“Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done, ON EARTH as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:9
“Jesus’ desire for His followers is that they live in such a way that they BRING HEAVEN TO EARTH. What’s disturbing is when people talk more about hell after this life than they do about hell here and now. As a Christian I want to do what I can to resist hell coming to earth. Poverty, injustice, suffering – they are all hells on earth, and as Christians we oppose them with all our energies. JESUS TOLD US TO. The goal for Jesus isn’t just to get people into heaven. THE GOAL IS ALSO TO GET HEAVEN HERE.” – Rob Bell
To be a daily follower of Christ is to push back hell in every day and every situation, and to establish little pieces of heaven there. It is a life devoted to redeeming your world for God – as we were redeemed by God, so we can redeem the world around us. But this is exactly where it becomes uncomfortably difficult…for some people just do NOT deserve to be redeemed! Or do they…?
“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.’ Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favour, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness…” – Romans 4:1-5
Israel understood God’s grace to mean their becoming His nation through His covenant with them. So it was only through God’s gracious decision that you could become part of His chosen people; but it was possible to “fall out” of the covenant through your own (sinful) actions. And so a relationship with God and the covenant came to mean following a list of rules and regulations. And with that came a different view of the world – now, I can look at my list and feel OK (even good…if humbleness wasn’t on the list), and I can look at the people around me and judge them. I can start categorising them and throwing those that don’t match up away. My own obeying of the rules, ticking off of items on the list, becoming more important than people and their circumstances. And this was how it had always been understood, accepted and practised. If we are totally honest with ourselves, in a certain sense it still is today. And now Paul throws a spanner in the works – Abraham, the founding father of all the nations, was redeemed BECAUSE OF HIS FAITH! So it was never about weighing in with merit/“justice”, or developing and possessing “righteousness”, it was always about GRACE!
“For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation. For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, (as it is written: ‘A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU’) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.” – Romans 4:13-17
It isn’t about Abraham…or any other religious heavy you can think of…it is about GOD! Yes, Abraham believed – he believed in a God who is always faithful, he believed in this God’s ability to do what He promised to…even if that meant “cooking the book” of Abraham’s life a little to make the sum balance…A point perfectly made by the life and death of Jesus Christ, a death He chose to redeem us all while we were still so very ignorant and undeserving. And so our judgments of “good” and “bad”, “justice” and “injustice”, “faithful” and “unfaithful” crumble to the ground…for we were once those people that we love to judge (and even condemn) now…the only difference is our encounter with the grace of God. It can never be about how good we are and how great our reward will be, for we were just as knee-deep in the sludge of life as everyone else – it can ALWAYS AND ONLY BE ABOUT HOW GOOD AND GRACIOUS GOD IS. We were lucky and blessed – very very lucky, and very very blessed. And WE CANNOT BUT SHARE this beautiful secret with the whole world! Even with those we don’t think deserve it…how does this look in practice?
Charles Carl Roberts IV (December 7, 1973 – October 2, 2006) was an American milk truck driver who murdered five Amish girls and injured five others before killing himself in an Amish school in the hamlet of Nickel Mines, in Bart Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on October 2, 2006. A story that will forever remain tragic and senseless on so many levels. So what could this possibly teach us about being followers? About grace? It becomes clear when we see the newspaper reports of the days following the terrible event: “According to reports by counselors, the Amish family members grappled with a number of questions: ‘Do we send our kids to school tomorrow? What if they want to sleep in our beds tonight, is that okay?’ But one question they asked might surprise us outsiders. ‘What’, they wondered, ‘can we do to help the family of the shooter?'”… “The night of the killings, the Amish visited Charles Carl Robert’s wife and three kids and reached out to them. They attended his funeral. They set up a fund to pay for his kids’ schooling, and they asked the family to stay in the community because they have many friends here who will be there for them.” … “The Amish, it seems, don’t automatically translate their grieving into revenge. Rather, they believe in redemption.”
Does this mean that we all have to become Amish? No. But the example they set in these circumstances is an example of what it means to push back hell in the world and allow redemption and heaven to pour in. And to follow is freely give the redemption and the heavenly that we have so freely received, in every aspect of our lives and under all circumstances! May God grant us the grace and mercy needed.