1 John 4:11
Thursday, March 6, 2014
How Heaven’s standard for relationships can be brought to earth
Extract from the Magistrates Court Sentencing Guidelines setting out for ‘offenders’ precise penalties for each level of an offence. Heaven’s way would be attentive to what lay behind the transgression, and the driver’s responsibility in recognising it, and changing.
PROTECT the rules of life, including Christian life or guard the relationship with the One who gives us life? That is the challenge we have been considering this week.
A life lived by rules must include punishment if we break them. And what punishment looks like, most often, is withholding love.
Clearly God’s way for us is not going to withhold love – and as a consquence it is going to be countercultural to the whole of society as we and our friends know it. So how do we lead in this? This is a question for all of us who have a part in leading a church or a ministry organisation. Many of us have leading roles in other areas of life. And we are all called to give our own lead in demonstrating God’s values to those around us.
Here are three ways we, as Spirit-filled Christians, are enabled to live life differently – repentance, restoration and roles in the five ministry giftings.
No one outside the church has much idea what this is about, but it sounds grim to them. They would say, “If I repent, that means I am giving you the right to punish me.” That’s like pleading guilty in court in the hope of a lighter sentence. The word used in court would be ‘showing remorse’ but repentance is different, and it doesn’t work in a system geared up to meting out ‘justice’ based on penalties that satisfy rule-abiding society.
True repentance is a gift, not a duty, and it requires a relationship with God of some kind for it to happen. The change of heart expressed within that relationship releases the grace of God to help change what needs to change. I have friends who are magistrates who would love to be able to do this (that’s probably why they became magistrates) but the thick ring binder issued to every JP which governs every decision of the bench doesn’t work that way – it sets out the appropriate penalty for every conceivable instance of crime. Instead they have to be creative in making referrals, but who do you refer a sex worker or a drug addict or a person with an anger problem to, to help them and empower them to change? This highlights how we have what the world doesn’t have – when we exercise it.
We mess up – it’s part of being human. Hopefully most of our mistakes do not affect others and we can learn and move on. Some, however, have implications. People in ministry need to model right living, and insecurities set them up for temptation and failure. Do we attempt to restore people who have fallen? Or do we leave them to try to find their way back somewhere else which doesn’t ask too many questions – probably with the root cause unaddressed.
Jesus has been made the propitiation for our sin. To propitiate means to win or regain favour. That sounds a lot like restoration in a heavenly context.
In 1 John 4:11 we read:
If God so loved us, we ought to love one another.
On one level, that is a “try harder, ought to do it” teaching. We can all cane ourselves with that. But if “God so loved us” in the sense of being willing to protect His relationship with us, then “we ought to love one another” is showing us how to guard the relationship (and the relationship with God ultimately) in the same way that He does for us.
This is the standard of heaven’s government – for us to cultivate and protect our relationship with God, with love and with each other.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the way the five ministry gifts of leadership interact to make this possible. Jesus has given us a key to go beyond the restrictions of earthly government.