Spiritual Stamina

“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  Matt. 24:12,13

Let’s face it, lawlessness has increased.  We live in desperately evil times.  We are surrounded by wickedness and by those who pursue new, novel approaches to the expression of evil.  It takes a lot to shock us anymore.  Love has become a casualty of our times.  For believers, it is harder to love those who have no respect for law.  In a philosophically and thus politically polarized culture it is difficult for those on opposite poles to have “love” – however they would define it – for each other.  It is simply harder to have an “overcoming” perspective on life when life just seems to be “lawless”.  Jesus says that love will grow cold in many when lawlessness has increased.  I repeat, lawlessness has increased.  Love will naturally grow cold.

To illustrate how many of us feel (I can read your emotions because I know mine so well  J) in these lawless times, I share a simple experience from a dear brother of mine.  His son is learning to drive and as they were progressing in one of the higher crime areas of our city recently he noticed several adolescents riding their bikes and walking in the lane of he and his son.  The boys were actually proceeding against traffic and as my friend and his son approached in their vehicle the young men; i.e. lawless punks, made no attempt to vacate the lane.  They actually proceeded with those very familiar looks of disdain, haughtiness and rebellion.  They made no attempt to get out of the way and actually progressed in the direction of my friend’s oncoming vehicle.  Eventually, my buddy and his son had to change lanes in order to avoid running over the bicycling boys.  Now, for the honest person, love does not typically proceed from such an encounter.  Anger.  Fear.  Disgust.  Loathing.  Righteous Indignation.  The desire to run over someone.  (Did I say that out loud?)  All of these tend to run through us whenever we encounter haughty, blatant lawlessness.  Love does not naturally emerge.  In our day, when approaching any group of adolescent boys who did not just come from a Bible study, the natural expectation is trouble and the natural emotions are fear and anger.  These are lawless days in many respects.  Our love is tested almost daily.  The atmosphere of evil in which we live has a natural tendency to “freeze-dry” the love in our hearts.

Thus, in my typical fashion, I have created the current, morally troubling scenario and it is at this point I typically produce the magical spiritual bullet.  You know, the one step, easily enacted method for spiritual success.  “Just close your eyes and dream of love.  Lovely, loving love for everyone.  Even love for little disrespectful, haughty, hateful, unguided, mealy mouthed punks.  Love, love, love, love…..” Apply this quick fix to the wound of your condemning heart and proceed with life as usual.  Problem solved.  Life continues in grand fashion.  The problem, of course, in this instance is that Jesus does not offer such a solution – nor does he often offer such a solution.  Honestly, I don’t want to love wicked, lawless people.  I don’t want to like, love or associate with such people.  Honestly, I want to dislike them and blame them for the ills of our society and the pain of our existence.  For bringing trouble upon my children.  For interfering with the “good life”.  Honestly, I have trouble loving anyone whenever evil surrounds me and the wicked attack goodness daily.  My love is growing cold.  Would someone please get me out of the spiritual freezer?

Jesus’ solution is simple and direct but not easy.  In days like these, He says, the love of many will naturally grow cold.  In days like these, He still calls us to love our enemies and frankly, I don’t like that very much.  However, I think I have discovered that as my love for those I deem “lawless” grows cold so also does my love for most everyone.  I find myself focusing on the ills of society and lamenting the destruction and degradation of our culture.  I find myself filling my thoughts with the wickedness of wickedness.  Negative thoughts produce negative emotions.  The downward spiral has begun.  Nausea begins.  Vomiting will follow.

Jesus solution is simple to say but almost impossible to live.  Endure.  “…the one who ENDURES to the end will be saved.”  Focus on the love of God that has been poured into your hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) and endure.  Endure TO THE END and you will be saved.  Salvation awaits the one who is able to endure in love until the end.  We aren’t called to love evil deeds, yet, we are called to love all people and people are evil.  Jesus’ “fix” for the “love coldness”  that attempts to invade our hearts in lawless times is to endure and to fight. He did not come to make peace, but war.   Make war with those ungodly feelings and thoughts.  Wage battles with evil.  Be strong in your faith and stay focused on goodness.  Be committed to love.  Jesus’ true “fixes” are always ongoing.

My Daddy left a diary from his time in the Philippines in World War II.  He was in the Army Corps of Engineers and worked building landing strips in the heart of the Pacific.  His diary is short and less than detailed but two overarching themes prevail:  The fear of being bombed in the recurring Japanese raids and his enduring love for my Mother.  He writes about scrambling to take cover whenever the air raid sirens are sounded.  He writes of his deep, enduring love for my Mom and his dreams about her and his letters from her.  In the midst of the war, he continued to fight and work and through it all, he kept his focus on Christine and did not let the daily war distract him from his deep love for his dear wife.  He endured the evil of war by focusing on the love of his life and amazingly, his love for her never grew cold.  If an earthly love can work such a miracle, just imagine the Miracle that a Heavenly love can work.

I must say, although it will sound very cliché and quite churchy, that in these lawless days when love has a tendency to grow cold, we must keep our eyes set on the One Who has renovated our hearts and poured the love of God into  them.  We must endure.  It doesn’t sound very ‘Precious Moments-like” but it is true.  We fix our eyes on the Goal of our faith, our Salvation, Jesus the Christ.  We endure the lawlessness of every age with Christ’s increasing strength that is made manifest in our weakness as we press on with our faces set like flint on the One Who HAS endured and conquered…”yet for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross…”  (Hebrews 12:2)

In days like these love means…

Sometimes just getting out of bed

doing the unthinkable and showing kindness to a jerk

biting your lip and shutting down evil thoughts

exposing our hearts to the Word of God daily

sharing the only really Good News

expressing gratitude to the One who has made true love possible in your heart

cultivating a love that stays warm in lawless days

enduring because our Salvation awaits

The grace of God to you all.

Wen

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