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Impatient Christians (Perils of Shepherds)

  05/10/13 09:29, by , Categories: Church Life, Theology Lived, Pastors

Its a tough and scary world these days for many who consider themselves Christians.  The world is celebrating sin more and more while being less and less tolerant of biblical morality.   In the past, Christians enjoyed a favorable place in society with laws that reflected Judeo-Christian values.  A five decade slide away from those values has picked up steam in the last few years as our culture has completed a transformation to a largely pagan basis.  On my Facebook feed I see a lot of handwringing and sense a lot of upset-ness.  Christians are outraged, upset, motivated.

It is not a bad thing to be distressed by the sin that continues to overtake American culture and sin should certainly distress us.  It is also normal to be concerned at the signs of a growing persecution toward Christ-followers.  I feel our reaction as the church could use some work, though.  We are sometimes all too eager to get to the end of the story, to see justice done, to see things set right and to escape all the sin and the hostile sinners.  We find ourselves frustrated with the fact that it is so hard to be a Christian in a hostile culture and we wish "those people" would finally face justice.

That day is certainly coming.  The problem is, that's going to be a very bad day.  As followers of Christ, we more than most should be aware of the terrible judgement of God that all of our sins have earned.  Every one of us has been under the sentence of death and it is only by the grace and mercy of Christ that we are freed from it.  When the day of reckoning comes, it is going to be a terrible day indeed.  How do we look at this sinful world, blindly glorying in its sin?  Do we respond with anger and impatience for judgement or do we respond with fear and compassion?

When Jesus saw "the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd." (Matt 9:36)  Jesus wasn't angered or insulted by the sin and godlessness He saw around Him, He was moved in His guts with compassion.  Even on the cross, surrounded by those who were murdering Him, He asked God to forgive them because they were didn't realize what they were doing.  When confronted by a group of angry religious leaders who had a confirmed immoral sinner in custody and demanded the justice of God, Jesus instead emphasized the need of the woman for forgiveness rather than condemnation.    In fact, one of the things that really cheesed off the religious leaders of the time was the fact that Jesus was attracted to sinners rather than repulsed by them.

There is a great scene in the Lord of the Rings between Frodo and Gandalf about mercy, pity and justice;

“What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!'
Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.”

and then also,

“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many - yours not least.”

Tolkien, a Christian himself, illustrates a point that is good for us Christians to remember, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. "(2 Peter 3:9).

We also should remember this

But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:3-4)

These days too many of us Christians sound more offended by sin than concerned for the lost sinners. Instead of rescuing lost souls we are trying to rescue society from the lost souls. We have become frustrated and vexed by sin to the point of impatience with sinners. I see this especially in us pastors. We deal with sin even more than most and are charged with shepherding the flock. This stance has sometimes led us to become frustrated, impatient, and strident in a war suddenly directed at judging sinners (we now of course not being the 'real' sinners who are part of the problem). Yet as pastors we are especially commanded to have a different approach to those against us, which these days includes some powerful forces in our society.

The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

This passage is aimed directly at us in ministry.  It first says we are not to be quarrelsome.  The Greek word means to fight and includes this definition: "those who engage in a war of words, to quarrel, wrangle, dispute."  Yet how often do I find my Facebook feed filled up with fighting words.  Its ok, "they" started it.  Oh, wait, no its not.  The verse goes on to tell us that we are to be kind to all, patient when wronged (there's that word again), and correct those who are in opposition with gentleness.  Why?  because the goal is their repentance and salvation.

I am not condemning our impatience, I understand it and there are days when my own heart is vexed and I want to lash out against the unjustice, unrighteousness and sinfulness, especially when Christ and His people are under attack.  I cannot give reign to my impatience and frustration, however.  I am commanded to compassion, gentleness, and a love for those very enemies.  They have a very bad day coming and there is no joy in the justice they will receive.  May we have the heart of Christ as we find ourselves surrounded by sin and be moved in our guts with compassion, not frustration and rage.  Lord, may those who today revel in sin be shown the error of their ways before it's too late.

This entry was posted by and is filed under Church Life, Theology Lived, Pastors.


Comment from: Cyndi McNamara [Visitor]  
Cyndi McNamara
Hi Ira, This post is very good and brings a perspective that is needed to the table. I, like you, often forget that repentance and salvation of all is the real goal. Thanks for posting. Blessings, Cyndi
05/10/13 @ 12:56
Comment from: David Forsythe [Visitor]  
David Forsythe
Ira, Well written, highlighting a most important yet often neglected biblical perspective. Thank you for a good and timely word.
07/08/16 @ 16:21

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A look at life and ministry.

About the Author

After growing up in Maine, Ira graduated from Bible College and wandered into Western Maine and has never found his way back out. He has a deep love for the rural churches of Maine and the people who make up this great state. He loves Truth over Tradition, Christ over Culture, and People over Process. He love to equip, teach, and disciple and longs to see the Maine church grow healthy and make disciples.

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