I have been caught in the middle of a storm of conflict over the past few weeks that came to a head last weekend. The storm is far from over, but I knew that it likely was going to have to explode out into the open as it has done. I just did not know what it would like like when it would happen, but it is necessary for the true motives and spirit of the people involved to be flushed into the open instead of remaining hidden as they have been for many years. It is necessary for this to happen because nothing can really improve until this level of honesty about both the good and the evil is reached. This time of real judgment, when the secret motives and intents of the hearts of many are exposed, is a turning point from which real growth, accountability and new life can begin to emerge if we are willing to embrace this unique opportunity.
When I opened my devotional book this morning and read the text for today, I was strongly impressed that it is vital that I keep a right spirit through all of this turmoil. It is critical that I keep close to God and maintain a view of my opponents from heaven's perspective rather than from reactionary emotions. If I allow myself to become defensive, to harbor offense or fall into the trap of an 'us verses them' mentality, I will miss precious opportunities for genuine healing and reconciliation which is what must take place for us to move forward from this point.
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:10)
As I read this verse I realized that if God did not always have a spirit of longing for reconciliation rather than self-vindication, that the whole plan of salvation would not even exist. If God was only out to prove that He was right and all His accusers were wrong, He could have ended this whole mess long ago. He could have resorted to force or arbitrary punishments to command obedience. But that would have been inconsistent with the much deeper principle of love which governs all that He represents.
But God is not just interested in restoring peace and harmony to the universe that has been ruptured and upset by all the false accusations about His character and government. He is intent on restoring peace by means of maintaining the complete integrity of the freedom that He demands must belong to each individual that He has created. He will never indulge in the tactics or principles proposed by His arch accuser, that sometimes force, intimidation, fear or revenge must be used to set things right. God never employs any of Satan's methods but is consistently relying on the original principles of His government and character to prove the point that there is nothing lacking in love as a reliable foundation for any and all circumstances or emergencies.
Based on this truth, it is important for me to constantly remember that when I face accusations just as God faces them, that relying on Him to vindicate me rather than trying to do it myself is the only right approach to resolving conflict. When I come under attack and have my reputation slandered by others and lies are flying fast and furious, there is no need to deviate from the principle of love no matter how much hatred and anger and deception is present. Love (and only love transmitted from God through me) is the only safe option for facing difficult circumstances and confusing accusations.
But something even more important is at stake here. What I am reminded of in this verse is that the reason I need to maintain a view of my enemies through the perspective of heaven is because if my motive is based on a sincere desire for true reconciliation rather than for revenge, then if and when my opponents come to repentance (which is only induced by the presence of kindness) there will be no unnecessary obstacles for them to face when they are trying to connect with me as a brother. My spirit must be completely free of all desire for retaliation or feelings of animosity so that their fears of reconciliation will be discovered to be unfounded and they can move more quickly into a bonded relationship of love and forgiveness.
One of the most amazing truths I have learned in recent years is the reality that God has never been in a state of unforgiveness toward sinners – ever. There has never been a time when He has held a grudge against us, though the language He is forced to use at times might seem to create that perception. The problem has never been that God was holding out on sinners until they sufficiently repented for Him to let go of a grudge in His heart against them; it has always been the feelings and false beliefs in the minds and hearts of us that has created the assumptions that God is holding a grudge against us.
For centuries people have assumed that God has to change His mind about us before we can be reconciled to Him. But that is one of the biggest lies that Satan has ever used to keep us from being reconciled and healed. God is not the problem to be resolved, it is our opinions about how He feels about us that has always been the problem ever since Adam and Eve hid in the bushes in terror that God was going to hurt them.
For me to be reflective of the truth about how God relates to all of us in this situation, I must keep Jesus' perspective in my heart and maintain a constant desire for real reconciliation with each person who is opposed to me right now. As I keep heaven's perspective of my opponents and only desire for them to see the truth about God, and even about my motives, then some of them at least, may eventually be won by the truth and will desire the healing and restoration that God is so longing to work in their hearts. If I am careful to not harbor any feelings of resentment for the pain they are trying to cause me now but keep the Spirit of Jesus, the spirit of reconciliation that is ever-present in the heart of God, then it can speed up the process of judgment and healing and God's reputation can be greatly enhanced. And that is what it really means to give God glory.
Following is the devotional reading that goes with this text. It is so relevant to the current circumstances that I decided to include the whole reading for today with some emphasis supplied.
I am not saved by believing; I realize I am saved by believing. It is not repentance that saves me; repentance is the sign that I realize what God has done in Christ Jesus. The danger is to put the emphasis on the effect instead of on the cause—‘It is my obedience that puts me right with God, my consecration.’ Never! I am put right with God because prior to all, Christ died. When I turn to God and by belief accept what God reveals I can accept, instantly the stupendous Atonement of Jesus Christ rushes me into a right relationship with God, and by the supernatural miracle of God’s grace I stand justified, not because I am sorry for my sin, not because I have repented, but because of what Jesus has done. The spirit of God brings it with a breaking, all-over light, and I know, though I do not know how, that I am saved.
The salvation of God does not stand on human logic, it stands on the sacrificial Death of Jesus. We can be born again because of the Atonement of Our Lord. Sinful men and women can be changed into new creatures, not by their repentance or their belief, but by the marvelous work of God in Christ Jesus which is prior to all experience. The impregnable safety of justification and sanctification is God Himself. We have not to work out these things ourselves; they have been worked out by the Atonement: The supernatural becomes natural by the miracle of God; there is the realization of what Jesus Christ has already done—“It is finished.”
What determines whether a person is drawn into this reconciliation experience or whether they fail to embrace it and refuse to repent? It is the element of resistance. When we cling to resistance from either fear or pride or false beliefs about God's attitudes toward us as sinners, we position ourselves to suffer immense pain and loss and fail to enter into that healing relationship necessary for God to use in restoring us into fellowship with both Himself and with His body of true children on earth. (see Acts 7:51)