“Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them-living and breathing God!” (Rom 8:5, MSG)
Have you ever met a self-righteous believer? Did you feel special in his or her presence? Did you enjoy being with him or her? Quite naturally, most people despise such an attitude. Who in their right mind would like to be put down, as if they were criminals? These “self-righteous bigots” are obsessed with condemning others. After all, they are preoccupied about how good they are, compared with these “vermin”. What they don’t realize is that they are facing complete moral failure. How else can we label people who condemn others, especially when they are no better?
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults- unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier.” (Luke 6:37, MSG)
I once read about a girl who was fed up with the self-righteous attitude she had learned in her legalistic church. She realized that she failed at being a Christian, for Christians are not here to condemn, but to love like Jesus loved. She summed it up quite nicely: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1John 4:8, NIV2)
But then, many among us have hatred and unforgiveness issues of one sort or another, making us feel a bit superior to these people who we are angry with. Take, for example, Jacob DeShazer. In 1942, he was a young man, full of vitality. After the attack on Pearl harbor, he found himself hating those dirty japs. He wanted vengeance and soon.
He got his wish on April 1942, when he joined the “Doolittle Raiders” whose purpose was to bomb Tokyo and other Japanese cities. In retaliation to the bombing in Pearl Harbor, they were the first to attack the Japanese homeland. Sixteen B-25 bombers headed to the Japanese coastline; however, they didn’t have enough fuel for their return trip. Their plan was to crash-land in China and then find a way back to America. Jacob, however, never made it to China. He ran out of gas over Japanese territory and was captured. He was a prisoner of war for more than 40 months, beaten, tortured, starved, ridiculed…
It’s then that he realized that he had committed a grave error. His father was a minister of the Faith, yet he had never paid any attention to his father’s beliefs. He found himself, in the face of his torment, desiring to read the Bible, and he requested one from the Japanese. In May 1944, he finally received his Bible from a guard, but only for a period of 3 weeks. He used his time wisely and fed himself with God’s Word, so much so that his attitude towards his enemies changed. Was it any wonder the Japanese were cruel? After all, they knew nothing about Jesus! He forgave them then and there.
When he was brought back to the United States after the war, Jacob decided to return to Japan as a missionary. He arrived in the land of his former torture in 1948 and remained there for more than 30 years. Among the Japanese who accepted Jesus as their Savior as a result of his ministry was Mitsuo Fuchida, the navy pilot that led the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Jacob had found his real calling: to love his enemy without any restraints. He realized that
“Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.” (Rom 8:6, MSG)
Love is way more important than anything else!
(To access the entire “Radical Grace From the Book of Romans” devotional series, please click here.)