|Seal of the Germantown Congregation|
"Ah, precious soul, take courage new,
All this shall have an end;
The cross's load will grace renew;
Soon blissful rest thou'lt find.
The sorrow of this fleeting time
Is worthy of the joy divine,--
Translated from a German hymn by Peter Becker, Germantown, Pennsylvania.
"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;" I Peter 1:13
The German Baptist Brethren, otherwise known as the Dunkards or Dunkers, came to the American Colonies to escape persecution from the Lutheran church. They formed a congregation in Germantown, Pennsylvania.
Peter Becker had a reputation for living a pious and godly life, and for his even temper. I imagine he felt the sting of persecution in the form of mockery perhaps from those who thought him odd. At the end of each verse, the word "Patience" appears. How fitting a word for us all to hear when we'd love to scream, "Unjust!" Perhaps when he wrote this hymn he had specific men in mind:
"If upon the narrow wayThou suffer scoffings here,Just go on in path of right,But shun the broad way's snare;Though men may look at thee askanceAnd thou must often grieve perchance,--Patience."
How wonderful that God provides for us examples of men who have lived the way He wants us to live.
In a discussion with my daughter, the subject of gracious living came up. So often we hear on the radio or TV malicious talk. Expressed opinions given in a manner of ill-will leave us wondering what separates those who profess Christ from those who hate Him. From the pulpit, from time to time, we'll hear a fiery sermon expounding upon some seemingly unforgivable sin or ideology. Where is the grace in that?
The people to whom the Apostle Peter wrote were experiencing great persecution, some even having been thrown to the lions. Not once through his epistle did he say to speak out in anger against those whose ideologies were wrong or who despitefully used his readers. He did not want them to seek revenge through actions or words, for that was the Lord's to do. On the contrary, he exhorted them to do quite the opposite.
After reminding them the price Christ paid for them and the great salvation they received, Peter says:
"Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings," (I Peter 2:1)
Peter didn't launch into a bunch of dos and don'ts. He didn't say, "Wear this; don't wear that." He went first to the outward expression of the inward character.
We, who are saved by grace, must extend to the same grace God extended to us to those around us--even those who mistreat us or whose lifestyles and ideologies contrast what we believe to be right. Grace doesn't mean you condone what they do. It doesn't mean you excuse what they do. It simply means you extend to them the blessings they do not deserve, even as God extended to you the blessings you do not deserve. And remember, the Holy Spirit convicts and draws men to God...not you.
In my research of the preachers and the people of the colonial times, I find time and again the companions to Godly character are a kind heart, an even temper, and a generous spirit. I find the men and women who bore these traits were loved and esteemed even by their enemies.
My daughter often encounters 'trials' in school where her faith maybe tested. In this recent conversation, we agreed that grace must prevail in our conversations with others. Sure they are out to rile you. Don't give in. Turn and walk away, if you must. But look to the Holy Spirit to produce in you His fruit and lay aside any harsh words that would match the words and manner of the world.
"Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous;
Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it."
I Peter 3:8-11