Peace, Justice, and Nonresistance – Changing from God’s enemies to God’s friends

“For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:10-11 [Emphasis mine])

Albert Barnes’ style of commentary is to comment on sections or portions of the scripture passage under question. His style of doing this is not unique, but coupled with his insights, I find it very compelling. I have excerpted the portion of his commentary where he is talking about the passage I have highlighted. Read this with me, and I will have some concluding remarks.

“When we were enemies – The work was undertaken while we were enemies. From being enemies we were changed to friends by that work. Thus, it was commenced by God; its foundation was laid while we were still hostile to it; it evinced, therefore, a determined purpose on the part of God to perform it; and he has thus given a pledge that it shall be perfected.

We were reconciled – (Note, Matthew 5:24.) We are brought to an agreement; to a state of friendship and union. We became his friends, laid aside our opposition, and embraced him as our friend and portion. To effect this is the great design of the plan of salvation.

( 2 Corinthians 5:1-20; Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:16.) It means that there were obstacles existing on both sides to a reconciliation; and that these have been removed by the death of Christ; and that a union has thus been effected. This has been done in removing the obstacles on the part of God – by maintaining the honor of his Law; showing his hatred of sin; upholding his justice, and maintaining his truth, at the same time that he pardons; (Note, Romans 3:26.) And on the part of man, by removing his unwillingness to be reconciled; by subduing, changing, and sanctifying his heart; by overcoming his hatred of God, and of his Law; and bringing him into submission to the government of God. So that the Christian is in fact reconciled to God; he is his friend; he is pleased with his Law, his character, and his plan of salvation. And all this has been accomplished by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus as an offering in our place.”

While Barnes might have a slightly old-fashioned and unusual perspective on this portion of scripture, I think a lot of what he has to say is very good. For example, I am not sure God would have ever considered us the Lord’s “enemies” but we were outside of the perfection of the Divine. Through Christ’s death we are brought into perfect relationship with God. It is part of God’s magnanimous nature that the Lord would seek to bring sinners to right relationship with the Godself. One would not do that with enemies. But God has said to treat OUR enemies as friends, so perhaps Barnes is not to far off at that. And I like what he says about man/humanity needing to their/our part by accepting this overture from God. If it were a “small” gesture on God’s part, for example accepting burnt offerings, we might not be willing to change ourselves to meet God’s expectations. But God offering up Jesus Christ – in a way, part of the Godself – in order to establish peace between God and humanity is too large a gesture to ignore. Or it should be.

And furthermore, if God has done this great thing for us, we should in turn offer peace to others, in remembrance of God and to keep ourselves within God’s expectations. May you gentle reader honor God’s sacrifice by living in peace with others and living in harmony with God. Selah!

Prayer, just a thought away

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. “ ( 1 Thessalonians 1: 2b-3 [Emphasis mine])

When I was a young Christian, I heard it said one should pray without ceasing. I had to wonder, does that mean a good Christian should always be praying, along with anything else he or she might be doing? If so, it seemed like being a good Christian was a lot harder than I thought.

I wonder if Albert Barnes was given that impression as a child. In his commentary on this passage he says of Paul’s professed diligence in prayer, “This is not to be understood literally, but it is language such as we use respecting anything that interests us much. It is constantly in our mind. Such an interest the apostle had in the churches which he had established.“ And even at this, I think Barnes is overstating the case slightly.

I know from having spiritual directees and clients I counseled, I did not think of them constantly, but many things would bring them to mind, and when that happened I would think of them and pray for them remembering their strengths and their challenges. And it was not just directees and clients that I would pray for. It was also family and friends, and those people’s family and friends, and then whole networks of people. I heard of one prayer warrior who kept a prayer diary, and would simply lift up the diary and say, “all the people listed here Lord, bless them, support them” etc. I admit having done that myself a time or two.

“Praying without ceasing” does not mean always having a prayer as background to all other things. It means as the day goes by allowing any and everything in one’s day lead one to prayer; that there is not one event or person that is not prayed about. The prayer warrior never considers themselves “prayed out”, but is moved to pray whatever the circumstances.

Paul says later in 1 Thessalonians (chapter 5 verse 17) to pray continually. I would imagine he would say as he prays for the Thessalonians and all the other churches that were under his care.

May you seeker pray for those things and people who are under your care, and may you be prayed for with the diligence of Paul. Selah!