the spice box “The way it is”
By Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel
It was God’s plan from the beginning: the coming of Christ was to be a blessing to all people. Whether or not all believe in Christ is not the issue: Jesus came to make salvation available to all. Even those who do not believe in him, those who have consciously, vocally and publicly (sometimes at the top of their lungs in the most public forum available) rejected him have been blessed through his coming.
The Spirit of God working in the hearts of his servants has spread the message of Christ throughout the world, and concurrent with the dissemination of that message faithful Christian disciples—through their practical living out of the tenets of the gospel—have taught that life can be better. They have demonstrated that better education, better training, a better understanding of nutrition and health habits, greater availability of medical aid, and a growing mutual respect among its members can lead to a healthy, productive community. The “fallout” of blessing pending from the coming of Jesus is incalculable, and undeniable.
That is not to say that mistakes have not been made. With the best intentions in the world, there have been times when the clear, pure message of the gospel has been obscured, pushed into the shadows by religious tradition and ritual, or by what is or is not socially acceptable among our own contemporaries.
History reminds us that even the best of us have tried to impose our own societal mores on those we have considered less “enlightened” than ourselves, as though those societal mores have the same spiritual value as the teachings of Christ himself. Jesus repeatedly pointed out the error of the Pharisees, good men who too often allowed their own traditions and practices to hinder their personal effectiveness in living out the principles of kingdom citizenship. Time after time, he tried to teach them that it was not enough to be good men who lived by the law, that it was more important to live a life that demonstrated the love and grace of God than to abide meticulously by their religious traditions. The same remains true for you and me.
The fact is, we who claim Christ as Lord and Savior are not called to turn the socially unacceptable into socially acceptable men and women; we are called to extend to all the saving message of the gospel of Christ. We are called to be living examples of what it means to be called “Christian”—not that we might win others to be good citizens, but that we might win others to Jesus, their only hope for salvation.
As Salvationists, we do not offer “soup and soap” as a means of salvation: we minister to human need in all its forms in the name of Jesus, with the hope of bringing the lost to an understanding that their greatest need is for salvation through Jesus Christ. We want them to know that he is ready to accept them now, at the moment of need; they don’t have to wait until after they get “clean and sober,” or resolve other issues in their lives, to be introduced to him. It is meeting Jesus that makes the difference. After a man receives Christ, good things can happen, and lives are changed—but it is Christ who brings about the change. Our first priority must be to present Christ to them—living out our faith—our lives so transparent that the Spirit of God will be seen in our day-to-day contacts, clear evidence of his power and his love.
For as long as God allows this present world to continue, there will be those who scoff at the idea of his existence, those who do recognize the hand of God in history. That is not just sad; it is an eternal tragedy, and we need to be faithful in praying that God will find a way to overcome that obstinacy of spirit that blinds them to the fact of his existence. However, the fact that there are those who do not believe does not alter the even greater fact that God is God: eternal, loving, full of grace and mercy. They may not be interested in meeting him, but he is ready, even eager, to welcome even the one who has denounced him. Nor should their scorn or unbelief be allowed to persuade even one of God’s servants to temper or withhold the message of Christ, or to falter in his or her responsibility to pray for each and every lost soul, even the one who is a self-proclaimed enemy of Christ.
As soldiers of Jesus Christ we have been entrusted with the task of taking the battle to the enemy. We are God’s assault force, not satisfied to hide behind the safe walls of tradition, not confined to doing what has been done before, not hindered by the need to spread our culture or customs. Under his orders, armed by his love, we infiltrate even the enemy’s own territory for the purpose of saving souls, seeing them set free from slavery to sin, and enlisted into service in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
As we fight against seemingly invincible odds, we know this beyond doubting: facts are facts. God is God! For those who trust in him, even today’s battle is the Lord’s. That was his plan; that’s the way it is.