But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
“That your enemies have been created is God’s doing; that they hate you and wish to ruin you is their own doing. What should you say about them in your mind? “Lord be merciful to them, forgive them their sins, put the fear of God in them, change them!” You are loving in them not what they are, but what you would have them to become.” St. Augustine
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Matthew 3:21
During my senior year of high school, I decided to try and live out my dream of becoming an astronaut. I met with an Air Force recruiter and was excited to take off on this new adventure. And then I told my parents. It was my father that said to me, “You are a lot like your mom and your mom couldn’t handle the military. She dropped out after about a week. You two don’t like to be told what to do. So, it’d be best to drop this idea.”
From the outside I exuded confidence. But on the inside, I was terrified about what people thought about me. I always obeyed my parents out of fear of the repercussions. And so, I gave up my dream. I assumed everything my father said was correct.
Imagine if Jesus had so little courage.
His own family thought him a little wacky. I mean if you announced to your family that you were the Messiah…. But unlike me, He knew where His identity resided – in God.
So often when we think about courage and courageous people we think of military and political warriors. And while we can be eternally grateful for people that go off to war to fight for our freedoms and people like Martin Luther King who make big waves in Washington DC, if we stop there we might be inclined to not step up to the plate when it’s our turn.
Jesus wasn’t a military warrior. He didn’t fight to change laws. He didn’t work hard to get elected to lead a nation. But what He did do, from the first day He declared Himself the Messiah, was choose to lay aside any and all standing with man to serve God. He knew from that day it would be soon to die on the cross.
“His was the courage of the mind, the heroism of the heart. It was a sober and reasoned thing. He deliberately counted the cost and paid it.”
Charles Jefferson, The Character of Jesus
In other words, He knew without a doubt who He served and who had His back. Every single decision He made, the words He spoke were for the glory of God. He knew people would hate him. He knew people would misunderstand Him. And He knew He still needed to speak.
In my BSGs study on Revelation we recently looked at chapter 11 in which two witnesses are assigned by God to give some final admonishment to the people. A final plea to turn to God. Throughout their 3 years on earth the world attempts to destroy these witnesses through any means possible – they are true “warriors for God.” And until God said it was time to go, they were protected. We were asked that week who are powerful witnesses in our present generation? Who would you name?
Although I don’t know him personally, I do believe one such powerful witness is of the famed Duck Dynasty clan, Phil Robertson. This rough looking, old man has been much maligned by our media and culture. But to hear his salvation story can only show God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness.
You see, Mr. Robertson was a child of the 60s. When he went off to college in 1964, he had a wife and child at home. The message proliferated at college was of the “sex, drugs and rock n roll” variety. No rules, no obligations. He took to that message like a duck to water and was frequently drunk, doing drugs, and cheating on his wife. When he graduated and got a job this lifestyle continued. He also felt his family was holding him down. And so, they left him one day. For two weeks he partied until the cows came home. Then he realized he was miserable. He had not only lost his job as a teacher but also a bar he owned.
He begged his wife to take him back. She would, if he cleaned up his act. God softened his heart and Mr. Robertson sought out a Christian mentor. With the strength of God behind him he pulled himself from his old life and began a one reborn.
“And so, I devoted my waking hours to studying the Bible. I pored over the onion-skin pages and began to mark them up. I consumed the Word of God as if it were food and drank deeply from its waters of wisdom.”
Phil Robertson, The Theft of America’s Soul
When I read this, what came to mind were the Navy SEALs that train not far from my house. To be a SEAL, an elite member of the US military, you need to eat, sleep and devote every waking minute to training. Their goal is to be the best soldier possible. But what about us average Christians? What is our goal? Will we be like Phil Robertson and wholly commit ourselves to the cause of God?
Fast forward in Mr. Robinson’s life and we land in the middle of the show Duck Dynasty. It was a reality show following around his family – a family of backwoods hunters and fishermen from Louisiana who own a duck call business. During this show the family became warriors for God. While their producers would almost demand they do or say things outside the morals of their faith, they would stand strong. They were willing to lose all the money offered them. They prayed and spoke of their faith throughout the show. And they garnered millions of fans. And enemies. They were called backward, stupid, far-right crazy, mostly because of their commitment to their faith.
“It’s been 43 years since my encounter with God and I can tell you, I’m not running from anyone or anything; I’m not enslaved to the ‘isms’ of the world.”
Phil Robertson, The Theft of America’s Soul
We can make excuses for why we won’t stand our ground and stand up for God – I might lose my job, I might lose my friends/family, I might be called any manner of names. Doesn’t that all come from a fear of man rather than a trust in God? Phil Robertson wasn’t famous and then got a TV show. He was a man making duck calls who became famous for being funny, principled, a family leader, and God-fearing.
Many of us probably aren’t ready to be a full time warrior for God. We must practice the first two steps so they become a natural part of us. When we can naturally say a prayer for those who would hurt us, when we anticipate and readily step forward to fill a need that Jesus places before us, only then are we certainly more prepared for this step.
I follow a Christian pastor on Instagram. He has a series of YouTube talks where he delves into our culture’s most pressing topics. After reading how he lovingly and with wisdom responds to some of the vitriol he receives I realized, I’m not quite ready yet for the bigger battlefield. I need to chew and gnaw some more on God’s Word. God has been testing me along the way with mini quizzes. Small opportunities to stand for Him. My training to be a Warrior for God continues.
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once, the man was cured. John 5:8
“Lord Jesus, I offer myself for Your people. In any way. Any place. Any time.”
Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place
I was reading recently about what it meant that Jesus called Himself a humble servant of God. To some that seems contrary – for someone to call themselves “humble.” And at the time of Jesus the word “humble” was a vile and contemptible thing. According to Christian author Charles Jefferson, there was no virtue in the all the pagan world known as “humility.” It was a defect.
As Christianity spread across the world so did its values. One of its unique additions to the world was the concept of Christ-like humility and servitude. It is possibly one of the most misunderstood of Christian values. To some, it means having a low estimate of ourselves. To others it means we deny ourselves and make ourselves inferior. But if we accept all of Christ’s words as true we then must also accept these:
“I am meek and lowly in heart.” Matthew 11:29
And yet we have never met a person who held their head higher, with more confidence, with such loftiness, as Jesus. So often it seems we create a vision of the various character traits of Jesus and each believer then feels they must change their personalities to fit that ideal. When we picture a meek and humble person (not Jesus) do we imagine a rich person? Do we picture a courageous and bold person? Or do we picture a small, weak person who lets people walk all over her?
As I’ve progressed in my faith this concept of being a humble servant is something I’ve really mulled over. I’ve tried “playing” various roles that seem to fit the ideal. And it’s funny. When I try to be so quiet and meek-like it usually backfires. The recipient can tell I’m being a phony.
About a year ago I heard about the book, “The Hiding Place.” I know many Christians have read this at some point in their lives. As a refresher, the story is a Christian family from Holland living at the start of World War II. As Hitler’s army advances, the local Jewish community starts to disappear. Two of the main characters, sisters Betsie and Corrie Ten Boom, find themselves answering God’s call to not just hide Jews but also play integral roles in the underground system of protecting Jews from all over. What struck me about this book were the opposite personalities of the sisters. Both answering God’s call to be humble servants in their own ways.
Corrie was the bold one. She found herself tasked with much of the dangerous work outside their home. While in prison it was Corrie who dealt with the officials. Lest we think this was easy for her because of a strong faith, Corrie frequently questioned God about what He wanted her to do. And each time she prayed. And each time either a word from God or someone close to her encouraged her to move on His command. Near the beginning of their story, Corrie is tasked with obtaining extra food rations cards. She was led to speak with a local man who recently took a job in the Food Office. But she wasn’t sure it would be safe.
“Lord,” I prayed silently, “if it is not safe to confide in Fred, stop this conversation now before it is too late.”
Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place
She found herself asking not for five cards but suddenly 100. And within a week they were in her hands. The danger she faced – being turned into the authorities– was replaced with her trust in God’s urging for her to be a “doing Christian.”
Throughout her ordeal, while at home and eventually in prison, she wanted to be so angry with the Germans and those who supported them. She balked at loving her enemies and showing them mercy. Really, who could blame her? And yet over and over she submitted her heart and hands to God.
“My job was simply to follow His leading one step at a time, holding every decision up to Him in prayer,” she wrote. “I knew I was not clever or subtle or sophisticated; if my home was becoming a meeting place for need and supply, it was through some strategy far higher than mine.”
Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place
You can contrast her submission to God with a local pastor she encounters. He, on the other hand, when asked to take in a Jewish mother and child into his home was clearly frightened. He admonished her for the “illegal” activity and warned her that what she was doing wasn’t safe.
The concept of being a humble servant doesn’t require of us to be a person of a certain personality or style of living. A longtime pastor can fail while a wealthy man can succeed at this effort. Throughout “The Hiding Place” one such wealthy man aids the underground effort with both his money and his own hands.
In all of Jesus’ teachings we see Him asking us to do two things: love one another and take action. Like the man at the pool who had been waiting for healing for almost 40 years he asks us to first believe Him then get up and start moving. Along the way he wants us to be teachable and willing to learn. He asks us to put aside our vanity and social aspirations. He tasks us to serve and feed His sheep. He doesn’t ask us to underestimate ourselves, make ourselves small, or feel unworthy. In fact, He wants us to stand firm in the knowledge we are doing His work.
Corrie Ten Boom was bold and faithful and humble at the same time. She was always looking to serve the less fortunate and those in need. And when she forgot about serving her enemies, her sister stepped forward to remind her.
I once took a leadership personality test at a conference. The results weren’t that surprising. I have a bold personality and I’m good at organizing. But what makes any leadership situation successful for me is to be paired with a softer, gentler leader. That person remembers those who aren’t as obvious and reminds me to slow down to see the whole picture.
Betsie Ten Boom was that kind of leader. The book in which they are written of highlights her bold sister, Corrie. But it’s this quieter, gentler servant of God that I saw as a thread throughout. It was Betsie who would send up prayers for the Germans soldiers who were torturing them. It was Betsy who thanked God for fleas in their new barracks. While Corrie was dealing with the big problems, it was her quiet sister drawing people out of the shadows for prayer meetings in the middle of the night.
During one difficult transfer to yet another barracks, the women were made to stand for hours and hours. The two sister’s personalities and approach to being God’s servants was evident in this exchange:
“Betsie!” I wailed, “how long will this take!”
“Perhaps a long, long time. Perhaps many years. But what better way could there be to spend our lives?” Betsie replied.
I turned to stare at her. “Whatever are you talking about?”
“These young women. That young girl back at the bunkers, Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love! We must find a way, you and I, no matter how long it takes…” Betsie said with excitement.
Are we that excited to serve God humbly? To be teachable, free from ambition, and vanity? Have we looked Jesus in the eye and said, “I trust you.” And when He has told you to get up and pick up your mat have you obeyed Him? Or have you decided that you aren’t “good enough,” “strong enough,” or “smart enough?”
Are you laying around by the pool, waiting for someone else to do the work for you? If you keep saying to God, “show me what you want me to do” and have yet to walk out your front door and serve your neighbors you’ve missed the point. He takes all types in His Great Army. Get your mat and get moving.
“All of us are different, but all of us can serve the Lord for His glory.”