Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I made you hungry in order that you may learn.... love and forgive.

I am musing on Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. What are the nature of the tests we receive?

In the first two tests Satan introduces them with the words: "If you are the Son of God..." Part of Satan's trick is for Jesus to prove Himself, or defend Himself. Why would Jesus need to defend Himself in front of Satan? Jesus knows who He is.

Jesus' answer for the first test, to turn the stones into bread, comes from Deuteronomy 8:3. "I humbled you... ...I made you hungry... ...mankind lives by God's Word."

God tested the Israelites. First He humbled them. Second, God made them hungry.

Perhaps one of the first things that must go, if we are to overcome a test is our pride. We will not pass if we are not willing to let go of our pride. Do we need to be proven right in the eyes of man? Or in the eyes of God?

But also, God made them hungry. At the time, they were really hungry. They were three days without food. The people were wondering if this plan to escape slavery into the desert was a good idea. They complained against God and Moses.

But, they really were hungry.  Their complaint was legitimate. They had a real grievance.

The point? A test is not a test unless it is real. A soldier who is learning to craw on his belly and accurately return fire is not going to develop the discipline to do that unless the training involves live fire. This was said of the Emperor Tiberius when he was general over his troops: "His drills are bloodless battles and his battles are bloody drills."

So what about the test of loving one another? Loving one another above anything we say, above any creed we confess, above any doctrine we espouse, above any spiritual gift we manifest, above any singular -or lifetime of- religious activity is the only legitimate proof of our Christian faith. (Also 1 John 4:7-21)

Right now, there is a real test going on as to the discipline of loving one another, both here on my blog -as we discuss church politics- and also on my listserve -as we discuss evangelism in post-modernity and modernity. Just as God made the Israelites hungry in the wilderness, God has placed us in positions where we feel that we feel we have been legitimately wronged.

It is a test. And just like Jesus in the wilderness and the Israelites in the desert, we need humility first, and then obedience:

I am a sinner who still needs a Saviour. I want to be forgiven by God. And, in order to do that, I must forgive. Without condition. I do forgive. "Lord Jesus, for my part, do not hold anyone guilty on my behalf. Love and forgive them, I pray, just as You love and forgive me."

Some suggested that I go to people that I have forgiven and tell them that I forgive them. I believe that action would be an insult to them. Forgiveness of others is a transaction between God and me, not them and me. All I can do is ask for forgiveness.  For my part, please forgive if I have harmed you. What people do with that request is also a transaction between God and them.

"I thank you Lord God that you made me to be offended in order to give me the chance to forgive and prove that we live by Your Word above anything else. May the name of the Lord be praised forever."

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