SELLING AT THE CHARCOAL MARKET IN WHITE ROBES

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ICAS RETREAT, 2016

July 16th 2016, Hephzibah Christian Centre, eight people gathered around a computer, listening to Professor Esther Acolatse speak on the topic “Remaining Faithful to the Gospel in a Hostile World”. The room is silent as we watch the screen, listening to every word of this vessel of God. She begins by saying ‘we Christians are told that the world will hate us. We came prepared to be hated. There is a problem if we are not hated, because our Gospel is a scandal’. We didn’t think she was being facetious at all, for in her words we heard Christ’s words in Matthew 10:22-24 ‘and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake but he who endures to the end  will be saved…a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master’. If the world hated Christ, it will hate us, not for our sakes but for the sake of the man we proclaim as Lord. We come prepared,in anticipation of hatred. It is anticipation, not an eagerness. We do not deliberately go around riling up anger because we are expecting to be hated. We just know that if the world hated our Lord, it will hate us also. When light is shone into darkness, there is an outrage. It is like being asleep and having a light shone into your face, waking you out of the darkness of slumber. The light of the gospel, this message of love, is too grave for the world to comprehend. So it reaches out in anger, attempting to stamp out Christ, and we are his representatives.

Christ told us that the world would hate us, so we would have been forgiven if we had built monasteries in lonely mountains and retreated there to worship our King. But after we had been saved, Christ gave as the charge. What is that charge? Prof Acolatse describes it as such:while coming prepared to be hated,at the same time we are called on a mission into this death-dealing place on earth, a mission to go into the world and make disciples of all nations. The Christian has a double charge; it isto love both the Lord our God and love the perishing world enough to snatch it from destruction. While loving God with all of our lives by building ourselves up in our most holy faith, we are also to have compassion on this world and to save them that are perishing “with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment to be defiled by flesh.”

The problem with this two-pronged charge is how to reach out to the world and still remain separated from it. It is a problem of reconciling 1 John 2 with Matthew 28: 19. Here is the metaphor Prof Esther Acolatse uses: it is like selling some merchandise at a charcoal market in a white robe, and at the end of the day that robe must remain pure, untainted by the surrounding charcoal. The world is the charcoal market; Christians are the vendors in white robes.The life of a Christian is God’s epistle to this lustful world which He desperately desires to save. We must sell at that market, not in monasteries or in clean, holy places; for angels and saints have little need of our message. How do we keep our robes clean, and our hearts pure? Do we do this by gliding on top of people, seeing them as the wretched of the earth and priding ourselves in the purity of our robes? No, we keep ourselves pure by immersing ourselves daily in the source of our purity, which is the Blood of the Lamb.

Take this charge with you today; you are not of the world, but you live in the world, living for God and praying for the world. We are workers of God, we are working for Him. We are not working for the world as we are not of it. Sell in that Charcoal market, and as Christ is faithful our robes will remain pure because He has given us the grace to be as perfect just as He is.

Amen.