Monday, January 9, 2017

What to do with negative people this year

Each New Year, we sing the old 18th Century Scottish poem for Hogmanay, "Auld Lang Syne" with these words:
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
This New Year has many people storming to social media with resolutions to keep negative people and negative vibes in 2016, resolved to keep 2017 positive and happy; resolved to forget old acquaintances. This type of self-righteous, judgmental thinking sounds so enticing to us. To think we deserve only comfort and positivity, and that negative people should be ignored and discarded is what our flesh desires, but it goes against walking in the Spirit.

Consider our Lord's words here: "If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" (Matthew 5:46). To only love those who give us positive vibes and positive thoughts is what worldly folks do. The Christian is to love differently than this broken world. We are commanded to love as Jesus loves.

In Matthew 22, our Lord gave a parable. There was once a great king whose son was getting married, so the king organized a great banquet. The king invited many to come to the banquet, but those who got the invite had other plans and refused to come. The king became angry and rejected the people who had turned down his invitation, calling them unworthy. The king sent his servants everywhere and invited everyone, both good and bad, positive and negative. The king's banquet hall was full.

Jesus came to a cold, broken world of sinners. Jesus saves "whosoever comes." Jesus knows our thoughts and our deeds, yet loves us anyway. He dined with sinners while the elites of this world only surrounded themselves with people they chose to make them feel good. The world calls this, "self love;" yet, it involves self-righteous hatred of others. This is how the Bible defines love: loving the unlovable with God's love to God's glory.

Jesus said that tax collectors (you know "bad people") only love those who love them. We are commanded to give the invite to the King's banquet to all (Matthew 28:19-20). There is not one person too ugly, too negative, too sinful to love with God's love. This does not mean accepting their sin, but to love and serve them despite their sin. God's grace has invited ugly, negative, hateful sinners like you and me to this banquet.

If Jesus took the world's advice and discarded negative people or anyone who gave negative vibes, you and I would have no hope. We need to be shown the way to eternal life, we ourselves need an invite to the king's banquet. So does everyone else! They will not know the way to enjoy God forever if we cast off and ignore people we don't like. My beloved, Jesus is the way.

Yes, unlovable people are hard to be around and serve and love and care for. I get that. I know my Savior was a suffering servant for me! But I also see in Matthew 22 that we need clothes to be in the king's banquet (Matthew 22:11-12). We ourselves don't get to come to the banquet just as we are. Whose perfect goodness am I clothed with? Jesus' righteousness alone. Same for all of those negative people out there. They, too, can enjoy God forever if they are clothed in Jesus' wedding garments.

We do not have the authority or the right to declare who is in our life, who we love and serve, who deserves to be around us. That is God's authority and right. Jesus has declared that our loving service and gospel call goes to ALL. To only allow positive people in our lives puts ourselves and our feelings at the center. To cast off negative people makes us the judge. A church that teaches this self-righteousness is unsalty salt.

Let us followers of Jesus be a city on a hill, a light for those in darkness to hear the invitation to the king's wedding banquet, to find sinners saved by grace who love and serve like Jesus. 

If you are reading this and you find God's love contradicting your view of love, but knowing full well that this condemns you as a hate-filled, judgmental, self-righteous, self-worshiping sinner, I have good news for you. Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have everlasting life. Don't cast off negative vibes to feel good about yourself. That's a false peace. Cast off your thinking that you have the self-righteous authority to judge others and compare your goodness to the world. Seek the Lord while He is near. Jesus is Immanuel, "God with Us," and He is near. The "whoever" means you. Jesus invites you to the banquet, and He gives you the wedding clothes of His goodness. Jesus has proven this by taking your cross, dying your death, and defeating death by raising again.

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