Thursday, January 30, 2020

"It's Cold Down Here"

Matthew 24.9-14 NKJV

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 

And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Love grows cold for a myriad of reasons, some of which are enumerated in the text from Matthew 24 above. Murder, hatred, offense, betrayal, deception, all falling under the over-arching theme of “lawlessness,” will cause “the love of many [to] grow coldduring the Great Tribulation at the end of time.  

But “love... [can] grow coldfor many lesser reasons than those which will characterize the “tribulation” of which Jesus spoke. Pain can harden even the noblest of hearts and freeze the ready flow of love. I have occasionally suffered the pain of misunderstanding and the loss of meaningful relationships. My “tribulation” may be minuscule by comparison to real political persecution, but it still hurts. I have been seriously “offended” and shockingly ‘betrayed’ by people I thought were friends. I know how it feels to be ‘hated’ for my beliefs. Ive had close associations with people who were eventually exposed as “false prophets.” I’ve been the victim of ‘deceit’ by those who claimed to be Christians. 

The natural tendency when experiencing relationship brokenness is withdrawal and isolation. When my feelings are hurt, I am tempted to hide safely behind emotional walls and keep my distance from people who are bound to hurt me again. I may even decide that intimacy is not worth the risk of the inevitable pain it causes. The “lawlessness” of others can make my “love… grow cold.”

When I lost my dear wife, Adonica, four and a half years ago to cancer, my world fell apart. She was the most faithful, kindhearted, honest, and loving person I have ever known. I consider all my combined, previous suffering to be minor, almost nothing by comparison to the loss and grief I was forced to bear upon her departure. I wanted to crawl into a dark hole and hide from life. Day to day responsibilities with the children, the household, and the finances made escape impossible, but I was tempted nevertheless. My “love [still] grow[s] cold every moment I lose vigilant foccus and indulge thoughts of self-pity. 

She came. We loved. She left. Now I hurt, but God, a little less badly now than in the months following her death.  

Jesus Christ knew all too well the price of love, but He gave it anyway. He never let His “love... grow cold and He commands me to endure and do the same.

“...he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

The gift of salvation is perfected in the furnace of “tribulation.” Without “tribulation” there can be no real salvation. Otherwise, what would I need saving from?

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached
in all the world as a witness to all the nations…”

The message of my life means nothing if I do not absorb my sorrow, embrace my grief, and choose to love like Jesus did. This is the “gospel of the kingdom” I must preach, the story I must tell. There is redemption and purpose in my gift of my suffering. I do not have to let my “love... grow cold.” Rather, I can learn from my pain and take my story of Christ’s redemption into “all the world as a witness to all the nations.” 

Then, according to Jesus, “the end will come,” and what a happy ending it will be.  

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