Feb 20, 2012

Christians Don’t Demand Blood, They Give It.

    One of the biggest challenges that the average Christian faces is to just take the words of our Lord at face value. Let’s face it. Some of the things Jesus says just sound a bit to lofty, idealistic, and unrealistic. And though we all give lip service to them, it is when the chips are down, when we are in conflict, that they suddenly lose their practicality to us. Like the command to “turn the other cheek,” that all sounds well and good until that other person has offended, us. It is then we want blood.
    The Lord’s prayer, more than just a way for addressing God, is a paradigm for Christian living. The early Church practice of praying it three times per day, essentially corresponding to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, was meant to imply that the Christian was to be nourished by the Gospel---to literally live by very word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). Central to this life paradigm is “forgive us our debts (sins) as have also forgiven our debtors (those who have sinned against us)” in Matt 6:12. But what does Jesus really mean by this, and how does this work our practically?
    First of all we might notice that it lays out an orientation toward all of life. This is presented as an ongoing process and life posture. It is not a one time thing, but the way the Christian is to live out their days on this earth. Second the posture is oriented toward correcting self, not our neighbor. And notice, it does not presume at all that our neighbor is without sin. No it actually assumes that our neighbor will often sin against us, but it assumes the same for us as well. What the Lord’s prayer is concerned with then is not whether or not we or our neighbor will sin (that is a given), but where our focus is. The Lord wants our attention squarely on our own sin, and not that of our neighbor.
    When we are in conflict with another person, our tendency is to “demand blood.” What do I mean by this? It is our standard human impulse to demand justice for the sins committed against us. The problem with it is our inherent self-righteousness. Think about it. God is a just God who promises to punish all injustice some day, and yet every day he looks at you and me and he passes over our sin. And then here we are, our neighbor does something that is usually a minor offense, and we want to exact the full blast of the law against them. That is what I mean by demanding blood.
    There are numerous ways we demand blood, even as Christians. The first is the law of retaliation, “an eye-for-an-eye.” Someone tells us off, and so we tell them right back. Someone offends us, so we seek to embarrass or wound them back. This may even be by just being cold and standoffish until they get “the hint.” This is a way of manipulating an apology out of them. Another way is gossip and slander. We run to another person and say, I need help dealing with a situation. If you are a Christian, this is disguised under the need for “prayer.” Probably the most common way we demand blood is demanding an apology. If you think about it, most conflicts with others are rooted in the desire to get them to admit they are wrong. And when someone admits they were wrong, then we will be satisfied.
    The point of the prayer to forgive others their trespasses as we ask the father forgiveness is a radical posture of grace that is in the image of the savior himself. The forgiveness of God toward us in the Gospel is because Jesus, the God man, gave blood on a tree not because he demanded it. It turns our sinful inclinations on their head. Jesus’ desire is for us as humans to be far more concerned with the evil we are committing than that being committed by our neighbor. But this takes a radical belief in the word of Christ. Are we going to treat his words as quaint ideals that are not for the “real world” or are we going to actually have the faith to take them at face value, to literally turn the other cheek in conflict, and when wronged pray for those who abuse us rather than demanding justice. Thus in conflict, no matter how wrong, dishonest, or perverse the other person is, God calls us to self-examine and repent of our own sin. So what does this really mean. It means you are going to have to face some of the most humbling situations. When you have a conflict, to live out of the Gospel, you are going to have to apologize for your sin, and yet sit there patiently when the other person lies to your face and flat denies their own sin. and then you go about your life continually praying for them and hoping God will eventually free them from their blindness to their own sin. Yes I know there is probably nothing more galling than that, but that is the radical nature of repentance and forgiveness God is calling us to in the Gospel.

Before you post that comment, give it a ponder.

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