Christian discipleship is summed up in four words: “Be like your Father” . David Andrew asks how do we represent His mercy in an increasingly cold-hearted world?
‘Who do you think you are?’ has become a surprisingly important question in the present day. It has generated at least one television show where people, often celebrities, investigate their family tree while viewers get to peep, as it were, through the family keyhole. Biblically speaking, it's a question of huge importance for Christians.
Jesus once put a very similar question to his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” The crowds that followed his every move had begun to speculate about his identity. But Peter’s answer clearly originated in revelation, not speculation: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” . (Matthew 16:15-17) What then about our own question? Who do we think we are – and who are we really?
Is there revelation to save us from speculation? Indeed there is – and once again, it’s Peter standing ready with the amazing answer he gave the first Christians: “once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” .(1 Peter 2:10) This is a parallel expression which is quite natural to Peter’s Hebrew mind – two mutually reinforcing statements making a single point: namely, that divine mercy gives the people of God their unique identity.
Humbled – and protected
It’s amazing, but it’s not exactly flattering. ‘Mercy’ is not a word that nourishes pride – quite the opposite. Mercy is God’s withholding of what is deserved, namely judgment leading to punishment. Only humility is capable of asking for mercy. It’s one half of God’s protection and provision for those He rescues through faith in Jesus. Mercy’s mirror image is ‘grace’ – God’s extravagant provision of what we could never deserve. The protection is in the humiliation, because pride (literally) came before the Fall. If we doubt that human pride is the primary target of God’s rescue strategy, we can find ample evidence of this in His Word….
Jesus summed up the principle as "I am the vine; you are the branches… apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). The branches are the product of the Vine, not the other way round. He is the Author of our salvation (Hebrews 5:9 – KJV); we played no part in our own deliverance. He is the Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). We cannot perfect ourselves, but we can learn obedience while His grace produces His likeness in us: “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
The most deadly divine blow to our pride, however, is not even in what mercy withholds or grace extravagantly provides. No indeed. Pride bristles to receive such unmerited kindness – but pride screams with terminal injury to learn that the Saviour is also the Substitute: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous; that he might bring us to God”(1 Peter 3:18). Not only did He withhold death from us, He “tasted death for everyone”(Hebrews 2:9-NLT) – as predicted by Isaiah 700 years before Calvary: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6 – emphasis added)
Now then Christian, if anyone asks you ‘who do you think you are?’, let God’s mercy shape your answer – and because you have received mercy: “if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way…”(1 Peter 3:15-16).
‘Respect’… now there’s a scarce commodity in modern Britain. A strange phenomenon is unfolding before our eyes: ‘liberal’ – of whatever party-political shade – now generally means ‘intolerant of anyone who disagrees’. And a specially merciless brand of persecution is reserved for Biblebelievers like recently resigned leader of the UK Lib-Dems, Tim Farron who, seemingly, is the wrong (i.e. Christian) kind of ‘Liberal’ and therefore ‘unfit to hold political office’ (because of his faith). But wait! Isn’t that ‘liberal’ viewpoint just a tad too close to that of those extreme people who seem hell-bent (Hmmm) on bombing and stabbing us into submission to their sharia law, their god, their Quran, their dress code, their hatred of Christianity (and Jews)?
God’s Word to us? ‘Don’t look for the world’s respect, but never fail to give it’.
As in nature, so in the realm of the spiritual, a vacuum is an impossibility. If a nation rejects God, the consequence is not neutral, but opposite and extreme. Rejection of God produces a spiritual void into which every anti-God force conceivable will flood to seek out, to possess and to control empty hearts (Matthew 12:43-45) – and their nation. God rules by education, illumination and direction. Over centuries, the Gospel shaped Britain’s government, justice, education, prisons, social welfare, health and hygiene… and international influence. Today’s generations, ignorant of what is owed to the Christian Gospel, have rejected the Truth in favour of fashionable ‘truths’ that serve their shifting values. For two thousand years, global society has recognised only two genders – male and female. Today’s bright young things now recognise 71 gender variants. (Try using the words ‘he’ and ‘she’ in today’s campus environment). Satan rules through ignorance, darkness and confusion (2 Corinthians 4:4). Thus an evil spirituality grips the national life, manifesting in the loss of individual freedoms and accelerated imposition of restrictions on freedom of opinion, of belief, of speech and of assembly.
Those policy makers and media personalities who refuse to admit that the current wave of terror in the UK and Europe has everything to do with Islamic doctrine don’t hesitate to condemn ‘religion’ and ‘fundamentalism’ as if everyone of any faith that holds their beliefs without compromise is secretly building bombs and learning beheading techniques. This magazine is for fundamentalists – because the truth about Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is not for sale. It’s contribution to our national heritage and freedoms is ‘fundamental’. It’s non-negotiable and will outlive today’s ‘trending’ views as eternity will outlive time. The truth of the Gospel and the Scriptures belongs, in the first place, to God, not mortals. It’s not ours to trade off in a compromise with society’s fashionable make-believe.
Because I am a Christian, my spiritual brothers and sisters are former secularists (like me), former Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, even former criminals, Nazis and Communists – because Jesus transforms His disciples. They are British, Italian, Polish, Irish, Germans, French, Jewish, Arab, Asian… They are bankers, teachers, factory workers, shopkeepers, male, female, married, single, elderly, middle-aged, teens… you can’t get more ‘multicultural’ than the Body of Christ. As a Christian, I am commanded by Jesus to love my enemies, those who disagree with me, those who persecute me and yes, those who want me dead. He who died praying for mercy upon His killers would never permit His followers to kill anyone for His cause. (Matthew 26:52)
Truth is, those who tout multiculturalism at the expense of common sense and national security need to ‘get out more’. An elementary (and ‘respectful’) grasp of history wouldn’t go wrong either. In reality, today’s ‘multiculturalism’ is a huge deception. It’s not about respecting all cultures, it’s about losing their unique features and sacrificing national and racial identities – and frontiers – to achieve a ‘bland blend’ that will serve a global agenda. Some of us have been living in unprejudiced cultural harmony since before today’s trendy prophets (or Islamists) were born. We are all migrants if we look back far enough, but British doesn’t mean ‘bland’. We have never co-existed at the expense of sanity or by forgetting those who fought two world wars to protect our freedoms. I have been privileged to teach English language (and discuss scripture) with students from Spain, Japan, Germany, Bosnia, Poland, Mexico, Korea… I have shared a communal kitchen with a Muslim who became my friend. We ate each other’s cooking, talked respectfully about our beliefs to the wee hours of the morning. The Gospel is multicultural good news because “…the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.” (1 John 4:14)
‘Trust me, I’m a terrorist’
Lies abound in a godless culture. It’s a war in which the first casualty is truth. Liars are strangers to mercy. Our newspapers and electronic media routinely publish as ‘news’ what is, in reality, propaganda – more often than not Islamic propaganda intended to control western opinion against Israel. True to form, this ‘news’ is always presented as ‘the voice of the oppressed’ and western sympathies unquestioningly swallow lurid stories of ‘apartheid’ in Israel, of ‘Israeli war crimes’ against women and children in the hospitals and schools of Gaza and Lebanon, of Israeli soldiers shooting civilians – when behind these stories lies the ancient hatred of Islam for ANY Jewish presence in the Middle East. I routinely avoid all UK media reports when I need objective reporting from the Middle East. My news sources generally fear God and respect the truth or at least provide citations to support their journalism. Most westerners are unaware that the Quran permits the strategic use of deception in dialogue with the ‘infidel’ to promote the aims of Islam. To take just one of the false allegations above… It’s a strange sort of ‘apartheid’ that has Arabs serving in the Israeli parliament, on the Supreme Court, teaching at the universities, using the same buses, being treated by the same doctors in the same hospital wards… because that is normal life in Israel. No nation is a paragon of virtue, not Britain, not Israel, but the only democracy in the Middle East is not guilty of the criminal charges routinely made by terrorist propaganda.
If we Christians sympathise with the twisted journalism of anti-Semites we forget that we ‘have received mercy’. The apostles understood their responsibility under this divine generosity. They never subscribed to the ‘all you need is love’ dogma. It is unmerciful to preach God’s love without God’s truth.
Brothers and sisters we must prove to be the truest, most merciful, friends our enemies could have. When Daniel received dread news from God for Nebuchadnezzar, the prophet’s response was the height of mercy – a share in God’s own compassion even for the cruel. Babylon’s merciless army had shattered Jewish babies on rocks, ripped open pregnant women, destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and torn Daniel away from his family, his homeland, his culture – even his identity. Yet, when he had to deliver the worst of news to his king, Daniel said: “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries!” (Daniel 4:19). Can we hear Jesus saying: “love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you…”? (Matthew 5:44)
To stand in mercy is to stand with God – loving the truth and loving with the truth. In these darkening days, the word goes out to every disciple:“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”.(Luke 6:36) Dare to be a Daniel!