Tough Love?

And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
Jude 1:22-23 NKJV

With children, some situations call for compassion and some call for correction. If all we ever offer is compassion,  we will end up with selfish,  manipulative little devils. And if all we offer is correction,  we will end up with resentful,  rebellious little devils. It takes both to be an effective parent. And it takes listening to and receiving both to grow in maturity.

It is the same with the Kingdom of God. We must be willing to receive both His mercy and His discipline. Both are ingredients necessary for growth and survival.

A fool with little vision or understanding, looking at the strong heat of the sun bearing down on plants day after day, might see outwardly that the sun is causing them to bend under its power might, but not having any knowledge or understanding of what is going on inside the plant, this fool might completely misunderstand the purpose for the sun’s brightness shining down on the plants so they can grow closer to the sun.

This same fool might look at the soil of the earth and the rains that come down on the plant and bless the rain for providing the plant with mercy while cursing the sin for the harsh trials that it puts these plants through, not realizing that only through the sun – through its transforming the materials provided by the earth and rain to the plant – can any fruit be grown. Without the sun, no amount of water and soil will rise up to be anything more than water,  dirt,  or mud. It is the warmth of the sun,  and the power of its repeated, powerful shining down on the plants that awakens the seed to burst forth from the ground and reach towards the heavens as it grows.

And this is how our trials grow us. This is why both the mercy and the trials are important. If all we are interested in is the rain of His mercy and the resources of the soil of this earth – if we listen to the twisted message of the enemy and are interested only in receiving the rain of forgiveness and the wealth and comforts of this world,  but we refuse the trials and correction and discipline of repentance – don’t we understand that we are rolling in the mud like the pigs instead of reaching towards the heavens?

And if we will speak to others about Christ, if we will call ourselves teachers of His one way,  one truth,  one life – aren’t we called to follow Him in that way and to share the whole truth of this Christian life – not just the same story of the rain and the soil that even the pigs know how to get excited about – but singing praises of His trials and tribulations and discipline and chastisement and correction and redemption and delivery from the soil to reach for the heavens, yearning to escape the mud and grow closer to the sun?

Yes,  even the pigs get excited about rain and soil. Even the pigs get excited about forgiveness and prosperity. But only the living and growing plants appreciate the heat of the trials and sufferings and persecution that we as, Christians are promised in this life – because we understand that is where the growth happens,  that is where the escape from the ways of this world occurs, that is what draws us closer and closer to the source of our life even while we are still planted in the ground.

The Lord has made the sun shine down,  the rains fall down, and the earth to break open and allow room for our roots to grow deep – not so that we can cling tightly to this world,  but so that we can grow taller and higher and closer to the heavens. But if we are only grounded in the soil and mud, the storms of adversity would tip us over and we would only be useful as wood for the fire. We look to grow upward.

And we are meant to be those who abandon the ways of this world – those who follow Christ faithfully – those who are not just called to grow – those who have been chosen to be grafted into the strong and sturdy vine of Christ. Once we are tapped into that strong vine of Christ, when we are a branch that has been grafted into His tree, when we have Him as our foundation, we are not only growing towards the heavens,  but living alongside and with our Savior daily.

So we should ask ourselves where we are in this journey? Are we still rolling in the mud? Are we just bursting forth from the ground? Are we cursing the strong heat of the trials, wishing we were back in the mud? Are we shooting up fast and high above the mud in pride of our own accomplishments only to be withered away and fruitless because we are looking down on others and not up at the sun? Have we grown in the past,  but we’ve let ourselves become stunted in our growth because of our concern over whether we’ve gathered enough soil and water at the base of our roots,  worried about our toppling over instead of expecting to be grafted into a new vine? Have we been grafted in and we’re excited to see new buds growing on our branches? Have we been bearing fruit for some time but we’re wondering where it all went?

Yes, we are each at a different place in this journey – but we all have the opportunity to continue growing instead of turning back to the mud. There is something much better than the mud, friends, isn’t there? Don’t you know the truth? Tell someone else,  and find out if they also know that there is something better than the mud. Yes,  we all played in the mud at one time, but we have a better destination and purpose available. Are you Called? Following?  Chosen?