Edwards and Strachan: Love Our Enemies

“Christ denied himself to help us, though we are not able to recompense him; so we should be willing to lay out ourselves to help our neighbor freely, expecting nothing again. Christ loved us, and was kind to us and was willing to relieve us, though we were very hateful persons, of an evil disposition, not deserving any good, but deserving only to be hated, and treated with indignation; so we should be willing to be kind to those that are an ill sort of person, of a hateful disposition, and that are very undeserving. Christ loved us, and laid himself out to relieve us, though we were his enemies, hated him, had an ill spirit towards him, had treated him ill; so, as we would love Christ as he hath loved us, should {we love those who are our enemies, hate us, have an ill spirit toward us, and have treated us ill}.”

-Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733.

“It isn’t hard to say that we’re Christians. If we keep the definition vague, the shoe seems to fit. We go to church, do what we’re supposed to do at work, and write a check once in a while to a worthy cause. With this low threshold, the faith doesn’t seem all that challenging; it fits comfortably into a typical American lifestyle, and we experience little discomfort.

But when we dig into the priorities of true Christianity, that laxness seems woefully deficient. The standard of Christ is not simply to love people who love us back, or to love humanity in a general sense. The standard of Christ is to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Such teachings present us with a major challenge. It’s no easy thing to love someone who acts hatefully toward us. Our every instinct runs away from love in such situations.

Christianity brings about a quiet revolution in the human heart. One of its chief effects is to awaken a full range of compassion and kindness to the people we encounter. Faith grabs hold of the truly repentant, and upends us, making friends of those who once were enemies. “Christ loved us” when we “hated him.”

Now, God gives us the strength, the otherworldly ability, to emulate our Savior and love those who despise us. Few practices are more challenging—or more revealing of the authenticity of our faith.”

‘If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.’ (Romans 5:10)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands, Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 167.

Edwards and Strachan: Examine Yourself

“Examine whether or no you are new born.

1. Whether or no you are, ‘as little children,’ humble (Matthew 18:3-4).

2. Whether or no ‘as new born babes,you desire the sincere milk of the word,’ whether [you are] governed by spiritual appetites (1 Peter 2:2).

3. Whether you are a ‘follower of God, as a dear child’ (Ephesians 5:1), and ‘walk as a child of the light’ and of the day (Ephesians 5:8), [and] follow God: [a] child with a filial disposition, [with] love, reverence, [and] dependence as a little child on a father, imitating, obeying in everything.”

-Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733. As recorded and commented on by Owen Strachan.

“The seriousness of Christianity is unlike anything else we’ve experienced. It’s true, Christians can sometimes earn the reputation of being overly uptight. We want to guard against that, especially because overflowing joy is a major gift of God to his blood-bought people. But we also stand apart from the world in fundamental ways. Life is not a joke. It is not a game. We are sinners. Eternal matters are at stake.

So it is that true religion marks us as different. Our faith is not a mere interest in heaven, but rather a matter of heaven and hell. Above all else, we are called to examine whether we are in Christ (2 Corinthians 13:5).

‘Test yourself,’ the apostle Paul tells us. So it was that Jonathan Edwards summoned his hearers in Massachusetts to examine their hearts. Were they humble? Did they desire to know God’s Word? Were they ‘governed by spiritual appetites’? Did they seek, at even a basic level, to follow their holy Father?

These were not trick questions. Edwards did not wish to bring his people down, but to lift them up. When we revisit such matters as these, we who are born again will remind ourselves of our first priorities.

Our present walk with Christ is not about having a position, or being listened to by others, or making ourselves great. It is about the simple things: humility, spiritual hunger for God, obeying the Father.

In a world prone to silliness, the Christian faith is serious, and it yields serious change, and serious joy.

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ JOHN 3:7

-Owen, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 135.

Strachan: Everlasting Security

“By looking to Christ, we find our lasting identity and everlasting security. We are no longer insecure, for we enjoy ‘perfect safety in Christ.’ Christ is our life (Colossians 3:4). The ‘evils’ and ‘misery’ we so long faced have met their match in our Savior. He has disarmed unrighteousness and made a mockery of pride.

These theological truths mean everything to us. We cannot be happy by looking to ourselves. We must look to Christ. We may struggle to feel settled and confident at time, but God is our father and Christ our ‘strong rock,’ the giver of ‘undisturbed tranquility’ in a place where nothing is stable.”

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 125.

Edwards: Quiet and Sure Rest and Peace

“The Saints receive by Christ the most quiet and sure rest and peace. By his redemption they obtain or will obtain the most perfect rest and sweet repose of mind.

They may lay themselves down and sleep and awake, the Lord sustaining of them. They may dwell quietly and without fear of evil. They may set their hearts at rest, and may enjoy undisturbed quietness without having anything to fear.

And that with good reason, for by Jesus Christ they enjoy the most perfect safety. They are thoroughly secured from all evil. He that is in Christ, he has the almighty God to be his defense. He is secured from all those evils and that misery he was exposed to while in a natural condition….

From the top of the highest mountain of God he may behold the dreadful work that storms make amongst miserable mankind below and himself be out of their reach, enjoying the most undisturbed tranquility in Jesus Christ, his strong rock.”

-Jonathan Edwards, in a sermon from 1730 as quoted by Owen Strachan in Always in God’s Hands, 125.

Strachan: We Should Not Muzzle Ourselves

“CrossFit, if you’re not already aware, is an intensive workout program that combines
cardio and weightlifting exercises. I’ve learned that you don’t have to ask someone whether they do CrossFit. If they do, they’ll tell you. It may be something about the program’s difficult nature that triggers the need to announce personal participation.

But this isn’t unique to workout routines. We don’t have a problem telling people about the stuff we value highly—whether it’s a new truck, a refinished kitchen, or a band we love.

How strange, then, that we often feel the need to stifle our praise of God. We have our reasons, of course; we’ve all experienced a time when someone overheard one of our prayers, or a spiritual conversation, and reacted negatively. Within seconds, they’ve vacated their table at the coffee shop.

Though the sinful human heart despises the things of God, we know that God’s mercy and grace are worth sharing. Like the Pharisees mentioned by Jonathan Edwards in today’s reading, the world wants to rebuke our praise. We cannot help but offer it anyway.

We should not muzzle ourselves. We should not quiet our lips. We should praise our king with assurance. The whole earth is filled with the glory of God. The heavens declare his praise. The skies proclaim his handiwork. Scripture tells of his works and his ways.

We need not be obnoxious in celebrating our Savior, but neither should we be oblivious to God’s greatness. We have received all the riches of heaven itself. With boldness and grace, let us proclaim the Good News.

We shouldn’t have to be asked whether we follow Christ. The people around us should know.”

All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name. (Psalm 66:4)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands, 133.

Strachan: Everyday Life Is God’s Gift to Us

“The miracle that God intends to give most of us for most of our days is the miracle of the ordinary. Everyday life is God’s gift to us.

The ordinary existence is the one suffused with holy dynamism, for it welcomes and involves birth and death, planting and uprooting, war and peace, mourning and dancing.

The enchanted life that God would give us in Christ is not what we might have been trained to expect or desired in our hearts. The enchanted life is the life given to God, a life that embraces the full range of human experience, including the ordinary and even mundane.”

-Owen Strachan, Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind, 331.

Strachan: Divine Judgment

“The conquest of the promised land is righteous and God-ordained. In the Old and New Testaments, the Scripture never encourages or asks us to apologize for the exercise of divine judgment against sin and sinners. The Christian, then, is not on his heels with regard to the Canaanite conquest or other such texts; the Christian, in fact, must never accept the lie that a God who judges evil is a God we cannot worship. The text presents the opposite view: we cannot worship a God who does not oppose and overcome evil.

Surely, the matters in question are beyond the facile workings of the creaturely mind, as all the things of God are; we boggle at the reality of divine judgment, and we feel tremendous sorrow when we hear of image-bearers who choose self-destruction—and eternal torment—over the good paths of God’s righteousness. We read of the wicked nations and people groups of the Old Testament, and we shake our heads at their choice of antiwisdom over divine truth. As we do so, we confess freely that whatever God does is right. This confession, however, does not scrub away our horror at what sinful humanity perpetually chooses to do instead of obeying God.”

-Owen Strachan, Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind, 223.

The Canaanites, for example, practiced the following and sought to entice Israelites to do the same (with amen tragic success in the old covenant eta): incestuous marriages between brothers and sisters, homosexuality, bestiality (in Egypt women cohabitated with goats), and child sacrifice.

Strachan: Oneness Is Not Sameness in Eden

‪”The Bible begins with the oneness of humanity. In the Garden of Eden, there is no enmity and strife in the God-made world. There is difference, for the man and the woman are not the same and the creatures bear many distinctions—great and small—from one another. Oneness is not sameness in Eden. Creation forms one symphonic sound of praise—the song of life—in it’s superabundant diversity.”

-Owen Strachan, Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind, 207.‬

Gender Upheaval, Coming to a Children’s Commode Near You

“The gender revolution will not be televised. Why? Because it is taking place in your local public bathroom.

It’s true: gender upheaval, coming soon to a commode near you. In Maine, the state Supreme Judicial Court found in a recent court case that a young woman described as transgender could enter male or female restrooms. In California, the state legislature passed a bill that gives students who self-identify as “transgender” the right “to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities,” including the use of restrooms of both sexes. As if using public restrooms wasn’t frightful enough!

The effect of these watershed developments in the water closet is hard to miss. Depending on their “gender expression,” boys and girls may now enter restrooms of the opposite sex as they see fit. These bizarre developments sound more like a dreaded group project in Gender Studies 101 than an act of the state. Gender revisionists have made a fuss about the “fluidity” of gender for years now, but their views have largely failed to penetrate mainstream American public life. All this is now changing.

In our enlightened new world, boys can shower with girls. They can enter a locker room of the opposite sex when they wish, and, provided they profess to be transgender, no one can stop them. This is true not only of teenagers, but kindergartners. The sexually curious no longer have a barrier to their exploration. Teachers cannot step in. Administrators cannot intervene. In public schools, per the will of the Maine judiciary and the California legislature, children no longer enjoy the protection our society has assumed as a matter of course.”

Keep reading: http://thefederalist.com/2014/02/18/childrens-restrooms-are-the-next-front-line-in-the-gender-wars/

-Owen Strachan. Owen Strachan is executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and assistant professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. He also teaches for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Bethany and is the father of two children.