Understanding the Cross: Responding Godly in an Ungodly Age

This post will “piggyback” on Jon’s “Teaching Teens about Temptation.” I had the privilege last night of speaking to some of the teens at my church on the topic of responding in a godly way. I will share with you a little bit of what I shared with them and steps I take to be respond godly. I hope this is beneficial.

Intro: When I was 13, my little league team won one of the North Carolina regional little league baseball titles. This meant that we would have the privilege to compete in the state tournament. For some reason or another, there was one kid in particular on that team with whom I was constantly at odds. On the way back from the regional tournament as is typical with young boys there was some smack talk going around. Eventually the situation began to escalate a little and this boy, named Robbie, leaned over the seat and spit on me.

God has called us, his children, to be salt and light. He calls us to be holy as He is holy and yet when “life” hits it is not always so easy. We constantly face the challenge to act like the World, like “the old man.” So I asked our teens, in light of what Robbie did to me…
•    What would a “worldly” reaction look like?
•    What would a godly reaction look like?

Matthew 26:45-58: The passage that I want to look at shows two men acting in very different ways. Peter does not respond godly and Jesus does. I think the actions displayed here, and the thoughts behind the actions are indicative of why we do not respond godly and if we address these thoughts and actions, we can work on responses that imitate Christ. All sins are at their heart gospel matters, and in this passage, one man demonstrates that He understands the cross/the gospel. The other does not. So throughout this passage, ask yourself with whom do you identify?

Context: Jesus and his disciples are in the garden, Jesus is experiencing great agony – – why? Because he understands the cross/the gospel and what that means for his mission and purpose. He understands that the cross means being forsaken by His Father, and he is preparing to take on the cross. The disciples are sleeping, he is praying and that is where we pick up the passage.

So when we face situations like Robbie spitting on me, why do we respond ungodly? What do we need to address in our lives? Do you identify with Peter or Christ?

I.    Peter responds ungodly because he is not prepared (v. 41)
41” Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
•    In a positive manner, we need to be preparing ourselves because we will daily face situations that demand a godly response. In this passage, one man is sleeping the other is praying. One understands that this is a life and death matter, the other does not.

•    Are you preparing yourself for temptation? Are you preparing yourself to respond godly? You need to ask yourself the question “Am I prepared?” In the context of this question, some in our youth groups and in our churches are not prepared to respond godly. Some of them may not be prepared because they are not believers. Others may be believers and not prepared because they approach the spiritual life with apathy, both sets of people need to grasp the gospel and prepare to live under the Kingship of Christ. Are you prepared?

II.    Peter responds ungodly because he does not trust in God or God’s purposes for his life (51-54)
51” And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

•    Again, this is a gospel issue. Peter does not trust in God so he tries to bring about what he sees as justice in the situation for himself by cutting off an ear. Dr. Russell Moore points out that Peter is acting like a Darwinist. Peter believes that the strongest survive. Sometimes, especially in the context of teaching teens, we do not understand just how far Darwinism has infiltrated even the church. We all seek to make things right by might. That can mean using your fist to respond to a “luggie”, or that could mean insults, or any number of other things. For the believer, however, when we seek to establish justice we do not trust in God who is a just judge.

•    In our flesh, it is very east to identify with Peter here. I would love for Jesus to commend Peter for “taking up arms”, or to call down the fiery warriors of heaven. But instead we are called to something radically different than “Natural Selection.” When we are wronged we are to trust in God and his purposes for our life. We are trust that even terrible things are helping to build our faith and are helping to conform us to the image of Christ – – if you identify with Jesus here and understand this it will help you take on the real injustices that come your way.

•    See Peter wants justice but he wants it on his own terms (justice is a good thing; we all want justice because we are made in the image of a just God).  However, so often we want it on our own terms (justice) – so we do not forgive persons who wrong us because we think if we do that means what they did to us was not wrong. God is calling us to something radically different. Jesus has the ability to fight back, he says Peter I could call down an army like no man has ever seen and he even says to Pilate later on, if my Kingdom were of this world we would be taking you on.

•    Instead, Jesus understands that all the injustices that we commit on a daily basis are about to be laid on him. He understands that if he commends Peter and joins in the fight then you and I are in hell right now.

•    If we begin to trust God and His purposes for our life, then we can understand that we are called to go through trial and tribulation knowing that God is using this to conform us to the one who took all the injustices of the world in his own body on a tree. If we understand just how sinful and unjust we are then we should be able to forgive, we should be able to respond to injustice in a godly way.

III.    Peter does not respond godly because he does not understand the cross – – and that the souls of the world hang in the balance (v. 56)
56 “But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

•    Finally, we must understand that this is a cross-understanding issue. If we understand that we are sinners, then we understand that the cross is central to our own forgiveness and is therefore central to how we respond to others. If we understand that all the injustices of the world were laid on one man and that the justice of God fell on Him at Golgotha then we will not seek to lash back, to fight back, because we will understand that injustice has already been taken care of.

•    Here is the deal – if you respond godly you must grasp these two points.
i.    IF the wrongdoer (Robbie spitting) is a believer you are to forgive them because that sin has already been taken care of. Your king suffered on a cross 2,000 years ago for this sin and if you hold on to that sin you are holding on to something that Christ has already died for… You do not understand the cross.
ii.    If an unbeliever, (Robbie spitting) sins against you, do you really believe that God will take care of that, or must you? Scripture tells us that on the final day that injustice will be taken care of (even every idle word will be held to account). Do you believe in justice and the judgment of a righteous God? We all seek after and want justice, but often times we fail to realize that justice for us apart from the work of the cross is hell. If we recognize this fact, this well help us respond to believer and unbeliever in a way that embraces humility. It will help us respond as our King responds; He puts an ear back in place. We will not be able to do that, but just maybe our responses can bring about a different kind of healing. So forgive seeking the redemption of the unbeliever that wronged you. If he does not then one day that action will be held to account, but that is not something to rejoice in. Instead, that is something to weep over, if we understand our own redemption.

•    This is why constantly in scripture it says the one who forgives will be forgiven, the one who shows mercy will see mercy – – why? Because the one who forgives, who shows mercy, who is wronged and does not seek to fight back shows that he understands the gospel

•    Responding Godly matters because the World is watching you – That is why this is so important, it could affect lost people around you. In addition, your heavenly father has called us to be a people set apart; this is a life and death matter.

Much of the content to this post was influenced by a Dr. Russell D. Moore sermon entitled “Why Jesus is More-and-Less Violent than Allah, Planned Parenthood, and Me: Mercy, Ministry, and the Kingdom of Christ.” The second part of this blog will entail five things I told the teens I use to help me respond in a Christ-like manner.