Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas is a profound lesson in how to treat your enemy ...

As a kid I always thought it was fun to play with magnets.

What I found fascinating was the feeling of taking two small magnets and moving them toward each other. If the magnets weren't facing each other correctly, they would repel each other, rejecting the push to come together. I still remember that feeling of the magnets refusing to be joined.

That's how we treat people we consider to be our enemies. Our first response is to move away from them, and repel any attempt to move us toward them. We naturally tend to move away from and create distance between our enemies instead of being drawn closer to them.

Unless you're God.

He had an entire world full of enemies!

Each of us have chosen to sin against God, to be in rebellion to His sovereign rule and reign, and that made us enemies of our Creator ...

"This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions," Colossians 1:21.

And then came that first Christmas day, when God chose to draw near to us, closing the gap between Himself and those who had made themselves His enemies. Even in the midst of our sinful state, God chose to demonstrate His love toward us by sending His only Son to make His home among His enemies.

How can we understand such a choice?

In "Context," Mary Marty retells a parable from the "Eye of the Needle" newsletter ...

"A holy man was engaged in his morning meditation under a tree whose roots stretched out over the riverbank. During his meditation he noticed the river was rising and a scorpion caught in the roots was about to drown. He crawled out on the roots and reached down to free the scorpion, but every time he did so, the scorpion struck back at him. An observer came along and said to the holy man, 'Don't you know that's a scorpion, and it's in the nature of a scorpion to want to sting?' To which the holy man replied, 'That may well be, but it is my nature to save. Must I change my nature because the scorpion does not change its nature?'"

God's response to our sinful rebellion against Him was to do what was His nature to do --- to love and to save ...

"So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son," John 1:14.

God didn't draw near to us just to be closer, but with a greater purpose of turning enemies into friends.

In "The Grace of Giving," Stephen Olford tells of a Baptist pastor during the American Revolution, Peter Miller, who lived in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and enjoyed the friendship of George Washington. In Ephrata also lived Michael Wittman, an evil-minded sort who did all he could to oppose and humiliate the pastor. One day Wittman was arrested for treason and was sentenced to die. Peter Miller traveled seventy miles on foot to Philadelphia to plead for the life of the traitor.

"No, Peter," General Washington said. "I cannot grant you the life of your friend."

"My friend!" exclaimed the old preacher. "He's the bitterest enemy I have!"

"What?" cried Washington. "You've walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in different light. I'll grant your pardon."

And he did. Peter Miller took Michael Wittman back home to Ephrata --- no longer an enemy but a friend.

God traveled a little further than 70 miles to draw near to us, and through His Son He did more than simply plead our case ...

"For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God," Romans 5:10-11.

Christmas is a profound lesson in how to treat your enemies ...

"But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven," Matthew 5:44-45a.

It's natural at Christmastime to draw near to family and friends, those we consider our "loved ones." But what about those we consider to be our enemies? Isn't Christmas the perfect time to act as true children of our heavenly Father and to draw close to them as well?

Scotty

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