Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Patience and Kindness of the Cross

Having been engaged to be married for over eight months now I have been involved in a ridiculous amount of pre-marital counseling. During the last year we have met with a counselor privately, we have been a part of group studies, and I have read several books and articles. Some of it has been good, some of it has been real good, and some of it has been (sadly, but honestly) a waste of time.

One of the things that is common amongst all this pre-marital talk is taking one word or idea and spending a whole article or time of counseling on that one thing. For instance "forgiveness" or "compassion" or "humility" or "unity." Then you take that topic of study and apply it to marriage. Simple enough.

In my arrogance I am seriously getting tired of this model of study. Added to the fact that this aproach has been annoyingly common in the past eight months, it often includes light reflection on Scripture. The hard lean towards application often becomes less helpful because the substance of God's word is not tapped like it could and should be. (Sorry, I am kind of ranting and venting.)

Nonetheless, in the last couple of weeks with some "about-to-be-married" friends we have spent time reflecting on patience and kindness. Our leader informed us, "Patience is taking the worst of someone, and kindness is giving your best to someone."

The definitions seemed immediately helpful to me, and upon a few minutes meditation I was struck with an awesome thought:
"When He was reviled, he did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten..." 1 Peter 2:23
The patience of God was peaked during the hours of Good Friday as he "took the worst" the world had to offer.

Still, Peter continues:
"He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds we have been healed." 1 Peter 2:24
And so, as Christ is bearing sinners' sins in His body He is "giving His best" to His people. The sweetest, most sufficient sacrifice for all who would repent to Him and believe in Him.

Wrapped up in the center of the gospel is the supreme display of patience and kindness. Jesus could have received no worse, and He could have given no more.

I cannot help but think of this hymn when pondering how to fight sin (namely that of being impatient and unkind):
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
I know the author is attacking "the things of earth", but is not our flesh counted in that? And so when I apply the author's sin-stomping strategy I hear my heart roar in the hour of temptation, "Look to Christ constantly! Live by faith in the Son of God! And His Spirit will permeate your mind and purge impatience and unkindness from your heart as you are enthralled with the glorious gospel of the blessed God!"

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