Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 6 2013 - Matthew 5:27-48 – Faithfulness and Love

Jesus calls us to live lives marked by complete faithfulness. We are to be people whose word can be trusted because we have a God whose word never fails. Jesus calls us to reflect the character of God in our relationships with one another.

In particular, those who are married should be faithful to their marriage partners. And not only outwardly faithful, affections and sexual passions are to be directed exclusively to the one to whom we have pledged our love. We need to take great care over what captures our attention and fills our eyes, guarding the life of our imagination so that it does not lead us away from exclusive devotion to our spouse. The sexual images that are prevalent in our culture and which many consider harmless can be a deadly drug that does not satisfy but leaves an incessant craving for more – a drug that will poison our relationships and lead to death.

Marriage is for life. It is not the chains of a life sentence but the bonds of a covenant faithfulness that never cease to embrace the beloved. It is a reflection of God's great love for us declared in every page of Scripture and displayed most clearly in the Lord Jesus Christ; a love that will not let us go. We are to love like that.

And as if that were not enough, kingdom people are called to love those who do not love us – love even those who are opposed to us or mistreat us. Such love breaks the endless cycle of bitterness, hatred and revenge; it is love that breaks the petty retaliations of tit-for-tat.

Love like this does not come naturally to fallen human beings. If we feel that we have been treated unjustly we want to strike back – or at least seek some redress. Nor is this entirely wrong: it is rooted in a desire for justice; a desire to see wrongs righted and for situations to be resolved equitably. But in a fallen world such desires easily become twisted; the desire for justice becomes a desire for revenge – a desire to hurt the one who has hurt us.

The Old Testament law sought to limit revenge and restore the principle of equitable justice with its rule of "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth". Jesus lays a new foundation in his call, "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven". Justice seeks recompense; love seeks to reconcile and transform.

Such love is divine. In his grace, God has not treated us as our sins deserved. In his love he sent his Son into the world to save sinners. The love that has appeared in Jesus embraces the unlovely, loves the undeserving; it is love that draws the unholy into the embrace of a holy God. We cannot live without such love. We cannot live with God on the basis of justice but only through the loving embrace of his grace.

We who have known the love of God are called to show that same love to one another and to the world around us. We are even to love our enemies. This is how God has acted towards us. Such love can transform the world.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

Father God, thank you that you are the ever-faithful God of love. Your affections never stray, neither do you cast us off despite our many failings. Help us by your Spirit to love as you have loved and to be faithful as you are faithful and in this way transform the world through the love of Jesus.

Jan 6 2019 - Psalm 1 – The godly life

I have just finished a rather sad book by a woman whose family were involved with the Exclusive Brethren. The leaders of that movement seemed to think that holiness required separation from any who were not in their own sect. Married couples, parents and children were divided from one another and told to lead separate lives. It is difficult to imagine that this was pleasing to God.

Psalm 1 declares:

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.

What does this mean for us in practical terms? How are we to live holy lives? Do we have to separate ourselves physically from the world around us?

Who was the most perfectly holy human being who ever walked the earth? It was our lovely Lord Jesus Christ. He was and is “holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). His life was not shaped by that of others around him who did not know his loving Father; his life was shaped by devotion to his Father and by a determination to do the Father's will. But Jesus did not keep himself physically separate from “sinners”. On the contrary, those in his day who separated themselves from others and thought of themselves as holy and righteous complained that Jesus was often found in the company of “sinners” and of the outcasts and dregs of society. He was found often in their company because these are those for whom he came into the world. His presence touched and transformed them – he was not polluted by being with them or eating with them. 

We are called to be like the Lord Jesus, to listen to his voice and follow him. We are not called to physical separation from the world around us or from the people of this world, but we are called not to conform to this world but to have minds and characters continually transformed by the presence and power of the risen Saviour. We are called to be a people who bring his transforming presence into every situation we are in.

And we have the promise of God that those who live such lives will be blessed. The life rooted in Jesus Christ bears fruit (v.3), abundant fruit, fruit that will last (see John 15). Lives lived in close fellowship with Jesus bear fruit to the glory of God.

“Whatever they do prospers”, promises the psalm. God does not promise to make us prosperous in terms of our finances or possessions. Rather, he promises that life devoted to God is a life worth living – indeed, it is the only life worth living. It is the most blessed, the most happy of lives.

There could not be a greater contrast between the flourishing life of the one who lives in close communion with Jesus and the person who cares nothing for God and lives only to please themselves. Their lives are described as being like chaff which the winds of judgment and of eternity will blow away.

Lord Jesus, help me to live in close fellowship with you. May my life count for something – count for eternity. Keep me from becoming conformed to the character of this world. Enable me rather to bring your transforming presence into each and every action, conversation and relationship. May I bring streams of living water into the thirsty deserts of a world that does not know you. Help me to breathe in deeply of the life of the kingdom and breathe out that life to give life to others.

Peter Misselbrook