Part II: This is Who I Am, Now What?
By Rubin E. Grant
Several years ago, I read through the Gospels three times over a 13-month period. My brother, teacher and friend Fran Sciacca once said if you want to know what God is like, read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). So that was my motivation, to see God on display in the person of Jesus Christ.
As I read, three distinct images of God emerged (among a plethora of others, including love and truth). These were not physical attributes, but rather character traits. What I discovered is: 1, Jesus hates hypocrisy; 2, Jesus is approachable; and 3, Jesus is compassionate.
Time and time again, Jesus called the religious leaders hypocrites, reaching a climax in Matthew 23, where seven times he called them out (“Woe to you”) for their despicable duplicity.
Jesus interacted with all kinds of people and answered all kinds of questions. I marveled (and still do) at these encounters, such as the woman at the well (John 4), the demoniac (Mark 5:1-20), the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30), blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52), and the hemorrhaging woman (Mark 5:25-34). The list goes on and on, to say nothing of how he engaged with his disciples. He was tender and loving as well as forceful and firm.
Jesus was also compassionate, demonstrated on one occasion by what he did after he had just gotten word from his disciples about the death of John the Baptist.
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Matthew 14:13-14 ESV (emphasis added)
The following verses show him feeding 5,000 men, plus women and children, from five loaves of bread and two fish.
Nothing in the universe compares to God’s compassion. It is who God is. The Lord is merciful and compassionate; he is patient and demonstrates great loyal love. The Lord is good to all, and has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9 NET Bible
So as I watch the news and read about the upheaval taking place in America, seeing the racial unrest, racial injustice, racial inequality, the animosity, the pain, the hurt, the heartbreak, the anger, the violence, the police brutality, the looting, the fear, the brokenness, I wonder what would Jesus see. And I wonder what would be his response.
As I contemplated, I kept coming back to this passage of scripture: When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were bewildered and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest-ready fields.” Matthew 9:36-38 NET Bible
Jesus would see people who needed someone to guide them, someone to bring them to a place of shalom, a place of well-being defined by peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility.
Jesus also wouldn’t see enemies, but people who are captives of the enemy, Satan.
You people are from your father the devil, and you want to do what your father desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies. Romans 8:44 NET Bible
And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth and they will come to their senses and escape the devil’s trap where they are held captive to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 NET Bible (emphasis added)
What is the Enemy’s will? The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy …. John 10:10(a) NET Bible
Jesus, on the other hand, came to set the captives free and bring abundant life, life beyond anything we have ever experienced or imagined.
Now Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to tell them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it being read. Luke 4:16-21 NET Bible
I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. John 10:10(b) NET Bible
Jesus also would travel around, doing good, bringing hope and healing.
Jesus went throughout all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel [the good news] of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and sickness among the people. Matthew 4:23 NET Bible
In my previous discourse, I dealt with my identity, explaining that being a Christian supersedes my ethnicity. Now, since I am a child of God, I (we) must imitate him, doing what he does. That’s exactly what Jesus did.
…. “I tell you the solemn truth, the Son can do nothing on his own initiative, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. John 5:19 NET Bible
We, the body of Christ, are the hands, feet and voice of Jesus now. We are salt and light, people of influence, improving the flavor of those we meet and providing illumination to those in the dark. I think the singer Bono encapsulates the idea.
“I’m a musician. I write songs. I just hope when the day is done I’ve been able to tear a little corner off the darkness.” — Bono
In 1 Peter 2:11, followers of Christ are called foreigners and exiles. So how should we live as exiles? Do we withdraw, retreat to our holy huddles and simply bemoan what’s happening? “God forbid!” to use a term from Paul’s letter to the Romans. I think we should be like the Israelites when they were exiles in Babylon.
This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:4-7 NLT (emphasis added)
Finally, we who are recipients of grace and mercy must be agents of grace and mercy.
For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his creative work, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we can do them. Ephesians 2:8-10 NET Bible
For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to various passions and desires, spending our lives in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another. But “when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.” This saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on such truths, so that those who have placed their faith in God may be intent on engaging in good works. These things are good and beneficial for all people. Titus 3:3-8 NET Bible