Overcoming Evil with Good

grace treeThis Sunday at our guest service I am going to speak on Jesus’ teaching that has the most potential to change your life and to change the world. Quite simply Jesus is going to introduce a way of living that can stop the cycle of revenge, bitterness and hatred in the world today!

In the Old Testament and in many codes of law we find the idea of just retribution – that is, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. In itself this law has a way of civilising the society we live in. Rather than you hurt my feelings, I wipe out your village… we are told to seek a proportional justice in the light of wrongdoing.

Jesus introduces something different and when put into practice it changes the world.

Matthew 5:38-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

This is grace. It has the power to stop the cycle of wrongdoing. What Jesus is saying is don’t surrender the initiative but take on evil with good. In doing so you confound your enemy, transform the situation and let the higher values of love and grace control the situation. It is brilliant stuff. And of course it is the life of Jesus himself who although having the power to destroy his enemies, submits to their wrong, offering forgiveness and ultimately defeats evil.

More on Sunday… 3 levels of human life… evil for good… evil for evil and good for good… or good for evil. Only one way changes the world!

Lance Armstrong, Sin and Starting Again

ImageWho would want to be Lance Armstrong right now? The seven time champion of the Tour de France cycling race has found his life in tatters after revelations of systematic drug cheating surfaced. For someone with so much, it has all now come crashing down. Last week he begun the work of redemption by confessing all to Oprah on primetime TV. For many, it is too little too late.

Last Sunday we looked at church at Hebrews 12:1-3 that encourages us with so many heroes in the faith (admittedly many of them sinful men and women), to run our race with perseverance, throw off the sin the entangles and to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. I couldn’t help but thing of Lance Armstrong while reflecting on this passage. 

The writer of Hebrews calls us to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us. It is interesting that sin is called the thing that stops us from living out our faith, our dreams and our calling. It is sin that catches up with us after having done a great job of entangling our life in a mess. I reckon Lance Armstrong must be feeling this right now.

The thing about sin is that it hinders the full life that we were created to have. It is often a short term fix for a longer term need – and it usually catches up with us causing pain for both us and those around us. All of know the painful sting of the wrong things we do coming back to haunt us. So we need to hate the sin in our lives – seeing it as the poison that holds us back from health. Note here that we aren’t to hate ourselves but to hate the sin and get rid of it. Whether it is lust, unfaithfulness, greed, cheating, selfishness… hate it enough to renounce it and ask God to give you new life.

Of course the thing that makes this possible is when we instead turn our gaze away from ourselves towards Jesus. We are called to fix our eyes on Jesus who is the author of our faith and one bringing us to perfection. I bet Lance Armstrong would now rather have come 2nd of tried to win honestly in the Tour de France. But at the time I bet the pressure to cheat would have been huge – particularly if lots of others were too. Our own ability to do good feels limited in the face of temptation… but if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, it makes all the difference.

The outworking of the Gospel is the possibilities of new life that we have if we keep our gaze fixed on Jesus. Indeed with his Spirit at work in us we are told that all kinds of new fruits emerge… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, self control and so on… These are the things that lead to a full life. The result of our repentance and turning to Jesus is forgiveness and a new master – one who leads us on a better path!

I feel for Lance Armstrong because all of us are prone to sin, to cheat, and to get caught up in our own mess. The writer to Hebrews though is clear… get rid of the sin, fix your eyes on Jesus and then begin this remarkable new adventure of faith – the best race that could ever be marked out before us.

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