I don’t have to agree with you or be like you to show God’s love to you.
As I compose this post, the horrific events of the domestic terror attack in Orlando are not even a week old. As a nation wraps its head around an event of this magnitude, Christians are faced with decisions as they interact with a world hostile to our perspective.
The tension has always been showing God’s love in situations where great sin is rampant. When immorality is the new normal, God’s people struggle to find the balance between showing love with open arms and keeping the message of Scripture clear.
Some Christians take a hardline approach and speak virtually nothing but condemnation. Some Christians take a liberal approach and just rewrite the Bible to remove the issue. Others just clam up and never say the truth even though they know it. For Christians, there’s a real tension here.
Yet, over all the tension is the reality of being God’s ambassador in all situations. Not an easy task, but it is the one we’re called to at this point in history.
Fortunately, God’s people have always had this tension in their cultures—especially Christians in the New Testament. God’s people have always been strangers in this world. And we can find a lot of direction by watching how they handled it and applying that to our lives.
Last week, we talked about being a witness where go. Two weeks ago, we discussed being an ambassador for Jesus where we live. As we keep moving through the final part of Acts 1:6-8, let’s see it in context.
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Today, we talk about being a witness in Samaria. Not literally of course…unless you’re reading this while living in modern Israel.
Samaria had a real bad rap in Jesus’ day and it represented many different things to the Apostles and all Jewish people of His day. For one, it represented God’s punishment to the northern kingdom of Israel when it’s capital city, Samaria, fell to the Assyrian king, Sargon II, in 722 B.C. The northern kingdom of Israel became known to the southern kingdom of Judah (the descendants of King David) as “the ten lost tribes”.
Having become so secular and pagan, God punished these ten tribes with the fall of the kingdom (Israel, whose capital city was Samaria). In the loss of their identity as the people of God, they married Assyrian men and women and the resulting people group became known as Samaritans.
Rest assured, there was no “love lost” between the Jews and the Samaritans of Jesus’ day. The Samaritans represented everything the rebuilt nation of Israel (cf. the books of Ezra and Nehemiah) wanted to avoid. This desire for separation led to avoidance, disdain, prejudice, and basically…hatred.
Samaria, therefore, represented two concepts to the Apostles:
- The rest of the nation of Israel (the “lost ten tribes”)
- The people they didn’t want to spread the Gospel to.
You’re gonna want to read number two again.
We would be lying to ourselves if we acted like we didn’t have “Samarias” in our lives. We do. We have places we don’t want to go with the Gospel and these places are really about the people.
For some, your Samaria is people in prison. For others, your Samaria is homeless people or people who drink too much, swear too much, or play their music too loudly. For others…it is like the Samaritans of Jesus’ day—it’s a certain group of people of a certain culture or lifestyle.
They need the Gospel too and Jesus tells us to go exactly to the very place we don’t want to go. Surrendering to the will of God in our lives means surrendering to His direction—even to the “dark places” where we fear to go.
But as children of light, we are not called to hold on to our lives with its associated status and position. Jesus said (John 12:25-26), “Anyone who loves his life will lose it, while anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
Yes, Christians, we are called to be witnesses (not just warm bodies) for Jesus where we don’t want to go.
Here’s an idea for making this happen–I know it’s difficult.
Perhaps you could write a prayer of surrender to God where you express (specifically) this desire to not go to a certain place or people. Then you can ask the Lord’s help in loving them like He loves them and you. Pray this prayer several days in a row—I’d say at least seven.
Let’s watch the Lord soften our hearts towards the “Samaritans” in our lives as we seek to demonstrate His love in ways peppering their lives with the Good News of hope found only in Jesus.