'MY dear children! Once again, just like a mother in childbirth, I feel the same kind of pain for you until Christ's nature is formed in you says Paul (Galatians 4:19).
When we live in the Spirit, in communion with Christ, he lifts our burdens and gives us his rest, but we also share his yoke, his yearning, his grief for his children. When we are one with Christ it is no longer what is done to us that causes us the greater grief, but what is done to Christ. We see our situation and the people that God has entrusted to us through his eyes. Our longing is for them to be in receipt of what possesses us; like Jesus, we pray, 'Father! You have given them to me, and I want them to be with me where I am .. (John 17:24).
That longing has to be for the dead and the living in the fellowship; the aggressive and the passive; the oppressors and their victims; the wolves and the sheep. I believe that it is Corrie ten Boom, in her book The Hiding Place, who tells of a woman prisoner in Ravensbruck being mercilessly beaten by a sadistic wardress and the profound effect that the words 'poor woman' had upon her when she realised that her sister Betsie was looking at the thug doing the beating as she spoke,not at the victim.
It is easy to love those who suffer but much harder to share with Christ in his prayer, 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do', having the perpetrators of such sufferings in mind. We are urged in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 to 'encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone' (my italics), and many will try our patience; in fact, unless his Spirit reigns within we will not possess the limitless patience required.
It is so easy to meet assertion with assertion, agression with agression, and use the argument that our response was justified because of the injustice of the instigator. The world controls force by meeting it with an even greater force whereby fear prevents conflict. This is not the way of Christ. He does not want a man merely to alter his actions. He desires a change of heart.
`Do not try to rule over those who have been put in your care, but be examples to the flock,' says I Peter 5:3. Self-restraint, meekness, will always be misread as weakness by those without eyes to see. They will say, 'He doesn't because he can't', or 'He's afraid', or 'He's blind to what we are about', and time and time again we will be hurt by such blind foolishness and arrogance. We will run into the closet with our broken heart. and wounds and disappointments and there receive that mysterious healing balm that only his Spirit can give.
James Hudson Taylor speaks of being bitterly disappointed by someone. 'As soon as he was gone I had to seek my little sanctum and pour out my heart before the Lord for sonic time before calmness, and then more calmness, thankfulness and joy were restored. I felt that God had his own way, and was not going to fail me.'
It is in the closet, the little sanctum, we first seek his will, and then, having fulfilled it, return for reassurance and the dressing of the wounds received in obeying him. It is there we are equipped to do what needs to be done and shown the way in which he would have us do it. No ends ever justify a means that is unchristlike in its spirit. Sometimes he will lead us to do something that appears to be foolish on the face of it; maybe we are led to close down part of the programme because there is no leader for it and in his economy it is, at present, unnecessary. We may then be judged by our accusers as being a party to those who are lazy and avoid doing things they don't like doing.
Maybe finances are on a knife-edge, but he burdens us not to persist with some of our hours of labour in this direction and to trust him for any short fail. After much inner battle we concede only to be questioned by our soldiers and even our immediate superior, 'perhaps neither of whom seem to understand what we are about. Perhaps after months of labour and prayer there is still nothing visible that has changed, that can be included in any statistical returns. Perhaps our weekly platform teaching and outpouring is scorned and ridiculed.
END PART ONE
All Scripture references are from GNR.