As you’re shadowing me you might be tempted to think, “He’s come to abolish all that stuff in the Old Testament, start afresh, do something completely new.” Don’t! Nothing could be further from the truth! I’m not abolishing it, but fulfilling it! It’s like a promise kept, a foundation built upon, or a frame that’s been filled. It’s not being sent to the rubbish bin, but kept as foundational to all that’s happening. It will actually be around long after the ground you’re standing on has faded away – so have a think about where you want to fix your feet.
Got a bloody nose today from Bible In One Year. It happens occasionally.
You keep your guard up carefully during the Old Testament reading – you’ve got your defences and justifications to hand. Nicky’s commentary coaxes you through as pleasantly as possible. You stay mildly guarded through the Psalm, perhaps allowing even the odd bit of guilty pleasure in the vengeance bits – (Yeah! Break some teeth God! The evil dogs!!!) Then you wade into the New Testament portion nice and relaxed… until Jesus goes and says something like,
“Stop sinning, or something worse might happen to you.”
Perhaps I swim in the wrong circles, but no one I know speaks like this. Many voices would say to me – this is specifically how you don’t speak to people if you want to reflect the love of Christ to them. Yet here it is, your Captain speaking, plain as day.
No preamble. No easy does it. No lengthy conversation drawing out the guy’s unique life history. No earning the right to speak through building relationship. No explicit display of empathy. Just a blunt and fairly insulting directive.
You sin. Not, you’ve fallen short like the rest of us. No talk of failure, or fragility, or the undoubtedly true fact that he had also be wronged through his life and was in some sense a victim as well as a sinner. Just within the command the implicit truth – you commit evil acts.
You have the responsibility to change. You need to choose a different course. Immediately. You don’t need a programme, or an accountability partner, or a pastor to hold your hand. The ball is in your court and you should change from today.
If you don’t change, terrible things may happen to you. A threat. Not a hint of – I’ll always leave my door open to you. Or a ‘hey, take this opportunity to live your best life now’. Just a terrifying promise – if you don’t change your ways it will go badly for you.
If this was the assessed example, Jesus would surely fail the Pastoral Conversations Module 101 miserably, wouldn’t he?
This sort of talk normally leaves picking licking their wounds rather than feeling like a million dollars. Yet, this was the most loving thing possible to be said to that guy at that moment in time. We know, because Love himself spoke those words.
No one wants to be the street yeller, throwing judgement on their pet-hate minority group. It doesn’t look a thing like Jesus, and it doesn’t even talk like a gentleman.
Yet, if our weird 2016 sensibilities are never ruffled. If we never talk about our corruption, or the call to change, or the consequences of not doing so… is it really the Christ we’ve been captured by?
Two months in. Ten thousand words spilled.
Thank You. As ever, if you’re reading this – thank you for your attention. Particular thank you this month for your interaction. Every comment, share, email, word in my ear etc really is greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for taking the little extra step of letting me know you know – ya know!
Improvement. I’ve brought a comments box up to the front page. This should encourage a bit more conversation around the concepts and stop comments dying a quick death!
Please. Therefore, simple request this month – please do make a comment on a post this month if you feel so moved! Even one word (try and keep it polite), is massively valuable to me!
The choice before you today is not – will you worship? But rather, whom will you worship?
We kid ourselves if we think we’re somehow more cultured than the Canaanites. That we’ve somehow created a ‘non-worship’ option; that ‘secular’ even exists. For choosing between the Lord, and Baal, and the hill gods, read choosing between the Lord, and Mammon, and sex / our stomachs / celebrity / others aka the Hollywood gods.
We have our choice and we will sacrifice ourselves to it, and throw our children in for good measure. It’s who we are. We’ll bring our offerings, experience our intoxication, listen to our priests, hold on to our holy texts, and visit our high places. We cannot help but worship.
Joshua serves us by making the choice stark:
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshipped beyond the Euphrates river and in Egypt and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15
Whom will you serve?
Don’t get me wrong – I love an unprecedented underdog sporting triumph as much as the next man… I just wish Leicester had a different mascot.
Foxes are used symbolically through the scriptures in an entirely negative way. Wily, cunning, destructive forces that cause problems for the vineyards, and death threats for the Christ.
Jesus picks up the fox metaphor, adds power to it, and throws it insultingly at Herod… moments before talking about himself being like a hen (Luke 13:31-35). He could see where this was going.
Scripture and experience both testify that there are at times annoying, destructive, even treacherous agents at work around the edges of our lives, and sometimes wild and hungry devourers find themselves in seats of power in front of us. These forces seek to undermine blossoming love, and the care of Christ for us.
So sure, celebrate Claudio’s cast offs’ incredible victory. But remember that in life, when it comes to foxes: there’s nothing fantastic about them – it’s catch or be caught.
“Catch the foxes for us,
the little foxes
that spoil the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in blossom.”
Song of Solomon 2:15
The life of Joseph in this one – the trouble with being the hot young thing, and where is God in the midst of betrayal? Enjoy!
Key verse we look to – Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Question of the episode – How do you helpfully handle a hot young thing?
Jesus didn’t dawdle in the general direction of Damascus, or saunter round Samaria. He set his face towards Jerusalem.
He stubbornly marched into territory others considered their own. He unrepentantly continued proclaiming there an incendiary message that made those in power so angry it repeatedly provoked them to arrange his execution. He followed through not by inciting an uprising, but by taking the scorn, the stigma, the spit on his face and the spear in his side to unflinchingly demonstrate the agape of the Father towards his enemies.
This is what love looks like.
A resolute commitment to lay down our lives for the good of others, in the face of rejection, reproach and revulsion.
Love is incredibly hard-headed.
It demonstrates this determination not through domination or violence, but by continued self-giving service through suffering.
Chisel, chisel. The Lord is working on you, making you a loving person… with a face like flint.