Treating And Respecting Life: Our Responsibility
November 1, 2009
Matthew 5:30, "And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee. For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish and not that thy whole body should be cast in to hell."
Perhaps you, like me, have often wondered at the severity of some of the comments Jesus made during His ministry. They seem to stand in stark contrast to the loving, gracious, caring, compassionate God as He is often represented. I believe this is because of a concept that has been eroded from the mindset of our culture. The concept is respect; in this case, respect for the Life of God.
From the very beginning of God's dealing with His people, He expressed great concern that people would respect His Being and Life. When God came down on Mount Sinai, He instructed Moses that anyone who approached the mountain or touched it should be put to death. When He gave Moses the Ten Commandments written in stone, the first one stated that He would not tolerate competition. Many of the Old Testament prophets' writings reflect God's attitude when either God, His life, or His Law are disrespected. Much of the judgment levied against God's people was because of this disrespect.
Jesus continued this theme throughout His ministry. Comments like, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God," and "Whosever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven" show that this concept was a conscious part of His mindset. Many of the parables, such as The Parable of the Sower, also demonstrate the importance Jesus placed on respecting that life.
The life and ministry of Jesus, ushered in a new era - an era in which the Life of God indwells a body of common flesh. The commonness of Jesus' humanity veiled the reality that in Him was the Life of God, an Eternal LIFE. Very few people understood this. The unsaved minds of natural men focused continually on the actions of Jesus, while completely missing the Life inside. Jesus marveled, applauded, and thanked God when those closest to Him began to recognize the eternal Life within Him.
I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. (Mat 11:25)
Blessed are thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Mat 16:17)
The Bible goes on to confirm that our respect for the Life of God, or lack thereof, will play a large part on the final Judgment Day.
For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. (Rom 14:11)
Jesus indicates in Matthew 25 that we will become responsible for how we treated His Life, whether we recognized it in other individuals or not.
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Mat 25:40)
Which brings me to the focal point of this article: if God today, puts His life in our human flesh, we become intensely responsible for how we treat and respect that Life.
Christians in ages past have perhaps understood this more clearly than we do today. The question asked to a believer just before he was burned to death at the stake would be to the effect, "Will you renounce this life inside?" This LIFE was highly prized, valued and sought after. It was also respected, fed, and listened to. Even though someone was destitute, the possession of this LIFE constituted him as wealthy, and though sad, constituted him as joyful.
As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. (2 Cor 6:10)
The many things we deal with on a day to day basis take on a different color when viewed in this light. The questions we ask change. Instead of saying "Do I have time for my devotions today," we realize the real question is "Do I respect this LIFE inside me enough to feed it?" Sin becomes not so much an issue of "What's wrong with that?" as an issue of "What does that do to the LIFE inside?" Even transgression in our life is not so much about the action as about the cry "Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned."
Relationships with others are directly affected also. Each person we meet fits one of two perimeters - they either ARE the Temple of the Holy Ghost, or they could be. Immediately our spirit reaches out to theirs to see if that Life is present. We respect them, not for their actions, but for the image they were created in and the LIFE they were intended to bear. If that LIFE is indeed present with the individual, we become extra careful how we treat them: if they have needs we reach out to those needs as if they were us; we bless the Life in them as we find it; we encourage; we exhort; we speak life to them. If we find we have differences with them, as we always will, we choose to deal with those differences in a way that does not offend or bring grief to that LIFE inside them.
Severe consequence tend to follow a disrespect for God's life. Hebrews is clear that the age of grace accentuates this reality, not dampens it.
For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; (Heb 2:2-3)
Much of counseling consists of finding areas in life where we have disrespected that precious LIFE given to us by Jesus Christ, and going to Him in sincere repentance for this offense. The consequences of not cleansing the Temple of the Living God can be disastrous, as many of us experienced in our lives.
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (I Cor. 3: 17)
Respecting the Life of God in heaven, respecting it in others, and respecting it in ourselves is the whole duty of man.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (Mat 22:37-39)
Jesus said that on these two commandments hang all the law and prophets. However, the culture we find ourselves in increasingly denies all three levels of respect. More disheartening to me is the amount of Christians I see that are more concerned with respecting the demands of our godless culture than they are about respecting God's Divine Life within.
"Christ in me the hope of glory" cries out from within us that He would have the preeminence in all things, including our mind, will and emotions.. Let the cry coming out of our life be not so much one of "what do I want to do, and what can I get by with", but rather "what does the LIFE inside of me desire?" The price He paid to make possible that ETERNAL LIFE in me calls for unquestioned allegiance to Him as Lord. May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.
Steve Stutzman, Teacher/Counselor
This article was reprinted by permission from Door of Hope, Lynn NC
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