One Sunday we showed up at our rented church building.
Someone had spray painted a Nazi swastika on the front of the building.
We didn’t pay much attention to it as it looked like the work of some foolish children.
But after a couple of weeks the swastika was still there.
I heard some people in our church musing over an idea to use spray paint to turn the swastika into a cross.
I didn’t pay much attention to the idea.
I thought everyone was just having fun with ways to “redeem” a terrible symbol.
I didn’t think they were serious.
However, a few days later I was riding my bike passed our building, I noticed that, sure enough, the swastika had been transformed into a cross.
With the word “love” written beside it.
I didn’t say anything about it.
But I did not like what had been done.
As I anticipated, my fears came to fruition.
I returned back to the building later in the week to find that the word “NAZI” had been spray-painted on the building again.
And this time along the entire front of the building.
Including the windows.
This was retaliation for our naive move.
Violence begets more violence.
Even when it is just spray paint.
Here’s the point.
When we respond to people in the same way they treat us… the vicious cycle begins.
One group tries to rise above the other group.
Eye for eye.
Tooth for tooth.
This approach creates more hostility and divisiveness and antagonism and conflict.
This approach NEVER changes hearts.
It may change behavior for a bit.
But it NEVER changes hearts.
It just embitters and callouses and hardens and begs for retaliation.
The cycle never ends.
Unless someone stops the cycle.
And that someone has to be us.
The followers of Christ.
The proclaimers and extenders of the kingdom.
Our way must be the lowly and humble and meek and loving and blessed and non-retaliating approach of our Christ.
Our way must be the way of Christ, the peacemaker.
No other way will do.
Because when one submits in love… the cycle stops.
That’s the way of Jesus.
And it has to be our way as well- to atheists, to homosexuals, to evolutionists, to members of different political ideologies, to abortionist, and anyone else we perceive as “fighting us” or “waging war against us” or “jamming their agenda down our throats.”
It is only the way of Jesus and the kingdom that changes hearts and changes minds.
And it is that way that will eventually change the world.
But that is the true dilemma.
How will we ever respond to real affliction and persecution in the way of Jesus and his kingdom… if we neglect the way of Jesus and his kingdom when other people simply inconvenience us or frustrate us?
How will we ever love someone who beats us and is trying to crush us… when we don’t even love those who simply make fun of Christianity with their words?
How will we ever bless someone who imprisons us… when we don’t even bless the atheist who says God doesn’t exist?
How will we ever humbly and lovingly serve someone who takes everything from us… when we don’t even serve those who try to remove “In God We Trust” from our currency, who try to remove the Ten Commandments from public property, who keep Creationism out of the public school system, or who try to keep prayer out of school?
How will we ever say “Father forgive them” about someone who kills our loved ones… when we don’t even ask God to forgive someone who paints our church building or who steals something belonging to our church?
How will we ever be entrusted and given more of this kingdom to extend… if we can’t even be trusted with a little?
The truth is that we have a lot of kingdom to discover and embody before we will ever be prepared for anything that resembles “End Times” affliction.
For if we are not like Jesus when times are relatively easy, there is no way we will ever be like him if our lives grow increasingly difficult and hostile.
This text is a modified excerpt from AND THEN THE END WILL COME! (www.andthentheendwillcome.com)