Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
It’s been a while since I’ve written on the back of your calendars. The past few months have been a whirlwind of a ride. We’ve had all kinds of regulations to keep in mind for simple activities. Occupancy limits, vaccine information cards, appointments, testing, hoops to jump through just to get into a doctor’s office, and all the many more hoops to jump through if you catch a case of the sniffles or a full blown cold. Even more testing, self-isolation, symptom monitoring, wait for the results, it all makes you want to pull your hair out.
If you will remember I had to cancel a Lent service & move Bible study online one week because I caught a small case of the sniffles. It was frustrating, I’ll be honest. But it also made me think of something. Whether you agree that such measures are necessary or not, I don’t want to get into that debate, that time of self-isolation is designed to serve a purpose. It’s meant so that once you start feeling ill you hunker down in your home so that you break the chain of infection. You stop whatever bug you have with yourself so that no one else gets sick and you stop that particular bug with yourself.
Reflecting on that notion made me think of something. It made me think of verses like this: “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, offer to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39). “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you” (Luke 6:28). And, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). And finally, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). I know that there are more, but I think these will suffice. When we encounter sin in our life, when other people hurt us, when we’re insulted for faith in Christ, etc., God calls us to take that evil into ourselves and there let it die in forgiveness. We take that curse into ourselves into sin-isolation. Sin wants nothing more than to spread through our members and into others through our anger, cursing, and hardhearted, selfish pride to spawn more sin and hurt and anger. On and on it goes, and we justify ourselves thinking they’ve deserved because of reason x, y, and z. We get to be cruel to those people because other people were cruel to us who will feel like they get to be cruel to other people. But calls us to break the cycle. Put that sin in isolation through forgiveness, dropping dead to the anger, to our need for vengeance and our own definitions of justice. God calls us to stop the pains of sin with ourselves so that no one else will feel that curse. Instead we pray for those who hurt and sin against us. Instead of raging against others, we speak blessing and forgiveness. Instead of acting out of that anger, we speak with mercy and love and with the peace of the forgiveness of Christ.
Breaking that cycle of the curse can be done only in Christ. Jesus is the one who truly and perfectly works this sin-isolation through His death on the cross. He has taken all cross into His own flesh. He became sin for us on the cross so that all sin would be judged on the cross, so that all sin would die in His death. Even your sin was there on that cross, put to death in Christ and stuffed into a new tomb. And then, Jesus breaks the cycle of the curse by leaving all that sin dead behind Him as He rose from the grave once more. Because He took sin into isolation into the grave, you will live eternally, even though you die. Death’s defeat is certain, Jesus will call all people from their graves one day. Now the devil is defeated. Roar as he might in this world, and try as he might, he can’t change his, nor the church’s, fate. He will suffer in hell. All because Jesus put sin into isolation on the cross. You’ve been baptized into Christ, into His death where your sin was put dead into the tomb of Jesus, and into the resurrection of Jesus to be a new creation remade in His image. In Him you have the strength to break the cycle of sin’s curse. In Him you are freed from the curse and now make a beginning of putting sin into isolation.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Tim Schneider