Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
The Zenith of D’nC?
We might live in the worst of “seasons”. Well, almost.
It’s obvious that the Divide-‘n-Conquer ( D’nC) forces are as close as they’ve ever been to their dark zenith, although prophecy indicates “we ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” as the expression goes (see Book of Revelation).
But it’s clear the forces have rather successfully pitted one group against another in virtually all variations of creed and culture–including immutable characteristics such as skin color and the biological differences between males and females.
To the origin of the D’nC crowd–dating back to when, well, there was no “back”–consider the first divisive tactic (still the best psychological operation): instill doubt.
Dressed up as a snake, the prototypical perp merely suggested something was amiss in the otherwise perfection of Eden by simply posing a question: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1).
The humans took it from there.
And some have been taking whatever they can since.
So for those who like to roll in dirt and deception there’s a long history of mean, divisive and destructive business to draw from. Only historically speaking it doesn’t turn out so well for them in the end. If they get to the end.
But to today’s topic, the next in the series of getting to the big picture for believers–and everyone else who wants to fix things: how shall we now live in the battleground called Evil (some, unprecedented) versus Good?
And–here’s the take-away–by responding “in love.”
This concept is based on Ephesians 4:14-16, Paul’s teaching on unity in the Body of Christ that starts with the benefits:
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head. From Him the whole body, fitted and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love through the work of each individual part…
As to what “speaking the truth in love” means, consider this explanation from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:
The correct rendering is, being true in love; including in this the “being true” to others, by speaking truly and acting honestly towards them (as in Galatians 4:16), but including also the “being true” absolutely–that is, the loving the truth, and clinging to it at all costs. […]
This “being true” is expressed in many forms. Sometimes as “being of the truth” (John 18:37; 1John 2:21; 1John 3:19); sometimes as “abiding in the truth” (John 8:44), or “having the truth in us” (1John 1:8); sometimes as “doing the truth” (John 3:21), and “walking in the truth” (2John 1:4; 3John 1:4). In all cases it is closely connected with the idea of unity with Him who is Himself “the Truth”. (John 14:6)
Three important follow-up points:
- This kind of “speaking in love” isn’t pasting on a faux smile and hoping it will cover the disingenuous motive of a judgmental spirit. For example, “Are you sure you didn’t do anything to deserve that bruise, Hon?”
- On the other hand, speaking the truth in love, even when done with a right motive and sincere heart, isn’t always received as love. In fact, it can be fightin’ words in some minds–or just ignored.
- But you never know if you haven’t sown some seed for a calmer time–and mind–in the life of the hearer.
So what’s a believer to do to offset frustration, anger, and sense of defeat?
A TIME FOR SELF CONTROL AND DISCERNMENT
This is where the fruit of the Spirit called self control and the battleground essential called discernment are on the top of the list of items in the believer’s spiritual arsenal that have great effect.
Jesus and His Disciples and a few others in the narratives gave some advice on how to go about this (emphasis added) especially when you feel as if there is little you can do:
- “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’…” (Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 5:37). This is particularly useful when all the best reason, logic, and other effective communication go-to’s can’t compete with, say, protestors screaming bumper-sticker slogans, criminals throwing bricks and frozen water bottles, looting and burning, etc., where permitted by local, state, and national “leadership,” or even in less dangerous situations where anything you might say will only be twisted and turned against you. In other words, choose your battles carefully and respond accordingly.
- “(Put) on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything…stand” (Ephesians 6:13). In this context “doing everything” means you have prepared yourself spiritually ahead of time (see below for a link to information on the “full armor of God”). For “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:13).
- In another context, it means that after having expressed your point of view, shared the facts, and attempted at least once to engage in a reasonable conversation about the pro’s and con’s of each position, you may only be able to agree to disagree which is another form of “standing” in a non-negotiable situation. At least until a future opportunity might arise.
- It might help to keep Jesus’ conversation with the “rich young ruler” in mind (Mark 10:17-27). Here is the convo and the context: after citing his adherence to the law, the young man asked Jesus what else he needed to do to gain eternal life, and this was Jesus’ response: “Looking at him, Jesus showed love to him and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ 22 But he was deeply dismayed by these words, and he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.” My take-away is that Jesus didn’t run after him demanding he listen to a lengthy exhortation nor did Jesus become angry, even though the young man was asking the ultimate question, right? Jesus. Moved. On.
- Don your “spiritual armor” daily. See here for an excellent summary of all seven of the pieces of this armor and how to use them.
- And when at all possible try a gentle answer, as in Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath” because these days there’s all manner of wrath–in the streets, Congress, workplace, any random social gathering, in school, at home, and/or in one’s own mind and heart.
A TIME TO SHOW HIS LOVE
In Jesus’ interaction with the obviously sincere, rich young ruler, the fact that Jesus first “showed love to him” is especially useful in our very challenging, physical, mental, social, psychological, and spiritual, era. I mean, Jesus had a hard, difficult truth to impart to this near-perfect young man, but He still loved him.
The take-away here: love is not only the whole of the commandments, it is also the most potent “weapon”.
After all if evil, aka all things hate, could ever reach it’s end goal there would be nothing left. If you think about it. Evil destroys.
Something else Jesus said also comes to mind:
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16)
It might be awfully tempting to be as shrewd as armored tanks when it comes to confronting the real enemy (in human snakeskin, or as in good people whose ideologies just illustrate lack of knowledge, as in “for a lack of knowledge my people perish” as put in Hosea 4:6), but doves have their place, too. Here is a discussion on the meaning–and effectiveness–of Jesus’ metaphor.
And when the you-know-what hits the fan and those of ill or non-informed opinions can’t help but see and hear (and smell), our biggest challenge and task is to be there for information, assistance, protection, encouragement, and for explaining the reason for our hope. And, like Jesus’ interaction with the young ruler, for responding in love.
Because if not now, in “our season,” WHEN will it be of perhaps the most importance to show the love of Jesus to a dying world?
For the harvest–of increasingly fearful, confused, and searching souls–is indeed white and ready for gathering in (see John 4:35) because, historically, when evil is most virulent Christianity tends to flourish, and “it’s by the love we show they will know we’re His disciples” (see John 13:35).
For more encouragement and back up, here are several more gems:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
And, of course, what Jesus said just before He left to go home after the work of His first ministry on earth was completed:
Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
Be encouraged, emboldened, and comforted.
For, if you think about it, no coup against our real and eternal Commander in Chief has worked yet.