TOUGH LOVE…

In our family circle and house church groups we are always ‘debating’ relevant biblical and theological issues (I make no apology for the word ‘theology’: we all have a theology, i.e. an understanding of God – it may be biblical or unbiblical, good or bad, but we have a theology! And that theology affects the way we think and live, everything we are and do). One of these theological issues, mentioned before, is the one of balancing God’s love and holiness (I seem to remember Emil Brunner, the Swiss theologian, speaking of God as ‘HOLY LOVE’ – correct me if I’m wrong). A while ago I heard of a group in our city, consisting mostly of parents who had struggled with a drug-addicted son/daughter, called ‘TOUGH LOVE.’ They were convinced that ‘tough love’ was the key to dealing with addicted family members and friends.

A few days ago, when visiting at my son’s home and watching rugby, his wife said something like this, Dad, you remember that verse in Romans where it speaks of God’s goodness leading us to repentance? Well, you need to read it in ‘The Message!’ And so she read Romans 2:3ff (God’s righteous judgment on Jew and Gentile) from Eugene Peterson’s Paraphrase (Professor Emeritus, Regent College, Canada), You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.

You see, it’s all about balance! The hardest thing in the world is to keep balanced. God is love, and He is holy – we need to always hold these in tension, otherwise we fall for a God Who is cruel or sentimental (the latter has implications for the present debate in evangelicalism on ‘universalism’).

By the way, speaking of God’s love and holiness, I just love Brennan Manning’s story of an Irish priest who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man, You must be very close to God! The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment, and then smiles, Yes, he’s very fond of me!

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‘KINGDOM CAMEOS’…

With a biblical understanding of ‘church’ (which we have explained numerous times in these blogs), we also grasp the relevance of ‘God’s kingdom,’ i.e. His rule in the world through His Son. Here are just three little cameos of how it happens ‘on the ground’…

My wife is a clinic sister working in a large company in South Africa. Because we see church and mission as essentially a biblical lifestyle lived out in the market-place, she endeavours to ‘shine for Jesus’ in all she is and does (Mt. 5:14-16). The staff (including believers, nominal Christians, Muslims, etc) agreed to start every morning with prayer, committing the day’s work to God. They hold hands, with my wife and another committed believer doing the praying. Imagine my wife’s surprise a few weeks ago when the manager of the floor-staff, a committed Muslim, said to her (one hectic morning), ‘Hey, Melanie, we haven’t prayed yet!’ This when Melanie has made it abundantly clear that she will always pray to ‘the God of the Bible’ and ‘in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ!’ This is God’s kingdom coming on earth, as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:9-10).

I counselled a young mother some years ago, while still part of the denominational  church setting. Her childhood had been horrendous, with multiple sexual abuse by a family member and many other childhood horrors. Soon afterwards she had to work through a painful divorce. Unbeknowns to her, God had been at work in her life amid  all this pain. Over a period of time she came into emotional healing and freedom from oppressing powers. She began to grow from spiritual infancy into spiritual adulthood (Heb. 5:11ff). Over the years we have met up with her on sporadic occasions. On Sunday morning past she came to share with our House Church some poetry she has since written, reflecting the healing she has received over the years. Some of her work is being put into print as we write, under the name DJPEARL. Our reaction on Sunday morning was, D, only God could have inspired what you have written! It is beautiful and refreshing poetry, easy to relate to, especially by others who have been hurt in the rough and tumble of life. God’s kingdom is coming on earth!

At a recent inter-church Missions Conference in our city, some of our leaders met with a missionary from a Middle Eastern nation who regularly visits the ‘church’ in one of the most oppressive Muslim countries in the world. God’s people there meet largely in ‘underground’ house churches. News over the past year or two is that an estimated one million people have come to follow Jesus and live according to the Bible and meeting in house groups, most of them being young people seeking for purpose in life! God’s kingdom is coming on earth.

[By the way, the May-June 2011 edition of Mission Frontiers, put out by the reputable U.S. Centre for World Mission, focuses on ‘Jesus Movements: Discovering Biblical Faith in the Most Unexpected Places.’ Such movements are ‘spontaneously’ appearing across the globe in Judaism, Islamic nations, Hindu nations, etc. The results are astonishing, to say the least. Pray for these movements to expand, as they seek to steer safely between syncretism on the one hand and the ‘control’ of Western christendom (and culture) on the other hand]