"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Monday, January 11, 2010

God our Savior, Reacting like a Christian, Impacting Lives

"We can't appreciate the full extent of God's grace until we realize the full extent of our sins." (pg. 99)

If you don't realize you are a sinner, you don't realize you need a Savior. Perhaps you believe you can save yourself through your good deeds. Between Muslims, Jews and Christians there are many names for God. Do you consider one of them, the Savior? Why or why not?

I posted these previously, but since I'm rereading this book and these things once again stood out to me, I am copying them here. Challenging stuff!

Wild Goose Chase . . .

In my experience, it is much easier to act like a Christian than it is to react like one. Most of us are good actors -- we can play the part. But our reactions reveal who we really are. And maybe that's why Jesus focused so much of His teaching on reconditioning reflexes.

Pray for those who persecute you.

Love your enemies.

Bless those who curse you.

If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

(pg. 99)

Mark hit the nail on the head! I find this so true. I can be going around "perfectly holy" all day, and then someone does something to me or something doesn't go how I'd planned and the reactionary self rears its head and too often takes over and replaces my "perfectly holy" mask.

Can you relate or am I a rarity?

Mark challenges us to "thank God for opposition" because "it forces us to pray like it depends on God, which it does. And it reconditions our reflexes in the process." (pg. 102)

I absolutely love this next part . . .

"If you want to impact someone's life, love them when they least expect it and least deserve it. When people blow it, you have an opportunity to impact their lives forever. You might think, But they don't deserve it. That's the point isn't it? Do you deserve the grace of God?" (pg. 104)

Have you ever had the opportunity to love someone when they least expected or deserved it? Even if they never said anything, I imagine your act of grace touched them more than you realize. This is the kind of love and grace God demonstrates to us. What a challenge to love others as He loves us!

"God's love is proactive. He doesn't wait for us to get our act together. God always makes the first move. And we're called to follow suit." (pg. 105)

Remember, even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

And, we love Him because He first loved us. (I John 4:19)


Wrestling With Religion said...

"We can't appreciate the full extent of God's grace until we realize the full extent of our sins."

My first reaction was to recoil at this, although I used to fully believe it. I'm not a big fan of dwelling on the negative (although I admit, I do a hell of a lot of it).

However - by the end of your post, when it came to the point about showing grace to other people, I realised how important this was.

If you show love to someone and they THINK they DO deserve it (even though they don't), then it has no effect whatsoever. That is when you become a doormat.

It's all starting to make sense...

It was the "sinners" who didn't think they had any hope with God that Jesus showed the mercy of God to. But to the people that didn't REALISE they didn't deserve it, the holier-than-thou legalistic nit-pickers, he spoke in such a way as to SHOW them that they didn't deserve it and that they needed grace. God is no doormat.

This is why whenever I have been horribly selfish the most effective treatment I've received is firstly a verbal slap, followed by a hug. Grace is only effective when you first confront reality. It's true.

WOO-HOO! Thank you Susanne. I feel like this has finally solved a long-standing mystery for me.

Do you agree with me or have I twisted something here? :D

Suroor said...

I absolutely loved this post and also loved WWR's comment.

The sentence I liked best is "And maybe that's why Jesus focused so much of His teaching on reconditioning reflexes."

This is why I love Jesus so much because growing up as a Muslim, I wasn't taught this. I learned that:

It is OK to curse those who persecute you.

Stay away from your enemies.

Curse those who curse you.

If someone strikes you on the right cheek, strike them back on their right cheek.

I will admit that the reflexes were still controlled so you don't go overboard but the message of Jesus is clearly more noble, more moral and higher.

Susanne said...

WWR, I don't think it's that we are to dwell on the negative, like actively think all the time "Wow, I am a pretty rotten person." Rather it's realizing that we are sinners and our sins are ugly in God's eyes. They are like a putrid stench is His nostrils. Our societies have made sin something "good" and "fun" quite often so we tend to think "ah, this isn't so bad." But according to God's standards is this true? Or is this true only for our European or American societies?

It's like the story of the Pharisee and the publican who were praying. Here is the account from Luke 18. Notice to whom this story was given from verse 9.

9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about[a] himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

13"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

14"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

When we think we are good enough, that is repulsive to God. But when we realize we are sinners, He forgives us.

Remember the story in Luke 7 where the sinful woman comes to wash Jesus' feet with her hair? He gives a parable to the people watching because they are shocked. He concludes it this way:

47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

If we think we are basically good, we have been "forgiven little" and therefore, "love little." But when we realize how wicked we have been to a Holy God, we are amazed by His love and grace and it makes us want to worship and serve the One who would love us in spite of what we've done!

Jesus told the Pharisees it's the sick who need the physician, not the whole. Those who know they are sin sick are the ones who can be "healed" by the Great Physician. Those Pharisees who think they are righteous enough -- they have no need for God to save them. They believe they can do it on their own.

I hope this was helpful. I really appreciated your honest comment so much. Thanks for sharing it here. :)

Susanne said...

Suroor, thanks for what you shared. I was responding to Sarah when you posted.

So glad you enjoyed that. It was a huge challenge for me when I read about **reacting** like a Christian! Reactions are usually much harder to mask than actions. You can pretend on the latter, but reactions tend reveal the real us.

Wrestling With Religion said...

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

This seems to confirm what I thought Jesus's approach was. And possibly what our approach to others should be? I used to think when someone obviously likes the praise of others, I should just let them have that. But maybe we should make an effort to confront people and try to get each other to "keep it real" (LOL) because maybe that is what's most helpful. I mean Jesus sounded harsh towards those who were confident of their own righteousness, but he was only doing it to help them see reality.

So yes, I also take your point that maybe it's not about dwelling on the negative, but just about seeing things as they really are.

The trouble is, I am really unsure of how bad or good the world is. When I was into Islam I started to see more badness - bars were places full of sin, for example, even though I used to enjoy going to them. Since I let go of Islam, I started to see goodness in people everywhere, even though there might be sin too. It isn't black and white, that's all I know. I guess I'm quite conflicted and don't know how to see things.

Also, there is this nagging cynical voice in my head wondering, why would God create us just to sin and then have to humble ourselves? Was it all part of a plan? Maybe it was. Maybe that's the real beauty of the world.... we are exalted through humility... so that we would love much. I have to admit that makes sense! ;)

Wrestling With Religion said...

Suroor, I also loved that part of the post. I remember when Muhammad rebuked Aisha for returning a insult from some Jews with an even bigger insult; he told her to just return the same insulting greeting and no more. But then when someone says "Bless those who curse you" - it sounds so much better, doesn't it?

Suroor said...

@WWR, it most certainly does!

Cursing in response never ends the row. We can even see that in our children. One of my kid says something like "you are so stupid!" and the other replies, "no, you are stupid!" and the first one gets more upset and says, "how dare you! You are such a pain" and it goes on and on.

But I have taught the milder one to respond by saying "I'm sorry I made you say that" and it ALWAYS works! The insulter instantly shuts up and often even gives him a hug or says "no, you are a great brother. I'm sorry I said that."

Now that I consciously try to follow Jesus' teaching I find it very hard to recondition my reflexes because my religion had taught me and given me the right to seek revenge - no more, no less but still...

Some reader even sent me an email and said "whatever happened to the fiery Suroor? You seem a lot calmer now. Don't like it! Please return the old Suroor to us." :D

I hope Jesus smiled at that!

Carmen said...

Well, shoot.

I don't think you're a rarity. And I'm REALLY struggling with the not reacting thing.

Susanne said...

WWR & Suroor -- I have an example from junior high school about returning good for evil. There was a girl two grades below me and we attended an afterschool thing together most days. I remember we did not get along. She was the surly type and I would react according to her actions from time to time. I remember one time she looked at me mean and stuck out her tongue. For some reason I decided to NOT react the same way - just to try something different. Ha, ha...maybe all that Jesus teaching was in my head. Anyway, instead of giving her a mean look in return, I smiled. It seems so simple, but would you believe we became friends? All it took was a smile instead of an angry look in return. That's been over 20 years ago and it still sticks out in my mind as an example of how our reactions can make a difference.

Suroor, I love the example you gave about your own children.

WWR, my preacher likes to say it's God's "upside down kingdom" where those who serve are the greatest and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Really, don't you find people who brag on themselves to be jerks a lot of times? I admire the ones who don't call attention to themselves, but quietly serve and make a difference behind the scenes. I think God doesn't want us to honor ourselves because that leads us to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Then we start looking down our noses at others and really, pride is such a stinky thing when we see it in ourselves and others.

I think the world is pretty bad. By that I mean human nature is inclined towards seeking our own ways and that leads to selfishness which can - in the extreme - lead to wars! I don't mean I see "sin" in everything. I'm not saying BARS are bad or even dancing (I saw you mention this on your blog not too long ago). There are definite things God says we are not to do, but the thing I like about Christianity is that there ARE a lot of areas where we have freedom. If going to bars makes us get drunk and have immoral relations, I'd say avoid them because drunkeness and immorality ARE wrong. Really, looking at Jesus and seeing who He ate with and hung out with, don't you think if He were on earth now, He would be at the bars? I know that almost sounds sacriligious to some, but I think Jesus would meet needs everywhere. He wouldn't hang out in the churches waiting for the sinners to come in (though, in reality, we ALL are sinners although many churchgoers often forget this fact.) He would be out and about going to where the people were -- whether they were the "sick" people in the churches, the bars, the country clubs, where ever He could meet needs. Romans 14 is a good passage about these disputed things. I really love that we have freedom in Christ. NOT that we do things to shame His name, we do ALL THINGS to His glory so we DO guard our testimonies. At the same time, we don't go by man's rules of what we should or should not do. This is where a lot of conservative Christians tend to get legalistic by *adding to* the Bible (you should have your hair cut like this, you should have skirts to the knees, you should do this and do that, etc.)

Suroor, what a compliment although your reader wanted the old Suroor back. Maybe she just misses the religious discussions on your old blog and that's what she meant. :)

Carmen, I'm glad you're with me on this struggle. Hugs!

Wrestling With Religion said...

"Really, don't you find people who brag on themselves to be jerks a lot of times?"

Yes! But a lot of us - especially in Scotland for some reason - have the opposite problem: we put ourselves down too much.

This is a huge problem in the workplace, I am in academia at the moment as a grad student, which although I'm in a Scottish university, it is full of English private-schooled extroverted types who are not afraid to big themselves up.

A lot of people are fooled by false pride, unfortunately. Those type of people get opportunities they perhaps shouldn't. And people who haven't been conditioned to be that way are fooled by it too and assume those people are smarter than them.

Maybe the answer is just that we have to uncover the reality. I think false modesty is just as bad as false pride. Dwelling on the negative can be catastrophic in the workplace, if anything you have to dwell on the positive and not show any weaknesses.

I really admire people who DO show humility, though. I think it takes a certain self-assuredness to admit you don't understand something or to ask a foolish question, and people who do that, to me, usually still come across as very smart indeed. This is because they know they are smart and they can demonstrate that just as freely as they can demonstrate their gaps in knowledge. I think that is important. I would hate to see someone holding back from making a good point in a discussion simply because they thought it was better to show humility and not show too much confidence.

I would say Paul sounds quite proud in some of his letters. But arguably that is not a bad thing because he's telling the truth. It is not false pride. We should be proud of ourselves when we have good things going for us, I feel. I don't feel western Christianity helped me to take a justified pride in myself, but I feel its emphasis on "pride is bad" is something of a distortion. It depends on the type of pride.

I think this was one of the things that attracted me to Islam. Islam helped me have constructive pride and self-confidence and self-respect and dignity. It maybe goes too far on all these things, and values certain people more than others, but it helped restore some balance to my self-picture.

I guess I completely agree with Christianity's de-emphasis on self-righteousness, but I feel it distorts it and goes too far in saying that we should NEVER feel good about our own attributes and efforts. And I'm not sure it really does say that... I think that might be a historical western spin on it. I hope to learn more about it.

Wrestling With Religion said...

Re the question of how bad the world is. I think I have always been conflicted. I have seen badness come into situations I thought were innocent and good, and it has made me hyper-vigilant. That is when I would be attracted to Islam's rules about things like covering and segregating the genders and staying away from any places with alcohol. These rules made sense to me because they would protect me from that badness. But then, I started to see that the more strict things become, the badness starts to show itself in more bizarre and unexpected ways. Basically you can't control it. There is no system of rules that eliminates badness. And people who are outside of the system of rules are not all bad either. That's when life started to seem more colourful again.

Jesus saw life in all its richness of colour, I guess. So he seemed scandalous to people who love to follow rules. He is a really difficult act to follow if he seriously didn't compromise his morals in any way. I don't think some people realise just how hard that is. They kid themselves they are following him when they go to bars and exceed sensible self-imposed limits in the name of "friendship with sinners". And those who choose the rules approach don't realise how hard that is either. They don't realise that correct hijab means nothing if you are unkindly nit-picking on others.

I guess I see good and bad all mixed up everywhere.

Suroor said...

Susanne, I gave your example to my kids today. The oldest was again moaning about a girl she dislikes. I think she learnt something from it because she was very polite with her brothers all day :D

But she also said, "Mama, no more Jesus' examples please. He is too hard to follow!" :D So I said, "no today it's Susanne's example" :D

Susanne said...

WWR, that's interesting about your people putting themselves down. I wonder if this has to do with the Calvinistic Presbyterian teachings from years past? I like trying to figure things out from the past, and I know Calvinists strongly speak of our total depravity. So maybe that's it! :)

"This is because they know they are smart and they can demonstrate that just as freely as they can demonstrate their gaps in knowledge. I think that is important."

Loved this! I agree! I remember my high school history teacher always had these lessons he wanted us to learn for each chapter. One of them was "no one knows more than 1/10 of 1% of anything." It's not that we have some false humility or downtrodden thoughts of ourselves, we just realize we are limited and, therefore, are not afraid to ask questions and admit when we are at a loss.

My Arab friend often has low-self esteem and I try to build him up with the good kind of pride of which you were talking. So I don't see it that Islam has it and Christianity does not. I think it varies from culture to culture and likely person to person within cultures. I don't take pride in myself necessarily, but I have self worth because of what God has chosen to do through me and what Christ did for me! I have value because of Him! :) I think this is the type of pride Paul had. He even stated that we don't boast in ourselves, but in what Christ has done for us. (Gal. 6:14) I know what you mean that some of his writings sounding boastful, but I think at times he was giving his credentials so to speak. Some people were downing him to the churches and spreading false things about him so he was trying to get the people to see that he (Paul) loved them and gave his life for the cause of Christ. When I understand this, I don't find his boastings as prideful in the way that I meant.

"Basically you can't control it. There is no system of rules that eliminates badness."

Well said! I think God giving us a new heart and our walking closely with Him is what "eliminates badness" or strongly controls it. Not rules, but God's presence.

Suroor, ha, ha! Your daughter is too cute! I agree that Jesus is a tough act to follow. Do you know the Bible says this is one way the Holy Spirit helps us? He empowers us to live as Christ did. Thanks for sharing the story from your own household. Precious! :)

Wrestling With Religion said...

I am sorry for writing so much on your page! I'm a bit embarrassed about that now. I've been writing too much everywhere lately. Procrastinating from work, probably.

That's an interesting idea about the origins of this putting ourselves down. I have no idea about it.

I liked what you said about having value because of God. Ultimately God created us, so any goodness or talents or anything we have is not really ours to boast about. In this way I think we might as well just be real about our strengths and weaknesses.

Susanne said...

WWR, please don't apologize. I truly enjoy your comments here and elsewhere. Yours are ones I seek out to read. :)

Thanks for what you contributed to this discussion. Enjoyed it much!