A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find another day here.
Monday June 1, 2020
1 John 4:13-16
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
The world is broken. If that was ever a controversial statement, the last 3 months have put all counterarguments to rest. While the end of the world as we know it appears be nothing more than an inevitable foregone conclusion, for me, honestly, remarkably little has changed in my own miniature state-initiated and now self-extended quarantine bubble, and it is incredibly tempting to just not watch or read any news coming from beyond the perimeter. It would be far easier, and much more comfortable, to live in blissful ignorance, shutting out the noise of the outside world. At the Kish abode we have celebrated birthdays, enjoyed extra family time, and taken advantage of the most beautiful spring-time weather I have known since moving to Alabama. But even the happiest times and the best of days have been mixed with anxiety, sadness, concern, anger, and despair when I dare to peek over the safety of my barrier. The inescapable reality is that we are simultaneously in the quintessential Dickensian “best of times” and “worst of times.” To even the most insulated denier or staunch skeptic it is eminently clear that the world needs a savior.
The early Christian church knew these same mixed emotions as well. Technically the church began during the period of time known by historians as the Pax Romana, two centuries of Roman history marked by relative peace and stability, but existence was not always so pleasant for those who followed Jesus. For some, Rome was the pinnacle of human achievement. Whether through persecution at the hands of jealous Jewish temple leaders, rampant societal moral decay fueled by adherents of cult religions, oppressive government policies enforced by an overly eager militant police state, and even internal division and strife, the first Christians found themselves in the unenviable position of experiencing fierce opposition on every side. In light of all of this, we could forgive them for circling the wagons and attempting to create their own separate society removed from the chaos of the secular world. But that is not at all what happened. In fact, the first Christians were known for their engagement in the world, not their removal from it. The church believed that in Jesus they had an answer to all of the problems of the world. Their hope was not based on a pie-in-the-sky optimism or half-baked theology like we might encounter in the prosperity “gospel,” but on their own personal experience of transformation.
As John writes here in verse 14, “we have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” The testimony of the first followers of Jesus was through word and action. The appeal of the early church was its undeniable demonstrations of the love of Jesus for all people. Christians were known for their compassion for the poor and the sick, notoriously running into cities to care for those stricken with the plague when others were running away. As seen in the second century writings of Tertullian, Christians publicly advocated against the brutality of the popular gladiator games. According to historian and sociologist Rodney Stark the church “condemned both the cruelties and the spectators” of the violent sport because they recognized and valued the image of God in every human being. The New Testament repeatedly declares that all are welcome and equal within the fellowship of the Spirit of Christ: Jew and Greek; slave and free, male and female, circumcised and uncircumcised; barbarian and Scythian. The love of Jesus supersedes all races, classes, creeds, and barriers.
The world needs a savior, and it has the perfect one in Jesus. The message of salvation through Jesus is the same for every nation and every culture in every time. God has sent His Son, so that all who confess and believe in His name will find the life and love that they so desperately need. When we know and believe the love of God as revealed in Jesus, we are promised that He will give us His Spirit. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, and as 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us “God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Followers of Jesus must not run from the brokenness of the world, but prayerfully and compassionately enter through the power of the Spirit, bringing light to the darkness, for God abides in them.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, forgive us for the times we have retreated from the brokenness of the world. Forgive us for being silent when we should speak and standing still when we should act. Break our hearts for the brokenness of our world and help us to be witnesses testifying to the truth and hope that we have found in You. You are the Savior, there is no other. We repent and ask that You would do Your reconciling work within our hearts and empower us to be Your agents of hope and change for our hopeless world. In Your Saving name we pray, Amen.