This weeks devo is posted by Pastor Art Greco.
Argue that a primary piece of the “good news” of Jesus is the fact that he came to bring peace on earth (as was announced – or at least presumed – by Isaiah in chapter 9 and the angel of Luke 2), and someone will, quite justifiably, point to the words of Jesus himself as recorded in Matthew 10 (drawing upon Micah 7, by the way): “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”
But the context for that Micah text is a warning against trusting flawed systems and even your own relatives. Micah’s angst lies in the fact that justice is so rare that one can’t even trust his/her own spouse our children with a secret. In that scenario, to be candid is to be betrayed. By quoting from Micah here, Jesus, we assume, is aware of the context and cognizant of how people would have understood him. It’s as though Jesus was saying, “Yes, I do come to bring the good news of peace, but the road I introduce that leads to that peace is one of integrity and transparency. When I come and insist on that road, a son who’s been cheating his own father, and a mother who has been deceiving her daughter are probably going to feel a lot like adversaries before they’re ever going to know true peace with each other.”
Christ’s goal was peace, but the route to that peace was filled with bumps and potholes. He came to set a banqueting table of calm, but dishes were going to have to be broken before anyone would actually be able to eat at it.
I don’t recall making this statement in the first gathering’s version of Sunday’s sermon, but in the second gathering I said something that came to me in the moment: “The world doesn’t need a spanking from the Church today; it needs a hug.”
When we consider the peace Jesus offers in the context of the turmoil being spun into the fabric of so many lives, isn’t that true? After all, a “hug” doesn’t mean “endorsement” of sin or a turning a blind eye to error. It simply conveys empathy and love.
Consider the following texts and their influence on how “giving the world a hug instead of a lecture” might apply for today’s church in today’s context:
Note that this is instruction about the way Christians are to deal with other Christians. But might this instruction be an application of a broader principle Paul uses in general when engaging all people? See also Acts 17:10-31 for an example of loving discourse by Paul that was based in reason and mutual respect and delivered without harsh rebuke.
Note the difference between the way this sexually broken woman is treated by Jesus and the religious leaders who entrap and accuse her. Her accusers want Jesus to give her a life-ending rebuke but Jesus gives her a “hug” instead. He gives her hope for a better future by challenging her to live differently without implying in the least that her current choices are going to get her anywhere good.
BE A BLESSING
Pray over these reflections above. How are you feeling? Do you have the ability to bless/hug someone on the one hand without accidentally affirming what isn’t life-giving for them on the other? Ask the Holy Spirit to equip you in that task.
Now, go the rest of the day with eyes open for an opportunity to bless someone with the message of hope and peace offered by Jesus. Look for the door he opens for you to be a calming, hope-giving force of blessing in someone’s life today. Deliver a meal to a neighbor; send someone a hand-written note of encouragement and love; order flowers or balloons for the last person with whom you got a little sideways.
Every Monday evening at 7:00, a small group of people gather here at the church building to pray for people and ask God to care for our world. Consider joining them and praying for the people in your life that need a hug from the church. Lots of pretty cool things have come out of that fellowship. Why shouldn't your story and passions be among them?