Back in ’92 I was at a horse auction with Arlie, the Executive Director of the camp that I worked at, hoping to find a couple of quiet old horses for the horsemanship program I led. Into the ring was led this tiny pony with a small child on his back. I was amazed to realize that Arlie was one of only two people bidding on him. We got him for fifty bucks.
After the sale he seemed a little skittish when I put a halter on him, but with all the he’d been through that day I didn’t think much of it. That was the last time I touched him without fight. When we went to unload him he tried to kick my knee right through the trailer wall.
I’m no horse-whisperer, but I have had some experience starting and developing horses. I spent nineteen hours in the round pen with that pony. I got him to face up to me and even take a few steps toward me, but he never once let me touch him. I would imagine the poor little guy had seen some rough handling because nothing I did could convince him that I had his best interest at heart. Somewhere along the line he had learned to trust only in himself.
Some of you are like that toward God. All that you have known about or been told of is the wrath of God, and so you avoid him if possible. In the moments when you have to acknowledge his presence you do so with fear and never let him close enough to touch you.
What you don’t understand is that God has your best interests in mind. True, the Bible talks much about God’s judgement and wrath, which is justified and what we all deserve, but what it says is that God poured it all out on Jesus so we wouldn’t have to face it. “God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that . . . we can live with him forever. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11)
If you are afraid of God’s anger, and you may even be a Jesus-Follower, you can be free from that fear but it will require you to let God close enough to touch your life. In other words you will need to submit your will to his in order to allow him to express his love for you.
Have you ever been hurt by someone? I mean hurt as in offended by someone you trusted or even just an acquaintance? Someone has let you down, or betrayed your trust, or by their actions in some way seemed to suggest that your relationship with them is not as valued as you had thought? It’s a rhetorical question because at some point and to some degree we all have been offended and we all have been the offender, intentionally or not. And the injury can be devastating.
Would it surprise you to know that you don’t have to be hurt by these offences, at least not in the same way? Our natural response is self-focused; to protect ourselves either by attacking or retreating from the offender. Neither response is Christ-like. Oswald Chambers had a fascinating observation about Jesus in how he related to those around him. He noted that, “Our Lord never put His trust in any person. Yet He was never suspicious, never bitter, and never lost hope for anyone, because He put His trust in God first. He trusted absolutely in what God’s grace could do for others.”
The key is that Jesus was focused on God as he related to others. Therefore even when his closest friends abandoned and rejected him he was able to respond with their best interests at heart because his driving concern was what God was doing in them, not what they were doing to him.
But there is even more for us. In Romans 15 Paul is talking about getting along with one another saying that we need to be more concerned for the wellbeing of others than for protecting ourselves. Then in verse 3, Paul applies Psalm 69:9 prophetically to Jesus: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” In other words, Jesus took the wounds of the offences that have been directed at us on himself. Therefore, even though we may feel sorrow, or grief, or even pain, the otherwise devastating wounds have already been borne by Jesus and by his strength we are enabled to respond and relate in the best interests of others. This doesn’t equate to being walked all over, but rather is a picture of compassionate strength and courage.
Again, the key is being focused on Jesus. When we are intimately connected and identified with him we will see others in the same way he does. Even wounds we have carried a lifetime will be transformed by his grace at work in our lives. Isaiah 53:5, by his wounds we are healed.