Pity the Nationless, and the homeless as they are on the move to a new place foreign to them.
“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” 1 Corinthians 15:19
Life has a way of driving our faith dangerously close to the edge. What we expect from God so often seems to contradict what we experience in life. We find ourselves wanting to ask: If God is good, then why did this happen? If God is all-powerful, then where is He now? If God loves me, why am I not happier? Richer? Why don’t I have fewer problems and more peace? If God is pleased with me, why don’t I experience more pleasure?
Unanswered questions like these threaten our enthusiasm and heartfelt commitment to Christ. We find our faith growing more stoic, our view of God less emotive. We develop a kind of Christianity that shrugs its shoulders and says, “Well, that’s just the way it is.”And since the stakes are too high to deny God, we just decide to buck up, grin and bear it, and hope that no one ever asks us these kinds of questions. In fact, we may even come to believe that in order to maintain spiritual sanity we need to park our brains and questions outside the door of faith and separate the spiritual realm from the realities of life. At this point, faith itself becomes unreal and irrelevant.
We are left to slug it out on our own, believing that the only relevant resources are in this present world.
A disintegrating faith creates a resigned, despairing Christianity that lacks vibrancy and enthusiasm for God and His Word. Our edge is dulled, leaving us passionless and pessimistic. This decline of confidence in and commitment to God may be why there is something dreadfully wrong and out of sync with us.
The fault is not with God; it is with us. We have assumed that this world should be a pleasant and friendly place and that the answers to the troublesome questions of life can be found in the temporal realm. We have assumed that the answers to life’s dilemmas lie somewhere within us, among us, or within the realm of the immediate world around us. We are wrong.
Thankfully, redemption has put us back in touch with the eternal world beyond and has placed eternity in our hearts. Saving grace has blown down the walls that obscured our view of eternity and has given us a present relationship with Christ the King of eternity, who now lives within us.
If you sense that you are missing something—that you had expected more—then perhaps you have neglected the pressing preeminence of the world to come and its first-wave expression in the person of the King who dwells in the world that is in our hearts. It is only when we actively embrace the world beyond and the world within in their proper perspectives that we become capable of finally coping with and conquering our fleeting experience in this present world.
Paul had it right when he said: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:19
Streams in the Desert
“Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” (Ps. 4:1).
This is one of the grandest testimonies ever given by man to the moral government of God. It is not a man’s thanksgiving that he has been set free from suffering. It is a thanksgiving that he has been set free through suffering: “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.” He declares the sorrows of life to have been themselves the source of life’s enlargement.
And have not you and I a thousand times felt this to be true? It is written of Joseph in the dungeon that “the iron entered into his soul.” We all feel that what Joseph needed for his soul was just the iron. He had seen only the glitter of the gold. He had been rejoicing in youthful dreams; and dreaming hardens the heart. He who sheds tears over a romance will not be most apt to help reality; real sorrow will be too unpoetic for him. We need the iron to enlarge our nature. The gold is but a vision; the iron is an experience. The chain which unites me to humanity must be an iron chain. That touch of nature which makes the world akin is not joy, but sorrow; gold is partial, but iron is universal.
My soul, if thou wouldst be enlarged into human sympathy, thou must be narrowed into limits of human suffering. Joseph’s dungeon is the road to Joseph’s throne. Thou canst not lift the iron load of thy brother if the iron hath not entered into thee. It is thy limit that is thine enlargement. It is the shadows of thy life that are the real fulfillment of thy dreams of glory. Murmur not at the shadows; they are better revelations than thy dreams. Say not that the shades of the prison-house have fettered thee; thy fetters are wings — wings of flight into the bosom of humanity. The door of thy prison-house is a door into the heart of the universe. God has enlarged thee by the binding of sorrow’s chain.
If Joseph had not been Egypt’s prisoner, he had never been Egypt’s governor. The iron chain about his feet ushered in the golden chain about his neck.
Forty Day Journey
(Bonhoeffer’s view of a life among enemies was formed in the Nazi Germany of the 1930s, a situation that was becoming increasingly hostile to Christians.)
The Christian cannot simply take for granted the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. In the end all his disciples abandoned him. On the cross he was all alone, surrounded by criminals and the jeering crowds. He had come for the express purpose of bringing peace to the enemies of God. Christians, too, belong not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the midst of enemies. There they find their mission, their work.
“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Mathew 10:16
Questions to Ponder
- How would you define the “enemies” Christians are to live “in the midst of”?
- What is the “mission” or “work” of Christians toward these “enemies”?
- Jesus said: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). Does this fit with the reading from Bonhoeffer for today? How, or how not?
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long. Psalm 23:5-6
- As a Christian, do you find yourself living “in the midst of enemies”? How, or how not? If so, who are they? How do you feel about them?
- What do you understand to be your personal mission or work in the midst of these enemies?
Prayer for Today
Lord Jesus, give me the faith, the courage, and the love to live faithfully in the midst of enemies as you did.
40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint ofAugsburg Fortress.
Undeserved (Luke 7:37–39)
I am sinful, yet God calls me righteous. Is there anything I can do to thank him?
One day a Pharisee asked Jesus to come to his house to eat. “A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner’ ” (Luke 7:37–39). The incredible thing is that Jesus did know what kind of woman she was. But that didn’t stop him from loving her.
Like the woman, we all stand before Jesus with a spiritual rap sheet that is miles long. At this very moment, he sees every area of our lives that needs refining. Yet despite our sin, he loves us anyway. Dearly. That doesn’t make sense. But God’s love doesn’t make sense. We can’t figure it out.
Let grace amaze you. Ponder it. Dwell on it. Feel the intensity of God’s love behind it. The woman had it right. She was well aware of her sinful past—she had lived it. And when she found the Savior who knew her completely and still offered acceptance and forgiveness, she could do nothing else but fall on her knees and pour out her praise on him.
When your messiness runs into Jesus’ perfection and you find him there loving you, be like the woman with the alabaster jar. Just love him. Pour out your praise; drench him in worship. Stand in awe of the One who gave it all. He is worthy of every ounce of your praise.
Taken from The Great Rescue Bible