Alan Cross blogs at Downshore Drift – a blog you should definitely read regularly!
The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!”
Psalm 110 is a Messianic Psalm used to describe Jesus and his ministry. Peter refers to this passage in his Pentecost sermon as referring to Jesus (Acts 2:34). In Psalm 110:4 it says, “you are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” The writer to the Hebrews (6:20; 7:17) used this description of Jesus to talk about how he was able to be a priest even though he was not of line of Aaron where all priests had come from. This passage is a Messianic as it gets.
Something interesting occurred to me today as I was studying in regard to this passage. Verse 2 says that the Messiah will rule in the midst of his enemies. When I think about the reign and rule of God manifested in the coming of Christ’s Kingdom, I do not think about Jesus’ enemies being around. I think about those who worship and submit to Jesus and obey Him. But, this says that Jesus will rule in the midst – middle of – surrounded by – in close proximity to – His enemies. Let’s think about that.
We know and believe that the rule of Jesus is manifested in the church among the people of God. We promote that thought and we want people to come to Christ and be a part of a worshiping community that demonstrates to the world what life is like in submission to Christ. But, how can Christ rule in the middle of his enemies? I think that it happens in a few different ways.
- The rule of Christ is not dependent upon us. He is over and above all things – in Him, all things hold together (Colossians 3:17). He is ruling over all and every knee will one day bow whether we see it right now or not. As our culture runs away from God as fast as it can, denying His existence and rule in every way possible, the truth is that Jesus still rules over all. His Lordship is not deterred by our denials.
- When the Christian lives among the enemies of Christ and he actually lives out the truth of the gospel in tangible ways, the rule of Christ shines even more brightly. In this way, the encroaching darkness around us is actually an opportunity for the light of Christ to shine even brighter and for the contrast to show even greater. So, we are not discouraged when evil seems to be growing – rather, we recognize that this is our opportunity as the hands and feet of Jesus to extend His rule into places that we had not thought of yet.
The apparent growth of evil will actually be an occasion to prepare people to be ready to hear the Gospel and turn to Christ because their need will become more known and apparent to them. In the midst of the enemies of God, Christ will rescue sinners.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “The Christian cannot simply take for granted the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of His enemies. In the end all His disciples abandoned Him. On the cross He was all alone, surrounded by criminals and the jeering crowds. He had come for the express purpose of bringing peace to the enemies of God. So Christians, too, belong not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the midst of enemies. There they find their mission, their work.”
Bonhoeffer goes on to quote Martin Luther in his book, Life Together, “Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. ‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared’ (Luther).”
I think that we have had it all wrong. We, as Christians, have been trying to proclaim and express cultural dominance so that we can be in control. Of course, we want to witness to the ethics of Christ and the behavior that comes from being under the reign and rule of Jesus. But, we are to do that as servants – as slaves – without claiming power and trying to make life nice for ourselves. We witness to who Christ is through living in the midst of his enemies and when we live in relationship with Jesus surrounded by those who hate Him and want to kill Him and remove His name and influence from everything, then Christ is reigning in ways we cannot see.
Christ reigns in North India along the banks of the River Ganges when Christians are there loving and demonstrating the Kingdom in the proximity of a Hindu temple.
Christ reigns on a hillside in Southern Haiti along the coast where children are cared for and taught and shown the love of Jesus – right across the lane from a voodoo temple.
Christ reigns everywhere that he is cursed and mocked when his people tell a different story and even suffer for doing so – especially when they suffer, because His kingdom is not of this world – it is nothing like this world.
Christ rules in the midst of His enemies. Are we willing to join Him there?
He had come for the express purpose of bringing peace to the enemies of God.
So Christians, too, belong not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the midst of enemies.
There they find their mission, their work.