Think, brothers and sisters, we walk in the air of an eternal fatherhood. Graciousness and truth are around, above, beneath us, yea, in us. When we are least worthy, then, most tempted, hardest, unkindest, let us yet commend our spirits into his hands. Whither else dare we send them? And shall we dare to think if we, being evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, God will not give us his own spirit when we come to ask him? Will not some heavenly dew descend cool upon the hot anger? Some genial rain-drop on the dry selfishness, some glance of sunlight on the cloudy hopelessness?
Nor is there anything we can ask for ourselves that we may not ask for another. We may commend any brother, any sister, to the common fatherhood. Indeed, we shall never be able to rest in the bosom of the Father till the fatherhood is fully revealed to us in the love of the brothers. He cannot be our father save as he is their father; and if we do not see him and feel him as their father, we cannot know him as ours. Never shall we know him aright until we rejoice and exult that he is the Father of all. He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? For to rest at last in those hands into which the Lord commended his spirit, we must have learned already to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The Yoke of Our Commitment
by Dave Roney
“Think, brothers and sisters, we walk in the air of an eternal Fatherhood.”
The message “Jesus Saves” flashes in memory much like the neon sign on the corner of an inner-city rescue mission; I do not belittle it; it is the message of the evangelist and the major theme of every branch within Christendom. What I did not hear, was not taught, did not learn until late in life (and learned it from a man and not from a pulpit) was that God is my Father, is just like Jesus, that my Father loves me, asks nothing from me other than obedience to Him, and desires that obedience be given Him not through constraint but willingly, out of a heart of love and devotion; it is to say that my Heavenly Father would have me in every way toward Him as He is toward me. Such are the elements of the air of an eternal Fatherhood; they are those as well of an eternal son- and daughtership.
In the 11th of Matthew our Lord tells us to take His yoke upon us, thus learn of Him, and that His yoke is easy even as His burden is light; He Who creates worlds and sustains all things by the word of His power has needs which He alone cannot supply—what a thought! His is a bow-yoke, a single beam meant for the necks of two beasts of burden in tandem. This is the yoke of the Servant, the One Who labors in the field of God; and He would not, cannot, do it alone. Do we suppose that we need God but that He does not need His children? His yoke is also our own; we work even as He is working.
His work is not that of the brute beast, nor even of the thinking man; it is the work which can only be done by the commending of one's spirit into the hands of God. It is something Christ is eternally doing, something we are only now learning, doing with uncertain step, with fumbling hands, with eyes still dim. The commending is the utter willing submission to the will of God; it is a matter of heart and also mind, it is worked out in obedience. Obedience to all we know, which according to our understanding is what we must be obedient to. In that case His yoke is our yoke, His labor is ours as well, we are partners with Him in all His endeavors; He, reconciling the world unto Himself, we, being given the ministry of that reconciliation. It is two who walk as one.
“Graciousness and truth are around, above, beneath us, yea in us!” Yet even so, and knowing it so, we do not always act in accord with it; we are sometimes not gracious to our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, and those who are enemies of us. We have the Truth in the face of Jesus, but sometimes hide it under a bushel, or else ignore it, or even by the rising up in us of miserable old Self, or captured by the world's delights, or fallen prey to the devices of the Evil One, have ceased to pull in the traces with our Lord, balking at the furrow He, with us, must plow, become no true partner of His but those adding to His pain, frustrating what He would do, being a burden to Him rather than a blessing. “O miserable man that I am!” says the Apostle in our behalf! What shall we do?
“Think, brothers and sisters!... When we are least worthy, then, most tempted, hardest, unkindest, let us commend our spirits into His hands. Whither else dare we send them? And shall we dare to think, if we, being evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, God will not give us His own Spirit when we come to ask Him?”
This is the nature of our Father; He is never repulsed by us but is always nearer than our breath, ready to clasp us again to His bosom from which we have pulled ourselves away. I think Him so magnanimous that just the slightest movement by us in His direction sets His heart to singing, that His face beams with even our smallest spiritual blink, that He is pleased must easier and quicker and deeper than any man could be for such little as we offer Him. If men once asked concerning our Christ “What kind of man is this?!” ought we not, in like astonishment, ask of our God “What manner of Father is He?!” Let us commend our spirits to Him: Think! where else, brothers and sisters, dare we send them?
And where else would we commend our neighbors in the world? There is none other than He Who loves them, Who is able to help them, Who is their Father as much as He is our own. The revealing of His true Fatherhood in us can come only as we become the true children of Him; and this happens only when our hearts beat in rhythm with His great Heart, when we love as He loves, and feel as He feels, suffering for our brothers and sisters as He suffers, so that even as our Father and our Redeemer are “One,” so also are we become at one with our God. God loves us as He loves Himself; we must love our neighbors even as we love ourselves: Whatever it is that we rightly ask for ourselves is right that we should ask it for our neighbors:
“He cannot be our Father save as He is their Father; and if we do not see Him and feel Him as their Father, we cannot know Him as ours. Never shall we know Him aright until we rejoice and exult that He is the Father of all. He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God Whom he hath not seen?”
Think, brothers and sisters! Those teeming billions of people in the world are of one blood with you, one kind, are your kin, are your brothers and sisters from Adam, even though afar; if God be not their Father, how can He possibly be yours? Commend your spirit to God, commend also your brothers and sisters to Him; love your neighbor, as you love yourself, as you love God—you cannot truly love God more than you love your brother or sister, and you cannot truly love them less than you love Him. It is His utmost highest best command to you, but also for you—for by this comes your blessedness. Know that to “commend” to God is the same as to “commit” to Him, to commit ourselves without reservation, all that we are or ever hope to become; it is the yoke of Christ and it is our yoke alongside Him, it is our passageway into His rest, it is the product generated by Love. And God is Love:
“For to rest at last in those Hands into which the Lord commended His spirit, we must have learned already to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Resting in the Father's Hands
by Dave Roney
“For to at last rest in those hands into which the Lord commended His spirit, we must have learned already to love our neighbor as ourselves.” —This is the last sentence from “The Hands of the Father,” which introduce the next Sermon in our series, titled “Love Thy Neighbor.”
When we read it is often, I think, that we concentrate so much on the inked portions that we fail to see the subtle and powerful messages recorded on the white parts of the page, becoming so literal, or analytic, in our focus, that a greater message, that of the imagination, is lost on us. Our Lord did not intend that His few recorded words should be the boundaries of all His speaking; to the contrary, these but open to us as keys the door through which the Spirit enters in and sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts. Through metaphor, simile, examples and parables He is always leading us into yet higher truth. I take for an example Luke 23:46, where His recorded words say to us “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.” And do the words mean only that in His moment of dying He released His Spirit back to His Father and ours? Or do the words signify only that His Atonement was finished? Do the final words supposedly mark His entry back into fellowship with the Father, as though it had been temporarily suspended? God forbid!
He is saying more than I realize or can know, but I am sure He is saying at least this: “As for all My earthly life I have done, so also I now in My final moments continue to do!” There is no shadow produced by turning, no shade of difference but only seamless sameness here in the commending. Was there ever a moment when the Son of Man did not commend His spirit to the Father? In the 9th of First Corinthians the Apostle tells us how he, as is the manner of athletes, disciplined his body to bring it into submission; do we suppose that the Lord had not always done even more? This lad Who “grew in wisdom and stature and favor” from His earliest life forward, finding that good estate heavenward “with God” and laterally “with men” (Luke 2:52) was always commending His spirit both to God and to men. He first commended Himself to God, and then also commended His fellows to God; the commendation was His great love, the same Love as that of the Father Who sent Him. He trusted Himself to God and, as well and to the same flawless degree, entrusted His neighbors to God. And His “neighbor” was every person, be it the woman breaking her precious alabaster jar or the cruel man who drove the spikes into His wrists. His neighbor, our neighbor, is every person.
Would we, as Christ Jesus, commend our spirits to the Father? It is not an act for our final moment but a life-long act of ever growing contrition and surrender; our final breath is to be but a continuation of what we have been doing all along, for years of years. And how do we commend ourselves to God except by loving Him and, therefore, loving our neighbors, whom by our love we are also commending to Him. Into Your hands, O Father, we commend the spirits of our brothers and sisters for keeping...