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Hearing the Cry of the Human Heart!

by Jeremy Marks

As we approach Easter 1999, my astonishment at the grace of God continues to grow. But it is not enough to stand in awe and worship of such a wonderful Lord. Jesus taught us that unless we are willing to take up our cross and follow him, we are not worthy to be his disciples! (Matthew 16:2, 25) To me, this means learning to have the same attitude as Jesus-to be willing to identify with others, without shrinking back from any shame and disgrace associated with them. We cannot add to the work of the cross of course, but we can lay down our lives in humble service; surely we must do all we can to win people for Christ through our love and example. Loving one another as Jesus commanded is the distinguishing characteristic of the Christian fellowship (according to John 13:34–35).

Allowing the Lord to challenge us

At our first monthly celebration for the Courage Discipleship Group this year (1999), my wife Bren told a profoundly touching story of a young child giving his life to Jesus. She used this story to open a time of prayer in which we could offer the Lord something we could give to him, as we began the New Year. Immediately the thought came to me that God would like me to be willing to give him my reputation. ‘You have laid down your career’, the Lord said to me, ‘You have been willing to give up your salary and accept financial uncertainty; you have devoted yourself to teaching, being an example and to helping others. Now I want to reach people who feel they have no hope and I would like you to help facilitate this in some new ways.’

Wasn’t I doing this anyway, I pondered? But I sensed that God’s concern was-that I was overly concerned with treading a path that offers hope, while at the same time operating in ways that I hoped would not alienate our supporters or prompt accusations that we were lapsing into liberal theology or compromise. To do so, I felt, would be a highly risky enterprise! ‘But,’ I sensed the Lord challenging me, ‘I need you to understand my heart for homosexual people. Are you willing to lay down your reputation?’ ‘Well, of course I am!’ I replied. Indeed I must, if this is what the Lord requires.

What else could I say? If the Lord says I need to face the challenge in a new way and step out into unknown territory I must do so. However, this is not straightforward! There are many questions I have been having to work through in my own heart these past few months. This rather lengthy article reflects my attempts to grapple with the things I see the Lord doing (John 5:19), and to try to make sense of the implications for me and the work of Courage. For those who have the time and inclination to read through my thoughts, you may find this article uncomfortable and that it raises more questions than it answers. However this is a process for me and I have not reached final conclusions.

New wine needs new wineskins, Jesus observed (Matthew 9:17). Unless I can be flexible in response to what the Lord is doing in these times, I shall be of no use to him. I must respond as best I can.

‘The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’
John 3:8 (NIV)

Hearing the heart cry of those who have lost hope

A year or so ago, I met up with a former member of our ‘Steps Out of Homosexuality’ programme, an intensive discipleship course that we ran for a number of years. As a discipleship course it is excellent-good for any Christian to work through! However, this brother has given up the struggle against his homosexuality. He is now proclaiming that Courage (and ministries like ours) are seriously misguided and is angrily attacking Christians for our ‘homophobia’ and hostility towards gay people. Now he feels that at last he has found peace with God, having accepted he is gay. He is determined to find and enjoy a gay relationship to the full.

If this were an exceptional story, I would not mention it; but there are so many other people who feel the same. Some Christians are able to dismiss these folk as mere rebels who will receive their judgement from God in due time. For me, however, having witnessed the tremendous commitment this man showed to working through his issues throughout his time with us over several years, I cannot just interpret his change of heart as mere rebellion; I know the immense pain he has been through.

Any pastor (or parent) will know the agony of heart and spirit you can suffer, when you lose the confidence and respect of someone you have loved, struggled with and poured out your best efforts to help. Worse still, when they proclaim that your very efforts to help them were completely misguided and seriously damaging to them, you can feel devastated. Of course this brother is responsible for his own choices but for my own part, I can only respond with humility, turn to God and ask Him where I went wrong. Increasingly I am finding that God has some vital lessons to teach me in all this.

I am all the more motivated to learn these lessons, having personally experienced God’s amazing mercy and grace through my own times of desperation and rebellion in past years. How did I get through? Not by any successful strategy or magnanimous change of heart on my part! I can only thank God, for surely it was his patience and understanding, as he walked with me through those dark years, not allowing my despair to have the final word. It was the Lord’s unwavering commitment to me that turned my life around and gave me hope once again.

Learning from the Message of the Cross

‘Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name ... ‘
Philippians 2:5–9 (NIV)

Jesus knew that he was going to pay the price: all our sins, our shame and guilt were about to be placed on him! Out of love and compassion for us all, he chose to suffer and die in our place. Considering the terrible price he paid, his love for us and his commitment to us, sinful though we are, is something utterly amazing and wonderful -beyond our comprehension. Surely, any genuine personal encounter with such a saviour can only be radically life-changing.

I have often wondered how Jesus felt about the people he met-those to whom he preached and those he befriended? Knowing he was going to pay the price for all of their sins-however disgusting, shameful, degrading, deceitful, cowardly, hypocritical; how would Jesus have looked at them? How does he view us today?

The purpose of his great sacrifice was to make it possible for sinners to become reconciled with the Father. Jesus’ requirement of us is simply that we recognise our profound need and accept his all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins. This is not a matter for mental compliance. To proclaim our Christian conversion with integrity, we must put our whole trust and confidence in him and obediently follow the One who loves us so much. To meet Jesus is to meet the truest friend-who loves us unconditionally and wants the very best for us. In humility, Jesus knows that the very best for us is that we should freely surrender our whole lives to Him. So how does he look at us when he sees the sinful lifestyles, attitudes and hidden agendas we all have? Surely it can only be with tender love and a longing to win our confidence in Him.

Jesus loves us to the very end

I have often wondered how it came about that Judas Iscariot attended the Last Supper, when he was just about to complete his betrayal of Jesus? How did he even come to be there with the other disciples? The Last Supper must have been a very special and important time for Jesus to spend with his disciples-hardly the occasion to invite the person you know is going to betray you and hand you over to your enemies, who are planning to visit the most unimaginable horrors upon you within the next few hours! Yet Judas was there with the others. I can only conclude that Jesus wanted to use every opportunity to show Judas his love for him-right up to the last moment. Whatever Judas felt or planned to do, Jesus wanted him to know that he still loved him, and wanted to include him amongst his closest friends to the end. Jesus remained vulnerable to him.

Judging by their fruit (Matthew 7:16)

We need to be a discerning people, however. We cannot afford to be naive and follow just anybody’s ideas or teaching. On the other hand, our fears of upsetting the status quo can just as easily lead to self-deception. ‘Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgement’, Jesus commanded (John 7:24).

Jesus taught us to judge by the fruit of a person’s life (Matthew 7:16). At first this seems plain enough; but saplings do not become fruit-bearing trees overnight, and in reality the fruit of a person’s life only becomes evident over some years. Only then is it possible to recognise what truly motivates them. Even then, when some hidden lifestyles are unexpectedly revealed as grievously ungodly (as we have seen, tragically, with some prominent Christian leaders and evangelists over the years), this does not mean their hearts are necessarily motivated by selfishness. More often than not, they too have unresolved areas of pain, hiding their need behind their leadership ministry. The important question is, does the teacher or leader we follow exhibit the same attitude as Christ and bear the same fruit?

The Christian Gospel is dangerous!

One of the great dangers of preaching the good news of Jesus Christ is that there will always be people who will use their freedom in Christ to ‘justify’ their own agendas. For some, this may mean a selfishly ambitious pursuit of their career at the expense of their spouses or families, or making money in ways that are dishonouring to God; for others it may result in their justification of behavioural and sexual licence.

In their letters, Paul and other New Testament writers urged their readers not to compromise the teaching of the true gospel, even at the cost of their own lives. The gospel is a very dangerous message! The danger is not just that people might attack or even kill us for preaching it (as in some societies), but also, as Paul clearly recognised, there are real dangers of allowing room for licentiousness and immorality too.

It seems impossible to preach the gospel without opening the door to potential misuse, misunderstanding or sinful exploitation. It might even be argued that unless we see evidence of certain opportunists using the gospel to justify their own corrupt ends, we are not preaching the message of freedom with sufficient conviction!

Maybe our tendency towards a play-it-safe mentality-to protect our reputations-has watered down the gospel message and is the reason for the powerlessness of the Church in these days? But Jesus was not crucified for maintaining the religious status-quo!

Has our God been too small?

How do these thoughts apply to us, at Courage, in this stage of our development (now in our twelfth year of ministry)? Readers of our newsletter will have noticed a strong emphasis in the work of Courage on developing close relationships in the Body of Christ, where people can begin to feel secure, where they know they truly belong and can develop an authentic sense of self-worth. We have made plenty of mistakes over the years and there have been instances where relationships have not developed in ways that are honouring to God. (Don’t all churches face that danger though? This is what can happen when sinners gather together!) However, we have endeavoured to be faithful to all that God has shown us, within the limits of our own faith and vision.

Our emphasis on relationships has partly been inspired by the work of author and psychologist Dr Elizabeth Moberly. In the early 1980s, Moberly published her conclusions following research into the origins of homosexuality. She had come to believe that the primary cause is a deficit in same-sex bonding in the early developmental years of a person’s life. She saw appropriate same-sex relationships as being the solution to this need, not the problem. This is a very perfunctory summary, but you can read about her work in detail in her book Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic (published by James Clarke and Co.). Though I am unconvinced by her hypothesis now, Moberly’s research has been one of the most important influences in my understanding of the subject and her prognosis was very significant for me, and many others.

Practically though, it is difficult for adults with deep emotional needs to get the balance right if they try to build close same-sex relationships. The dangers of ‘inappropriate forms of bonding’ (as seen from a traditional Christian point of view) are indeed great. However, we know that God’s Spirit is willing and able to help and guide us. And when we commit our way to Him, good fruit is evident in the long term, even though the process can seem dubious, even messy, on the outside!

I have tended to take a pretty cautious approach over the years, though I have aspired to being more radical. But in the past at Courage, we have been quick to recognise the moral dangers of two people getting close to one another-where there is clearly an attraction between them. (Though who makes friends with someone they are not attracted to?) Consequently we have been inclined to warn people of the dangers of getting too close, and recommend they hear more teachings, attend more meetings, and seek God with more prayer-with fasting from any self-indulgence!

Doing what we see the Father doing (John 5:19)

More recently, in circumstances outside the scope of my influence, God has been showing me what he wants to do in the lives of his people, adopting a far more radical approach than I would dare to propose! For instance, God clearly seems willing to allow his people to go much further down the road of developing close relationships than we (at Courage) have ever encouraged, because according to our own wisdom they could lead to sin! Moreover, as conservative evangelical Christians, frankly we are reluctant to admit that any good fruit could occur in this way: ‘The end does not justify the means!’ we argue. Doesn’t it? Well not if ‘the means’ is about turning away from God of course-but we are talking here about people reaching out to God in faith, being open to the guidance of His Spirit and being humbly dependent on Him. The lesson I am having to learn is to trust that God’s Spirit is at work amongst broken people.

Moreover ...

‘Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that God exists and rewards those who earnestly seek him.’
Hebrews 11:6

Trusting God to work with any kind of risky strategy is daunting to say the least, if not plain foolhardy! The fact is, however, we see that where there is the slightest openness to God in people’s hearts, the resulting good fruit in their lives becomes evident and is wonderful to see. The fruit I am speaking of, is evidence of a growing faith and responsiveness to God, with consequent repentance from self-centred agendas, as people discover for themselves that God is FOR them. Whereas our focus has tended towards seeking change-from homosexual to heterosexual! Perhaps that may happen in the long term, for some. That is for the Lord to decide. But no longer do I see this as being God’s primary agenda and it certainly has proved to be an unhelpful proposition.

Risking our Reputation

A ‘good reputation’ before men is unimportant to Jesus, compared to doing the will of His Father-which is to save sinners. Instead Jesus reached out to and identified with people dismissed as the dregs of society and was heavily criticised by the religious establishment of the day. So, to win hearts for Jesus, I must face the uncomfortable truth that this is unlikely to happen unless I am willing to risk my own reputation too.

Returning to the theme of Jesus’ radical ministry approach, the reaction of many of us (one that I can entirely understand in my own ministry), is to endeavour to strike a right balance, so that there can be no misunderstanding. But in reality, I just cannot find a successful or fool-proof way of doing this! Somehow, this means we have to preach the Good News-that we have freedom in Christ-whilst in the same breath, warning of the danger of licentiousness! In practice, this just makes people become increasingly self-conscious; they endlessly examine all their motives and become fearful of making mistakes. In turn this leads to increased passivity as they wait for God to do something. Waiting on God all sounds very spiritual of course, but when nothing changes and their struggles continue unabated, disillusionment creeps in. Yet we see that Jesus actively demonstrated a passionate concern for sinners. Surely we must do the same.

Loving the Sinner, hating their Sin

We love the saying, ‘Jesus loved the sinner but hated the sin’! This is a neat way of expressing a doctrine, but how many of us really respond well to someone saying, ‘I love you-but I just can’t stand what you do!’ Does this help us believe we are loved? And how does this convey the gospel message? Jesus loved the sinner but, sinless though he was, he became sin for us so that we might be set free from its penalty and power. Quite a different emphasis! How many of us are prepared to take that same attitude?

All too often people perceive the Christian message merely as a challenge to ungodly lifestyles and a call to return to traditional moral values. This may seem an altruistic enough cause, to be sure. But unless people really see how much Jesus loves them, evoking a response of faith from their hearts, they are no better off (perhaps worse). To try and shame people into changing their behaviour only adds to their burdens!

Encouraging those who have lost hope!

These days, I see an increasing number of people who are on the edge of church life, having more or less given up hope of ever finding a way of resolving the conflict between their homosexual feelings/longings and their Christian faith. Some come and confess that they have begun to seek intimate same-sex relationships and, in spite of some guilt they may feel, the affirmation they’ve experienced through same-sex intimacy has been so important that this seems to be the only viable way forward for them.

Too many have concluded, sadly, that there is no hope for any reconciliation between their deep needs and their Christian faith. Some have gone on to accept they are gay or lesbian, adopting a pro-gay theology that is anathema to traditional evangelical thinking. Others have missed the grace of God altogether, in the process, and become embittered about their Christian experience! (Hebrews 12:15)

As I have studied the way Jesus met and interacted with sinful people, I have seen increasingly that his ministry style was to walk alongside them in their circumstances and encourage people to recognise, to believe that he is really with them. In this way, they discover for themselves the power of God’s Spirit at work, even in situations that formerly we would have regarded as an irresponsibly high-risk strategy. This has shown us that in many instances, where people’s hearts are open to God, the Holy Spirit has indeed been faithful to guide them into all truth. Even if their hearts are not open, God is still faithful (2 Timothy 2:13), just as he has always been towards me. Today we see men and women discovering that God cares-like a Father who is interested in the things that matter most to us. This discovery is one of the most effective and lasting encouragements to faith and truly fosters a response of obedience.

Of course the risk of self-deception is enormous; however I cannot see how Satan would have any interest in promoting worship and a sincere desire for Christ-centeredness that we see in the lives of those amongst our group members who truly seek him. I believe it is more important that we place our confidence in the God who sought us when we were lost (see the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Luke 15,4–7), and has promised to guide us into all truth. After all, the scriptures teach:

‘For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’
Hebrews 4:12

To me, the greatest danger of all is that people will lose their faith and reject God -apostasy is a far worse scenario than the danger that they might fall sexually. Grievous though it may be, sexual sin can be forgiven, while forgiveness for apostasy is seldom even sought!

What are God’s Priorities?

Jesus’ priority is surely to restore our relationship with the Father. So if we insist on compliance with the law, yet fail to touch people’s hearts, we miss the goal of making disciples completely (Matthew 28:18–20).

In the gospels, I do not see Jesus treat sinners in a remote or condescending way; he took a real interest in their lives and became involved, at enormous risk to himself, in the things that mattered to them. Just consider the way he filled the empty fishermen’s nets with fish after a fruitless night’s fishing, or stood by the woman caught in adultery who was nearly stoned to death by the self-righteous crowd (John 8:1–11), not to mention many miracles of healing and an extraordinarily authoritative teaching ministry that touched the hearts of ordinary people in a way that was so strikingly different to the religious leaders of the time. Surely we must have the same attitude as Jesus and be prepared for involvement and identification with those we truly care for. So then, if for instance, one man feels deeply for another and they build an intimate friendship together, then whatever we feel about homosexuality, their feelings matter to God. Would God’s Spirit impart an attitude that rubbishes their feelings or dismiss them as a sinful agenda!?

Where does self-control come into all this?

Godly self-control is a fruit of the work of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:23), but self-control that comes from a fear of making mistakes (intimidation), simply cripples; eventually this provokes disillusionment and rebellion. So we must recognise that to judge one man’s feelings of love for another as being, almost by definition, lustful or demonic in origin, or as a sure sign of rebellion, is incredibly hurtful to people who are learning to be genuine and honest about what they feel rather than hide their feelings or live in falsehood. How can we expect such a man or woman ever to understand the love of Christ, if their feelings are denounced by Christians as fundamentally deviant, perverted, or demonic? Yes they need to understand that their love for others will never be satisfying enough-only God’s love, as we learn to trust in Him, can do that. However, I believe that more often than not, as Christians we are not as concerned for God’s views on the matter as we profess! Our concern is that expressions of same-sex intimacy seem strange to us, hard to understand and, above all, socially unacceptable!

I was most amused when, at a recent Courage Trust Board Meeting, one of the trustees related that in a part of the world he visits regularly to help oversee a missionary work, apparently it is considered normal and acceptable for close male friends to greet one another with a kiss on the lips! I believe I noticed a momentary pallor in his face as he admitted he did not have any close friends there-yet!

Mixed Messages

In his book, Dancing with Your Shadow (Triangle Books, page 25), the author Steve Shaw tells the story of a man who came to him with a devastating sense of personal rejection saying, ‘Discovering I was gay was like discovering that I was that person my mother had always warned me about!’. So when it comes to homosexuality, the Church’s proclamation of the gospel often presents a mixed message that is impossible for many (gay) people to grasp in any helpful or redemptive way.

How does anyone interpret a message-’Jesus loves you and you must love Him with all your heart-but just remember that your idea of love for a man is something unclean, even detestable before God!’ ?! Besides, let’s be honest enough to recognise that Jesus’ own model-His friendship with John, the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’-does not conform to our western cultural perceptions of love at all! Certainly I have never seen a single Christian leader willing to follow his example!

The difficulty for us as Christians is that we fear showing too understanding an attitude, lest this be interpreted as approval-worse still, encouragement-of homosexuality, then God will judge us guilty of ‘whitewashing the gay agenda’!

What really is the greatest danger?

Without faith it is impossible to please God! Without confidence in Christ and the work of the cross there is no salvation. Without confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised to us-to lead us into all truth-we have no hope!

So unless a man can dare to trust that Jesus is really interested and cares about the things that are of deep concern to him, how will he ever come to faith and discover the freedom in Christ we preach? Admittedly it takes some Christian maturity to reach the point where our priorities are reversed and we care more about discovering the things that matter to God. But maturity is something that takes time to develop. Too often, in our pastoral ministries, we put the cart before the horse!

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom
(2 Corinthians 3:17)

So what is the freedom we proclaim? Freedom from homosexuality? Freedom to marry? Freedom to be ‘normal’ like everyone else? What place do these agendas have in the message Jesus commissioned us to take to the whole world? Our primary message must be that Jesus came to reconcile us with God-and he taught that God is our Father, not judge, enabling us to worship and glorify Him. Freedom to worship will, as we learn to trust Jesus over a period of time, bring freedom from a lifestyle of ungodly values and immoral or deviant behaviour. But this occurs through a redemptive process that continues working throughout our lives. Freedom from one particular area of sinful behaviour or attitude (that we find offensive) is surely not God’s first priority.

Only as we are convinced by the message and embrace the good news for ourselves do we find the freedom to love others as Christ would have us love them.

Learning from Experience

I began this article with the story of God’s challenge to me, with the result that we have had to come to the point where we honestly acknowledge that our work in recent years has just not provided the kind of fruit we had hoped for, long-term. Even the ministry of healing prayer, running discipleship programmes, support groups etc., valuable though these areas of ministry may be in themselves, it has become clear that in spite of our commitment to offer the best help we can over the past eleven years, sadly too many people are now just floundering. Some are not merely questioning their commitment to celibacy but, much more seriously, they are questioning their commitment to the Lord. At this point, too many pastors and counsellors are inclined to just give up and wash their hands of such counselees, concluding ‘This person is just not serious enough in their commitment to Christ!’. But, I believe the greatest danger is to end up making the same mistakes and pursuing the same agendas that Jesus denounced the Pharisees for! In fact Jesus gave the severest warning of the dangers of adopting a pharisaic attitude (Matthew 23)! The trouble is, we cannot imagine that they would ever apply to us. Yet the following words reveal just how strongly Jesus felt! Dare we ignore these words?

‘Woe to you Pharisees, hypocrites, you load men’s backs with burdens that are impossible to bear and do not lift a finger to help them.

‘Woe to you Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

‘You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

‘Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside you are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.’

My own Testimony

... is that God meets us as we are now. When we come to him, he takes our needs and feelings seriously, in a very down-to-earth and practical way. Jesus did not offer long-term counselling. He called people to follow him; to trust him; to receive the Holy Spirit and to learn to love one another!

I have personal experience of God meeting my desperate feeling of need for male intimacy, thanks to a very good friend, back in the early 1980’s. We were completely open and accountable with a few close friends-an important and effective safeguard no doubt. But there were Christians around us who felt most uncomfortable seeing our close friendship; some speculated as to whether we were in fact having a homosexual relationship. We had to ignore the suspicion and rely on a few trusted friends to pray for us and confirm the witness in their spirit that God was at work in us. The fruit of these times speaks for itself-I would not be in this ministry now if God had not blessed our attempts to step out in faith, risky though it was.

The Wheat and the Tares
(Matthew 13:24–30, NASB)

Jesus told his followers a parable about a farmer who sowed wheat in his field; an enemy came along at night and sowed weeds in their midst (tares-which apparently look very much like wheat until fully grown). Only at harvest time would it be possible to separate the two because to pull up the weeds when the wheat was not ripe would be to destroy the crop at the same time. I am so grateful for this story because clearly the temptation to substitute self-discipline and self-denial for a life where we are honest and vulnerable enough to own our true feelings and simply trust God-coming to him just as we are-is very great. Yet the scriptures are clear from beginning to end that the truly ‘righteous’ man or woman is the one who walks by faith in God-which is life-changing-whereas an emphasis on self-discipline merely promotes conformity to what looks right in the eyes of man (Colossians 2:23). Though we can have considerable discernment from experience and with the help of the Holy Spirit, only God knows the true motives of a man’s heart, and that may not ever be apparent to us (in this life).

In Conclusion

Some of our readers may feel this article will raise some anxieties or pose more questions than it answers. Others may see the danger of compromise or encouraging sin. Maybe they will want to remind me of Ephesians 5:3 which says, ‘But among you there must not even be a hint of immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.’ I shall try to address these important concerns in future editions of our newsletters.

Nevertheless, it is my conviction that God is telling us to take courage and pursue a more radical approach in these days; in time I believe we shall see much good fruit that will glorify God and gladden our hearts.

Inevitably there will be those who will take our approach as an excuse for licence. However, we are commanded to preach the gospel and set a good example to others; it is the responsibility of the hearers as to how they respond-either with integrity in following Christ, or with opportunism to exploit the situation for their own selfish ends. But God knows the heart of every man. (1 Corinthians 4:5)

Let us take comfort from meditating on Jesus-who paid the price of our sins in full, and looks upon us with tender love and compassion, befriending us and calling us to follow him. May you find the time to be absorbed with the Lord Jesus Christ and meditate on all that he has done for you this Easter.

‘Love the Lord, all you his saints. The Lord preserves the faithful, but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily. Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.’
Psalm 31:23–24 (NRSV)

© Jeremy Marks 1999 (updated with minor corrections December 2003)

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