This world is a violent world. All suffering is the violation of your will, and so we all suffer violence: There are earthquakes, tsunamis, destruction, and death. Men break into homes, beat people, and molest people. Conmen bind people to contracts and extort the weak and vulnerable. We suffer physical violence, emotional violence, corporate violence, and even spiritual violence.
So we’ve all been violated, and we wonder what it means. We live in a violent world and into that world Jesus speaks the Gospel. In Luke 6 He says, “Love your enemies and turn the other cheek.” Some call it “the gospel of nonviolence.” But that’s where it gets a bit confusing because God doesn’t always seem to be non-violent.
People think that’s what I’m saying when I preach that “God is love.” They think I’m saying that He’s non-violent, that He would never violate your will. But just telling you to “Love your enemies” kind of already violates your will; (you will that He didn’t say that). Well, in the Old Testament, He certainly seems to violate our will. He’s violent. In the second century A.D., Marcion taught that the God of the Old Testament was a different God than the God of the New Testament. Yet the violence isn’t only in the Old Testament, the violence is also in the New Testament, or maybe it is the New Testament.
PICTURE THIS: Jesus’ hands chained to a block as He kneels before it. Roman soldiers whip Him while others are laughing. Jesus clenches His fists in pain.
Now you may say, “That wasn’t God’s will, but our will.” (And if you say that, you’re onto something.) Yet in the garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus sweat great drops of blood, He prayed, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thy will” (Luke 22:42).
Isaiah 53:10 “It was the will of the Lord to crush him.” This is a profound mystery, but in the garden, Jesus (who, all His life, had willed just what the Father willed) had a different will than His Father’s will–God’s will. And God violated that will, yet Jesus surrendered that will to God’s will on a tree in the garden, and He died. It’s absolutely astounding . . . But still it’s easy to think God the Father is the violent one, and Jesus the Son is the non-violent one (the nice one).
But Jesus tells a story and in the end, it gets pretty violent. It’s a story about servants who need to be ready for their master’s return.
In Luke 12: 35 – 47 “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master (kurios: Lord), when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may opened him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would’ve watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Then Peter said to him, “Lord, do you speak this parable only to us, or to all people?”
And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward. Who then is that faithful and wise steward whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming,” and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at that hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
Kind of violent, don’t you think? “The Lord” literally cut the unfaithful servant in two. And it sure seems like that Lord, is the Lord, Jesus. The story continues:
“And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes shall be beaten with few.”
Well, that’s a freaky verse, but it can’t be describing what most people call “hell.” I mean, there’s obviously an end to the beatings, because some get many blows and some get few blows . . . as if the beatings had a purpose, a telos–an end.
“But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him, they will ask the more.”
So catch your breath and think this through:
1. Those that haven’t heard the law or the gospel (those to whom much has NOT been given), but have disobeyed, will be beaten.
2. And those who have heard, and disobeyed, will be more severely beaten. The only ones that will not be beaten, are those that never disobeyed, that is, those that have never sinned.
Scripture is clear: “All have sinned.” Therefore, all will be beaten. Only One hasn’t sinned: the One you imagined just a moment ago, the One who was “crushed for our transgressions.” (Isaiah 53:5)
So now, if you’re an American Evangelical, like me, you think: “Hey I get it, because I trust the Lord, I won’t be beaten because He is beaten in my place . . .” Well, Jesus didn’t say that, and the servants that knew the master’s will, and still disobeyed–which is us–still get beaten, and not only beaten, beaten most severely. There is nothing in here about, “Say a little prayer in the back of a pamphlet” and you won’t get beaten.
According to this parable . . . ALL will be beaten. The Pygmies in Africa that never heard the gospel will be beaten. And the Presbyterians that have read all of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics will be beaten. Saddam Hussein and Billy Graham both get beaten if both have sinned. And for all we know, Billy might get the worst beating, for Saddam may not have known the Lord’s will, and Billy did know the Lord’s will.
Romans 2:6 “(God) will render to each one according to his works.”
(That’s not the Old Testament but the New!)
We’re not saved by our works. But God will still render to each one according to his works. What will He render?
Endless torture… Or maybe “discipline?”
Well, it seems clear that all will be beaten . . . and maybe, all get cut in two. And maybe, you already feel a bit cut in two. I mean just reading this, didn’t you feel a bit cut in two? You thought, “Hey I’ve got oil in my lamp”–I’m excited for the Lord of love to return!” Then you thought, “But oh no! I’m a little stressed about that return because He calls me a steward, charged with distributing His stuff to other people. But I call ‘His stuff,’ ‘my stuff,’ and I don’t like giving it to other people. In fact, rather than giving it to other people, I like beating other people to get it.”
You feel a bit of a dichotomy within yourself: There is a self that trusts Love, and “God is love. And there is a self that does not trust Love and doesn’t want Love to come back. But He’s coming back. So when is He coming back?
According to Scripture, “the end of the ages” has already come upon us who believe (I Corinthians 10:11). For Christ “suffered, once for all,” at the “end of the ages” to “put away sin” (Hebrews 9:26).
Jesus is the end, so when we meet Him at the cross, we arrive at the end. Or the end arrives at us. On the day He was crucified, Jesus said to the High Priest, “I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man . . . coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64).
So you don’t have to wait until the end of time to get beaten and cut in two. In fact, you might get beaten and cut in two this very day.Whatever the case, we will all be beaten. It seems that this Lord beat the hell out of his servant. Will the Lord beat the hell out of us? Or at least have the hell beaten out of us? Jesus doesn’t say that the Lord does the actual beating, just the actual cutting in two.
But why would God have us beaten and cut in two?
What’s with all the violence?
What does the master want?
Well, this is where the parable really gets weird: The listeners would expect a slave to be beaten.They would be rather surprised by a master that cut a slave in t because that’s just bad use of a slave. But they would’ve been unable to believe what this master wants. In fact, you probably missed it, it’s so strange it didn’t even register.
What does the master want?
Verse 37 says, “…he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.” And verse 42 says, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?” And in 43a and 44b “Blessed is that servant…he will make him ruler over all he has.”
He wants His servants to want Him! So that He can serve them. So that He can make them master over all His things. So He can make them in His own image.
That’s been the Master’s purpose since Genesis 1: “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness and let them have dominion . . . over all the earth.” You know, if you really had dominion over all creation, you could say to this mountain: “Be taken up and cast into the sea.” And your word–your will–would happen. You could speak to the storm and it would stop. You could walk on water and raise the dead. Your will would be entirely free. (But, unless your will agreed with another’s will, you’d be entirely alone. And not free to love.)
Well, the Lord wanted Adam to be made in His image to exercise dominion in freedom. And He wanted to be Adam’s Help–his Helper. He wanted Adam to want Him. Jesus says, “Blessed (happy) are the servants that wait for and want the master. Truly the master will gird himself and literally “recline them” and come serve them.”
In John 13 Jesus literally does this. It’s at supper on the night He’s betrayed: “Knowing that the Father had given all things into his hand,” He rose from supper, took off His garments and girded His loins with a towel. Then taking the position of a slave, He began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel. When He got to Peter, Peter protested saying, “You’ll never wash my feet.” And Jesus said, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part in me.” See, Peter thought he “must build the church,” but Jesus said, “I will build the church on you.” See, Peter had an ego and his ego wouldn’t allow Jesus to wash his feet. When you truly let the Lord serve you, it annihilates your ego.
Well, it was that night, as Jesus was beaten that Peter’s ego was beaten, and when Jesus looked at him, just His gaze, cut Peter in two. Then Jesus appointed Peter ruler of His House– His Church, that together they would rule His House.
You know, I’ve heard people say, “I know we have free will and so I know God will never violate my will.” Well, I hope God violates my will, because my will is sin, and sin is hell. I hope He crucifies my will and gives me a new will, a free will.
The author of Hebrews quotes Proverbs, and he writes to Christians being beaten and abused by governing authorities (so not just two-year-olds getting spanked, but grown Christians being martyred). Hebrews 12:6-8 “For the Lord disciplines the ones he loves and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
Do you see what this means?
At times you may be abused and violated by this world . . . (You already knew that.) But you are always being disciplined by Love. See? That’s not bad news, that’s the very best news.
You already knew you suffered. Right? You already knew you were getting beat up, but you’ve wondered, “Why am I getting beat? And Who’s doing the beating?” When you were younger you thought you could stop it, but you can’t stop it. Maybe change it, but not stop it.
Maybe you’ve blamed others, maybe your dad, or your mom, or some abuser who did unspeakable things, or maybe the devil himself . . . And don’t get me wrong; they may have intended it for evil, and what they did may have been absolute evil, and you should fight it, report it and never surrender to it . . . But the Lord is not it. He’s using it . . . that you would surrender to Him. Joseph said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
God doesn’t will evil, but He intends for each of us to battle evil and surrender to Good.
And I know what some of you are thinking: “But Peter, this doesn’t feel like discipline . . . and if it continues, I’ll die!” Yes, you will.
Death is the final violation of your will . . . and maybe you forgot: Death is discipline. He said, “The day you eat of it, you will die” (Genesis 2:17). Well, this is that day, the sixth day, and each of us must die. But that’s not a bad thing. It’s the very best thing! You will die to your own self-centered will and rise in His will.
You know, Hades is not for those who have truly died. It’s for those whose bodies may have died, but their psyches refuse to die: They refuse to die to self, so they refuse to live, in the house of Love, the economy of Love.
So in this story that Jesus told, I don’t think Jesus is describing endless torture for people that He refuses to love. I think He’s describing discipline for servants that He will not stop loving. Jesus describes what Love wants, then, describes Love’s discipline of those that don’t want Love.
It’s like you are a dichotomy: So a portion of you trusts Love, that is, has faith in God. And that’s not your portion . . . that’s God’s doing, God’s creation, God’s portion. And a portion of you does not trust Love, that is, does not have faith in God. And that’s your portion . . . that’s your doing, your creation.You are a false self and a true self, an old man, and a new man; you contain your will and God’s will.
Did you know that Scripture claims: “Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8-9)? Even Jesus is disciplined. He was disciplined, though He did nothing wrong. He suffered the worst of beatings because He chose to suffer our beatings and help us surrender our sin. In the garden, He took on our will that He might surrender our will and give us His will, God’s will. Your sin is your portion. And Jesus is God’s portion, given to you.
I cannot adequately explain it, but I think all our suffering is the discipline of Love. It means God violates your bad will to give you His good will. He violates your hell, to give you His heaven. And you don’t have to wait to be disciplined, you can surrender to it right now. That’s not bad news. It’s the very best news!
A NOTE FROM KIMBERLY: Every week, I enjoy taking excerpts from Peter’s sermons to create these devotionals for our online followers. This week, the process has been painful. The sermon “If the Lord Beats the Hell out of You” http://www.tsdowntown.com/…/if-the-lord-beats-the-hell-out-… touched me in some really deep and painful places because I was raped at a young age. Having experienced abuse, I can see how much God has taught me. It enables me to understand the depth of His love and forgiveness in ways I never could’ve known otherwise. But I have never seen or thought of Him as the perpetrator of pain or evil. So this sermon raised some pretty big questions about God’s participation in evil.
It raises questions like: Is all of life’s pain, even the worst of things like rape, really about God disciplining us? If so, why would He choose such a painful method of doing so? Why would He either allow for or possibly create such a seemingly dark and horrible way of creating us in His likeness? Does evil come from God? If not, where does it come from? And if it doesn’t come from Him, why does He allow it? Isaiah 45:7 says, “God creates evil” or adversity. Yet in Romans 12:9, and other places, we are told to “hate what is evil…”
Well, those are just a few of the questions it raised for me. So, I guess I want to say: If it raises questions for you, you’re not alone! And please feel free to engage in those questions with your comments. Peter and I, and some of the staff at our church spent a couple hours engaging in those questions just yesterday. But despite the questions here’s what I personally feel confident in saying:
In a world of confusion, violence, and great pain, we can rest assured there is Someone stronger than us, stronger than our will, stronger than all the evil that surrounds us and invades our lives, and that Someone is Jesus. And He is better than we think or imagine! No matter what it takes, no matter how painful it gets for us or had to be for Jesus: “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” Colossians 1:19-22
“And that’s not bad news! It’s the very best news!”
This devotional was prepared by Kimberly Weynen, Peter Hiett’s assistant. It’s a compilation of excerpts from the sermon “If The Lord Beats the Hell Out of You” and my own person devotional thoughts and questions. To read, watch or listen to the full sermon click here: If The Lord Beats The Hell Out of You.