As we discussed last week, Corrie ten Boom in her book The Hiding Place, tells the story of watching her sister Betsie, in a brutal, barbaric, dehumanizing Nazi prison camp in 1944, live an attack-with-love brand of Christianity right before her eyes. It is this brand of the faith that Jesus says in Matthew 16:18 the very gates of Hell cannot stop. It does not take too many stories like Corrie’s to underscore that this kind of Christianity is generally not on display in our lives. We are much better at drawing lines, ferreting out sin, and dispensing judgment.
This is exactly what Paul is talking about when he tells us in Philippians 2:12 to “work out (our) own salvation with fear and trembling.”. Recognizing what God has done in my life, how do I take that experience and understanding, put shoe leather on it, and come out with, instead of judgment, a spontaneous, genuine love for my enemies who hate me, who are against Jesus, Christianity, and my country and are trying to destroy it all? Betsie had “worked out her salvation” to such a degree that she was able to genuinely attack her tormentors with love.
The path for us to take to do likewise is described all through the Scriptures—if we have eyes to see. One such place is Romans 9:30-10:4:
“What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;” (Romans 9:30).
The pagan Gentiles knew nothing of the law of God, or of trying to obey it to please God. They simply stumbled into Jesus, trusted Him, and were declared by God to be perfectly righteous.
“But Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone” (Romans 9:31, 32).
The Jews, on the other hand, didn’t stumble into Jesus as the Gentiles did, but stumbled over Him! They grew up with the law of God, but misunderstood its purpose and tried to obey it to be righteous. They refused to hear that their good works did no good whatsoever in their efforts to please God and that trusting Jesus was the only way to do so.
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God – For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:1-4).
Like today’s zealous, evangelical Christians, the Jews in Paul’s day pursued God the only way they knew, they way they had adopted in Adam at the Tree in the Garden of Eden: by the law—seeking to earnestly do good and not evil, right and not wrong. They didn’t know there was a new sheriff in town—”Faith Alone” was his name. Obeying the law to be good was out and trusting in Jesus only and what He did at the cross was in—righteousness by faith alone. The “end of the law for righteousness,” not just to get us to heaven but even as we live our daily lives, had come! This is called, “living by faith!”
He came implementing some big-time changes in the way we live, and they have been in effect now for over 2000 years. I like to call this new way to live by faith, “Attack-With-Love.” What does it look like in the 21st century?
Senior citizens are infamous for being big talkers. I think we are lonesome, bored, retired and feeling useless, with time on our hands, and looking for a good conversation with whomever we meet, friend or stranger. Jill does her best to keep me out of this category of “old codger who won’t shut up.” I am afraid her efforts meet with little success! I tell her that conversation leads to relationship, and that is what lonely people are all unconsciously longing for. Thirsty people are looking desperately for water.
Last week, in two separate waiting rooms, she encountered two such thirsty people, one male and one female.
In the first, while Jill was waiting for a minor car repair, a 60-something man engaged her in conversation and proceeded to bend her ear for a good half hour, while in the second instance, in an eye-doctor’s waiting room she encountered a loquacious, middle aged woman who was eager to tell Jill a condensed version of her whole life!
I think Jill is afraid that my spontaneous conversations leave people feeling as she did—how can I get out of here! I asked her what both parties talked about. Her answer was, “themselves, completely.” Of course it was. We naturally all talk about what we are interested in, where our focus in life is, what gives us enjoyment and fulfillment, and we are the stars of our own story.
I can remember many of the times I have talked to others so I can tell them about me and my accomplishments. Oh, Lord, I repent for those times. I want the reason I talk to people to always be that they have worth and are important. I want to find out about them. Everyone has an interesting life because of this inherent value. Who knows? That conversation, that interest in them, may be a drink of life-giving water that Jesus promises will flow from us to all we meet. Is not genuine interest in you by someone else invariably encouraging and refreshing?
This is our heritage; every one of us. When your salvation is being “worked out” in this way, it will look a lot like it did in Betsie ten Boom’s life, but in a different setting. It does not include fame, popularity, acclaim or financial success in today’s world. That has nothing to do with it.
We can do nothing whatsoever to enter into this life of faith. It is already happening. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Know that the next time you open your mouth to engage a stranger, a friend or a family member, the water is flowing! Does not Jesus say as much in this verse? If they are thirsty, know for sure they are drinking from the fountain that is flowing from you. Believe it, because it’s true.