I don’t think people realize that when I go to write a post I don’t always have the knowledge beforehand. It’s true that my older posts are about thoughts I’ve held or things I’ve experienced, but these new posts have been a source of discovery. So it was as I was writing What Christ Won for Himself at Golgotha part one. That was not the post I meant to write. I’ve read Job before and the most I ever got out of it was after everything was said and done Job no longer had the fear, although I never understood why. Then on Sunday when I was summarizing Who’s Offense and Who’s Defense in Spiritual Warfare in the This Week post the Holy Spirit had me substitute “through the suffering servant” for “not sinning.” “Not sinning” is accurate, but it’s just one part–a big part, but still a part–of the dynamics involved. The rest I didn’t truly understand until writing part one of What Christ Won . . . . Reflecting on that post over the last few days has led to some revelations on my part.
In my old understanding Christ as the suffering servant made sense: He came to serve and He suffered unjustly, like Job. Christ paying for our sins made sense. He died for our sins. But it wasn’t until the Holy Spirit put it all together for me in that post that it truly came together. In the Garden of Gethsemane the apostles fleeing–leaving Christ alone– represents how Lord Jesus stands in the breach for us. We get to go free while He faced the wrath that, without grace, would have fell on us. Now I know why there were no Christians in Jerusalem when it was sacked. Christ had warned them when to get out. That was the coming wrath that Christ said they would see in their lifetime. Now I get what Christ meant when He said when you see these signs don’t stop to pack a bag, just go. There’s some serious stuff going to come down and, because of Christ’s sacrifice it’s no longer meant for us.
Now is there going to be persecution against Christians? Yes, pick up your cross and follow me. Help Christ hold that breach, giving others time to come in and time to grow in grace. Holding until reinforcements come. We help Him hold it knowing that what we experience is a tiny fraction compared to what the world is going to experience. It really makes you rethink history. We also know that there is great grace merited. What 100 (figurative number) men could normally accomplish can be done by one persecuted person fighting the good fight, most especially when they are doing it at God’s direction. Just look at how much God accomplished through Christ’s sacrifice. This is one reason why in the OT/Hebrew Scriptures you see God whittling down the numbers that actually do end up engaging in battle. That and so people will know that it is God behind them which glorifies God.
We do all of this knowing that not all battles take the same form. Christ was victorious over every power that came against Him and not once did He raise His hand against any of them. They, however, all raised their hands against them and they did it through abuse of their power and authority. They sealed their fates when they killed Him. Unlike a military campaign between armies, where the advantage goes to the side that kills more of the other side, the war between powers and principalities is won by who can hold out the longest without sinning. Once they killed Christ they fixed the outcome. He had no more opportunity to sin here on earth. Game over. He remains sinless because the battle was fought out here on earth. Once He died that battle was over. All that is left after that is to help Christ hold the line giving the necessary time to gather everyone in. This includes giving those who were enemies of Christ time to repent.
The main battle is to not give into temptation and abuse/neglect your power and authority. Whether living in comfort or under persecution the toughest fight is remaining vigilant and dutiful. Dereliction of duty is probably the number one temptation for those living in comfort. When nothing seems pressing or on the line it’s pretty easy to get sidetracked and set aside our responsibilities. Whether that simply be daily prayer, weekly mass, spending time with family, donating our time/expertise, and/or civic duties, etc. Could you just imagine the change that would take place if all Christians just exchanged one distraction/amusement for one responsibility? The funny thing about this one is that we’d all probably enjoy our lives more if we spent more time on things that matter.The seriousness of sin is restored. This is something that is desperately needed in our own time when so many seem to believe that there is no sin. I love that people aren’t terrified of Lord Jesus and that God made Him so accessible . It gives those who feel/are unloved someone who loves them. It gives those that who are truly repentant for their past sins the forgiveness and confidence they need to move past them. But if we don’t put Christ’s sacrifice in perspective of holding back God’s wrath, then sin is diminished.
Minimizing sin minimizes Christ’s sacrifice, God’s mercy and His great love for us. If there is no sin, then what do you need Christ for? For who need sacrifice their life for a righteous man? If there is no sin, then God becomes simply a big meanie keeping people from enjoying themselves rather than a God who loves us so much He sacrificed His only begotten Son to be a covering from His great wrath. If there is no sin, then Lord Jesus, rather than someone crazy in love with us, just becomes a really nice guy along the lines of Ghandi.
Evangelizing also decreases when sin is diminished. It’s pretty hard to get enthusiastic about evangelizing when there doesn’t seem to be any consequences to being a sinner. Once you can see what is in store for them in this life to come and after death, then evangelizing becomes a great deal more important.Down is not out. Things looked bad for Job and really bad for Christ. You don’t get much more down than dead. Yet, not only did God bring them out of their situation, but they were better off than they were before. So things can look pretty grim, but, with God at the helm, and people turning to God to ask for that help, situations can turn around in an instant.Suffering has been redeemed. It’s no longer some senseless experience that has no outlet. God, who works all things to the good for those that love Him, has provided an outlet for our suffering. As Christians we are sharers in Christ’s sufferings: our sufferings are united with Christ’s. They have similar redemptive value as Christ’s. What this means is that we no longer have to hang on to those hurts and limp through life with them. It’s not all for nought. We can let all of that pain go by offering it up to God for the good of those we love and for the Church we love.
This is not just for individuals, but for other bodies who have a shared history of pain and suffering. This would include families, communities, races, and nations. Coming together to let it all go by offering it up, so God can redeem it, can help them move on. Don’t let the acts of hateful and/or careless people take away the life God always meant for you to have.
The forgiveness of sins was offered to the world, but it is mainly for the Church. That’s who Christ laid down His life for: His friends. Now the Church was tiny at that time and Christ had many friends still out in the world and still to come. No Church no place for them to come into, so it’s imperative that the Church not fail and it’s failing badly. When that happens more persecution against the Church is going to occur because we’re failing to help Christ hold the breach. We’re a partner with Christ in this. We have responsibilities, too
So what do I do? Every morning I offer up my day to God. I started out with conversion of sinners, but since learning all of this I now offer up my day to shore up the Church. Throughout the day whenever I get any type of pain I take a second a offer it up. Even though the pain and suffering was not a direct result of persecution I still offer it up because the death and decay that we all experience is a result of original and communal sin and we all suffer for it. The same could be said for anything that breaks on us that causes frustration or makes the day harder, social interactions that didn’t go so well that day, a pain caused by a family member or friend whose undergoing some trials or left the flock, and pain caused by the state of the world or your situation. In other words, anything that is a result of ungodliness–and any type of breakdown is a result of ungodliness–that causes you pain and suffering qualifies, whether it be emotional, mental, or physical.
This is not to say we just have to sit around and take all of this without trying to change it. That would be a dereliction of duty. We are supposed to be acting to change the world to a more godly one. In the meantime, help hold the breach by offering it up.
We can also offer up thanksgiving when things go right. That’s a true blessing from God. It gives us hope and shows us how God meant things to be. He should be thanked for it. We’re way too negligent of God in our everyday lives when we make it all about man and forget at the core of everything is God’s purpose for the existence of the heavens, earth, and man. God is doing a great work and He has done all of this for that purpose. We need to remember this, so we don’t get sucked into the world’s vision of what life on earth is really about.It’s just as imperative that we, like Christ, do not fall into temptation. When we fail the impact may not be so catastrophic, on a cosmic scale, as it would have been if Christ failed, but it can still have catastrophic consequences. For example, this article highlights how young Christian women base their decision to have an abortion on the fact that God will forgive them later. This has catastrophic consequences for the unborn child, supports the idea that abortion is an valid option, keeps the abortion mills in business which leads to catastrophic consequences for other unborn children , and allows the sale of baby body parts to continue, etc. All of that because of a single failing made by one person. When this same decision is multiplied over and over again the results can become catastrophic on a worldwide scale.
One thing I hear a lot from people is how everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn’t I? I don’t know when we all decided to settle on the lowest common denominator, but that is not an imitation of Christ. It’s the exact opposite of what Christ was aiming for: excellence or perfection. God’s grace and mercy was meant as impetus to help us overcome our sins. In no shape or fashion should it ever be construed as a reason to sin. That defeats the very purpose of His sacrifice. Christ’s sacrifice was meant as a covering, not a cover up.
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. Luke 23:34
Christ is a covering for us because we come into the Church from a world which teaches us things that contradictory to God’s will for us. While God does much for us when initially called we still have much farther to go. In a nutshell, we don’t always know better. It’s going to take time, study, diligence, grace, and mercy to get us to the point where we need to be. That’s what the Holy Spirit and the Church are for. That’s why Christ sent the Holy Spirit and why He set up the Church, so that people would have a place to gather and could find the resources and sacraments they needed in order to restore their relationship with God and join together under the covering of Christ to help bring about God’s great work.
May we all come to experience the love of Christ! God bless!