Challenge Central: a CBC devotional
by: Pastor Lars Janssen
At Central, we want to become more like Jesus in everything we do. We want to do this so much that every member has signed a church covenant agreeing to pursue this aim together. In the second-last paragraph of our church covenant, we agreed “to aid one another in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offence, but always ready for reconciliation.”
This means that the words “vaccine” or “anti-vaccine” will not result in irreparable damage among us. Why does it mean this? Because our aim is not to prove ourselves right but to help each other when we’re sick and distressed. Our aim is not to prove others wrong but to care about the “other” by showing sympathy and respect. Our response to hostility is to purposefully not take offence and, instead, maintain an eager readiness to be reconciled in every circumstance.
Peter, the hot-head-Apostle, pours out the grace we need to live this way in the words of 1 Peter 3:8-12 (in verses 10-12 Peter is quoting Psalm 34:12-16) :
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
The man who wrote these words is the same Peter who, in one night, told Jesus he’d never abandon him (Mark 14:29), attacked a mob without backup to defend Jesus (Mark 14:47), and then turned his back on Jesus while cursing and swearing (Mark 14:71). Even re-reading that last sentence right now, I’m offended at Peter’s hostility and inconsistency, but I thank God for him. If Peter were here now I imagine he’d have some strong opinions about the words “vaccine” and “anti-vaccine.” I imagine he wouldn’t always share them gently. But his conscience would also be pricked by his own words about sympathy, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
Sympathy with the “other person” is not easily mustered, but “to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” Regardless of our individual preferences at Central, we want to “seek peace and pursue it” because “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
We are called to the humanly impossible. By the grace of God, we are called to repay evil and reviling with blessing. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are called “to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech.”
Pray with me, my friends:
May the grace of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ lead us into sympathetic and loving unity though the world around us teems with hostility and evil.