentence of separation from God for all people. Because he sinned all sin. Federal headship is a theological idea foundational to Christ’s redemptive work. Just as Adam’s sin brought death, spiritual separation from God, to all people, so Christ’s just and righteous act brings spiritual life to all people. (See Romans 5:12-21.) But not all people will claim Christ’s righteousness because they desire to cling to Adam’s rebellion.

Offering Our Gift

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [Matthew 5:23-24 ESV]

I do not want to leave the impression that for the Christian all suffering is suffering for righteousness’ sake. More often we suffer because of our own sin or as a consequence of someone’s sin rather than because of our relationship with Christ. We may bring suffering upon ourselves. We may experience suffering because of our proximity to sin, as a result of historical sin or because of unrecognized sin.

Christian’s are redeemed and sanctified yet continue to live in the world, in their sinful flesh. Many, because of allowing sin to have a place in their lives continue to violate God’s will and sin against their “brother.” Sin’s effects may carry over generations of families, cross geographic boarders and span history. Adam’s sin is carried by all of mankind. David sinned and the entire nation suffered. God’s third statement declares those who worship idols will teach their children to worship idols. Children learn to sin from those around them and then teach others to sin.

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. [Deuteronomy 5:8-10 ESV]

Sin is a reality in the fallen world. Though Christians are redeemed, Christians still sin. Sin stops worship. When we sin against another person we are sinning against two, against the other person and against God. This is not a matter of debate. All sin is first rebellion against God.

Jesus is explicit. If anyone has something against us because of our sin then we cannot worship God. He uses a word which means anything regardless of the size, intensity, relevancy or even knowledge. You, the citizen of the kingdom of heaven, are required to make your relationship with the offended person right. This does not include manufactured offenses based upon any person’s ungodly standard. This is sin violating God’s standards against a person created in the image of God.

Before this can happen there must be an acknowledgment of the wrong done, not by the party offended but by the offender. It is not the responsibility of the person who holds the offense to request reconciliation but the person who committed the sin. Admitting sin is almost impossible for any unless directed by the Holy Spirit and seen through the new eyes of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. When Christians sin they have to recognize the sin, that it has compromised their relationship with God and with the other person and then mourn of the consequences of sin. Damaged and broken relationships are one of the temporal consequences of sin. Separation from God is the eternal consequence of sin.

Owning sin is one of the characteristics of being poor in spirit and is the first step into the kingdom and the primary characteristic of a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.  Owning the sin is recognizing the truth. “Sin” is not a made-up offense, as when the intolerance of the world demands we acquiesce to ungodly expectations. Our offense is first against God and then against another. But Jesus uses the word “brother” which means brother, someone near and somehow related.  He uses the same word in the previous verses when He speaks to denigrating anyone in the kingdom.

Citizens of the kingdom of heaven are servants of the King of heaven and work toward knowing Him intimately and desiring to be and do His will. This includes offering spiritual worship and keeping clear and righteous relationships with other citizens. Our focus is upon fulfilling the image of God and the likeness of Christ which characterizes the citizen.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners (strangers) and exiles (aliens) to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12 ESV)

We are strangers and aliens in this world. Aliens are citizens of heaven living as exiles, witnesses to the world until they are repatriated. Strangers are passing though the world being prepared by God for eternity.