"In Other Words" Tuesday
What does this mean?
Surely no one reading this, at least no one who has been a Christian for any length of time, can say that they have lived a charmed life since coming to Christ. We know that no verse is a magic wand that we can wave over our lives and guarantee ourselves a walk down Easy Street. We've hobbled along life's hot asphalt long enough, and gotten enough blisters, to know better.
And yet, this is the Word of God! And not one jot or tittle of it will pass away until all is fulfilled (Matt. 5:18). His word is like silver tried in a furnace, purified seven times (Psa. 12:6).
Maybe we just have to live a holy enough life to make this verse work for us. Maybe our problems are all because of our sins. That's what the modern-day "Prosperity Gospel" would have us believe. You're supposed to lie on a bed of roses, and if that isn't happening to you, it must be because you don't have enough faith. (Prove your faith by sending that preacher money, and you'll be blessed for sure!) Surely, according to this kind of teaching, the more you see of holiness in a person's life, the more they'll be rolling in money, health, and comfort.
Well, let's put that theory to the test in the crucible of Scripture. Today's passage is quoted twice in the New Testament, once in Matthew and once in Luke. Both were re-tellings of the same incident. Do you remember what it was?
It was Satan's temptation of Christ (See Matt. 4:5-6). Satan wanted Christ to claim this promise selfishly, to use it for His own purposes instead of remaining in submission to the Father.
He was the holy Son of God, in whom was no sin (1 Peter 2:22). Was His life a bed of roses?
He bore the lifelong stigma of illegitimacy. His family was obscure and poor. He had to work by the sweat of his brow for the bread that he ate. For the three years of His active ministry he did not have a home of his own. He had no riches. He went about doing good, healing and forgiving and saving and even raising the dead. He received accolades from some, but endless persecution, ridicule, slander, and blasphemy from others. Eventually He was arrested on trumped-up charges, condemned by an unjust court, beaten and scourged within an inch of his life, and crucified.
Did evil befall Him?
Can we say it was because He lacked faith?
Some would say that He suffered so that we would never have to suffer. But is that what Jesus said?
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake." (Mat 24:9) Please also read Matt. 10:22-25.
And what was the experience of His disciples? Every one was persecuted, beaten, imprisoned. All but one were martyred, and the other one died in exile.
The apostle Paul said that through Christ he had the power to (among other things) be abased, to be hungry, and to suffer need (Php. 4:12-13). Please also see Col. 1:24 and 2Tim. 3:12.
One has only to read "Foxe's Book of Martyrs," or tune in to "Voice of the Martyrs" to see that persecution and suffering have been the norm for Christians throughout the ages. Our few centuries of religious freedom in America and other Westernized countries is an anomaly, one that's not likely to last much longer.
Where is Psalm 91 in all of this? What happened to "No evil shall befall you?"
Perhaps it would help if we understood God's perspective of evil a bit better. Morrison (1866-1928) gives us some help here. He doesn't actually address evil here, but rather death itself. Yet his insights are very helpful. He says in his comments on Mark 5:39:
For Christ spiritual death was more real than physical death. Hence the latter he called sleep. [Mere physical death] was life, though it was life asleep, in the mighty arms of the eternal God, and death was something more terrible than that. The maiden is not dead, but sleepeth; but— this my son was dead and is alive again (Luke 15:24). The maiden is not dead, but sleepeth; but— let the dead bury their dead (Matt 8:22). The maiden is not dead, but sleepeth; but— he who believeth upon Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live (John 11:25). Christ did not find the dead in Jairus' house, nor in any sepulchre among the Galilean hills. He saw the dead where men and women were...who have a name to live and yet are dead."
Could it be that, just as God's perspective on death is different from ours, so is His perspective on evil?
How could that not be the case? After all, He has promised us that all things work together for the good of His people (Rom. 8:28), and that we are conquerors...not in the sense that we avoid suffering, but rather that we are conquerors over all that we suffer (Rom. 8:35-37).
Self-centeredness hates that idea.
Love embraces it.
"Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings" (1 Pet. 4:13).
"Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all." (Php. 2:17)
When we stand before Him in Glory, basking in the joy of all his perfections, finally understanding all of the "whys" of our lives, we will rejoice in the fact that, no matter what we suffered on earth, truly no evil has befallen us.
Today's "In Other Words" is being hosted over at Writing Canvas. Be sure to drop by there for links to more insights on this passage.