Monday, July 31, 2017
I've noticed a trend on social media: link after link to articles about purging the toxic people from your life.
The gist of the message is this: You are important. You are good. You are too good and important to be weighed down by toxic people in your life. So do yourself a favor and flush them away. You deserve it!
Can I just point out? This is entirely anti-Christian. It makes me sad.
People. Guys. Please hear me.
We are all toxic.
We are all toxic.
It is only pride and self-righteousness that cause a person to think that the others are the toxic ones, and he, himself, is fine. Remember Matthew 7:3-5, about taking the plank out of our own eye before we attack the splinter in our brother's eye?
Now, I'm not talking about abusive people. There is a point at which people's sin can become dangerous to others, and when you are in a relationship with a dangerous, abusive person, it is good to set boundaries which will protect you and hopefully help the other person come to his senses. I'm not talking about danger and abuse. Notice: danger and abuse are not the terminology that is in popular use here. The popular terminology is "toxic," which sounds really bad, but I warrant it might be a bit of a hyperbole, a ploy to gain credibility for actions that are selfish and prideful.
Also, be careful, because abuse is a term that we overuse these days. You should not call it abuse--emotional abuse, verbal abuse--every time you have a disagreement with someone, ending up with an unsatisfying conclusion that hurts your feelings. Did the other person label you as something you didn't like? Are you tempted to call that abuse? Can you honestly say that you've never labeled someone as something that he might not have liked? Did you just call him an abuser? But that was okay... why? Because it was you, and you are a "good" person, and he shouldn't hurt your feelings? Sorry. No. We all have disagreements, and we all slip and speak unkindly at certain times, particularly when we are feeling defensive.
The whole world is toxic.
We all need grace.
We all need to give grace.
The whole world is toxic, but for the purifying love of Jesus.
He's been hounding me about this, Jesus has.
It started about three years ago. I was studying Matthew, which is the gospel that focuses most on Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law. Matthew 5:18 tells us that Jesus came to fulfill every jot and tiddle of the Law, perfectly, so He would qualify as the perfect sacrifice to purchase our forgiveness. Jesus loved and respected His Father's Law. He came to complete it, not to undo it.
Yet, just a few pages further along, we read in Matthew 8 about how a leper came to Jesus for healing. Jesus reached out, touched him (Matthew 8:3), and made him well. Now, this is a beautiful, compassionate miracle. However, it seems in direct opposition to what the Law says. The Law warns that lepers are unclean and need to stay away from the people, outside the camp. Lepers were not to be touched.
I cogitated on this for awhile. Did Jesus disobey the Law, and sin? I came to a realization. God gave the Law for the people's protection. The Law showed Israel how to live as safely and prosperously as possible in a sin-defiled world. God taught His beloved people to recognize and avoid unclean things that could lead to sickness and death in their society. He provided regulations for dealing with infectious diseases and biohazards.
It was all for their protection, but Jesus did not need any protection.
Jesus was God in human form, but fully God, with all the purifying power of the love of God surging through His flesh. Jesus did not need protection from diseases. Jesus was the healer! When Jesus touched the leper, there was no risk of His contracting leprosy. When Jesus touched the leper, He eradicated the leprosy.
This is beautiful.
The theme keeps recurring again and again. In May, in Ohio, I heard a sermon on how Jesus healed Jairus' daughter and the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. Jesus had contact with a ceremonially unclean woman and a dead girl's body, abominations. He touched what should not have been touched, and the result was healing, restoration, resurrection.
Two weeks ago, we studied the Gospel of Luke with Michael Card for a week. I was about bowled over by how this precious gospel shows Jesus getting his hands dirty again and again, always with a triumphant result. Fevers, leprosy, death, blood, prostitutes and demoniacs. Jesus forges right on into each messy situation, bringing glorious healing and relief. Michael Card calls it "reversing the flow." I love that.
Jesus reverses the flow of corruption. The ordinary flow says that if you touch something dirty, you become defiled (compare Haggai 2:12-13 with Zechariah 3:4-9). But where Jesus goes, when He touches something dirty, He purifies it. This is a miracle.
But wait, there's more!
Jesus lives in us, through His Holy Spirit. Christ in you the Hope of Glory (Colossians 1:27). Christ in us, in me, in you. Christ dwells in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17), and He strengthens us with power through His Spirit in our inner being (Ephesians 3:16). Jesus did not leave us as orphans when He went back to heaven. He sent His Holy Spirit. Through this precious Spirit, Jesus, who lives in God, also lives in us, and we live in Jesus (John 14:18-20).
In John 15, Jesus gave us a picture story to help us understand. Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. We are one organism with Christ, rooted and established in Him through faith (Colossians 2:6-7). Jesus actually somehow forms the link, the bridge, the ladder between us and God the Father. The Living Water of the Spirit of God flows from God into us because of the connection through the trunk that is Christ.
I do not exactly understand this, because it is spiritual truth and all of our physical analogies are imperfect. I do not understand it completely, but I understand this much: the Spirit of Jesus lives in me, and because He does, I too can contribute to the coming of the Kingdom of God by reversing the flow.
By the Spirit of God in me, I can love. I can speak peace. I can walk in joy and thanksgiving. I can bring hope where there was despair. When I do these things, I produce fruit and medicinal leaves for the nourishment and healing of the nations (Ezekiel 47:6-12, Revelation 22:1-2). I can get my hands dirty without fear of contamination. I can walk in the power of God, bringing purification and healing to this battered world.
Satan doesn't want us to know this. Satan wants us to live in fear of contamination. Satan wants us to hide our lights under buckets. Satan wants us to think that we are clean, better than others, but tenuously so, and insulate ourselves from "toxic" people.
Jesus has so much more for us. Jesus came to give sight to the blind, to make the deaf hear and the lame walk, to set the captives free.
Jesus left us with the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit so we can continue the work.
Oh, dear ones, may that same sweet Holy Spirit grant us understanding, power and courage to go forth. May the Lord God trample Satan under our feet (Psalm 60:12). May we walk in victory, today, and may His Kingdom come!