The gospel has been misinterpreted and abused throughout history. Paul talked about those who would make the gospel a source of wealth in his letter to the Philippians. It’s been used to separate people by skin color, economic status, and even the state of their health. People have used the gospel to make them think that they’re better than others because they have the right color skin, for example. It’s been used to justify monarchies and the decisions of kings, specific political positions and even the horrendous slavery we had in America. Often, just when we think we’ve (spiritually) torn down those strongholds, they rise again.
It might be a march of those whose common goal is hatred of another group. It might be an action designed to incite people of that hated group to respond, leading them to justify their hatred. The law may come in and deal with those instances, but the trouble keeps brewing under the surface, only to re-emerge with its brew of hatred and discouragement. Many then question the validity of the gospel with words like “If that’s what the God they serve does, I want no part of it.” I think Paul had some great words for those of us who are truly seeking God as he finished his letter to the Corinthians. “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)
The message of the gospel begins with joy. The Corinthians were a messed-up church. They did a lot of things wrong. Paul’s message to them still included the command to rejoice. As followers of Christ, no matter what the circumstances may be, we can and must rejoice in the goodness of God.
We are to strive for full restoration. I believe that this is a two-pronged call. We are first called to strive for restoration with God. Our relationship with God is restored through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God reminds us that He provided the path for and did the work of restoration with Him. We can be fully restored in our relationship with Him because of what Jesus did on the cross, not our own works. At the same time, we are called to be fully restored with each other – first in the Church and then with all people. John asked if you can’t love the brother whom you can see, how can you love a God that you can’t see? Full restoration comes when we recognize our standing with God and realize that just as He forgave us, we should forgive others. The Bible says that God created man (meaning men and women) in His own image. It doesn’t say the white man; it doesn’t say the black man; it doesn’t say the Christian man; it doesn’t say the Jewish man. I read recently that God allows us to hate anyone who isn’t created in His image. That means, there is no room for hatred in God’s eyes. While laws may be used to stop acts of hatred, the only permanent solution is for people’s hearts to change through Jesus.
We are to encourage one another, in a lifestyle dominated by the gospel. Life can be discouraging enough, especially when acts of hatred rear their ugly heads. Lift each other up. Support each other. Be united in mind when it comes to our goals. Yes, we have differences on some issues, but we should be united in the belief that Jesus is the hope for ALL people. Yes, even THAT one that you’re thinking about now. We are to live at peace with others. Peace is not just the absence of conflict, it’s the presence of harmony. We are reminded that God is a God of peace and of love. If that’s true, our call is to share God’s peace and love for all people, with all people.
Oh Lord, we see hatred rearing its ugly head in the world again. We are troubled by the rumors of impending war. Touch our hearts to spread Your love to all people. Touch the hearts of world leaders to seek peace. Touch the hearts of those who would sow hatred that they might understand Your great love and forgiveness.