Friday, September 14, 2012

Stand Down

Stand Down

Michelle was about to get married.  So, she asked Tom for advice, since he had been married more than 30 years.  Tom took a long and deep breath before he answered.   He said, “I’ll tell you one thing that has made a difference in my marriage.  If something she does bothers me, before I react I ask myself, ‘Is this something that will bother me all the time or is it just now?  Because, if it bothers me just now, then I need to let it go.  If it is something that will bother me all the time then it is something that needs to be addressed.  You cannot live the rest of you life upset about something.  So, you need to learn to pick your fights.  There are times you need to stand down.”  Tom was in essence saying that there are times you put up with things because if you do not, if you react, the damage caused is more than what you perceive was done to you.

Now to stand down means to withdraw from a state of alert or readiness.  This means more than you stop from pursuing your course of action, which was to harm your opponent; it means that you are not expecting to be provoked.  So, even if provoked you do not react by defending or attacking the assailant.  So, you “put up with” whatever is done against you.  This is akin to what Christ talks about in the Sermon of the mount. 

Matthew 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
Matthew 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Matthew 5:40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
Matthew 5:41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Matthew 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
Matthew 5:43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

To do this consistently and continually is humanly impossible.  But, is Christ admonishing us to do something we cannot do?  That would be unfair.   How can we reconcile this?  It is only when we allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and transform us into the likeness of Christ by the renewal of our minds that we can do this - by writing His laws and statutes and in our hearts and mind: essentially giving us a new heart (Romans 12:2 ; Jeremiah 31: 33; Ezekiel 36: 26).  

We have no doubt that this is how Christ lived.  He came in the likeness of Sinful flesh, was tempted in all things as we are (yet sinned not), and conquered Sin in the flesh (Romans 8: 3; Hebrews 4: 15).  Christ was totally and continually dependent on the Father – He only said and did His will (John 5: 30).  And, Scripture says that Christ was full of the Spirit (Luke 4: 1).  The same Spirit also dwells in us, if we allow Him, and gives to us what Christ had.  Thus, we can live as Christ lived.  In fact, we live Christ’s life (Galatians 2: 20).

Paul is saying in 2 Thessalonians 1: 3 - 5 that the Thessalonians lived this way.  Let us read the passage,

 2 Thessalonians 1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
 2 Thessalonians 1:4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
 2 Thessalonians 1:5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:

Paul thanked God because the faith and love of the Thessalonians was growing.  This was revealed in how they treated one another, and in the patience they exhibited through all the persecutions and tribulations they endured.  Now, the word for endure in the Greek is anechomai.  It means to endure or to bear.  Based on the context of the use of this word in the New Testament, the closest definition is really the expression: to put up with.  But, in this context it is more then mere tolerance – as we define it: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own; and, the act of allowing something. 

The word anechomai refers more to a God given capacity to endure pain or hardship.   When assailed, you stand down; you know that God is in control.  The love of God, which is spread abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, is not easily provoked, but bears all things (Romans 31 Corinthians 13: 7).  So, God makes you able to bear the attacks or tribulations.  And, they weigh heavy on you, because the person assailing you is not aware of what is at stake.    They either do not know who they are really hurting or do not know the extent of the pain inflicted.  You feel for them, wishing they knew what you know.  This could be the reason why Jesus was able to utter the words, “Father forgive them for they now not what to do” (Luke 23: 34).  When Peter drew his sword to attack the mob, Jesus answered,

Matthew 26:52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
Matthew 26:53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
Matthew 26:54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

In other words, “Stand down; I must endure this to complete my mission.”  So, we can conclude that the Thessalonians were enduring as Christ did.  Are we?