Posts Tagged ‘Biblical commands’

Last weekend I went to a workshop in Atlanta called “ElderLink.” It’s designed for elders and other leaders in churches. One of the speakers was a man named Randy Harris. He’s a professor of theology, but you would never know it; he didn’t sound at all like a theology professor. One of the freebies participants received was a copy of his book, Living Jesus: Doing What Jesus Says in the Sermon on the Mount. A number of things he said, as well as what he writes in his book, spoke to me. I wish to mention only two.

The first startling revelation is that what we have come to call the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) are not commands; rather they are blessings that were pronounced to a crowd of mostly poverty-stricken peasants, who must have felt anything but blessed. It reminds me of a message I heard from another speaker named Lynn Anderson in the 1970s in which he describes a worn down single mother who came to him after he had preached what he thought at the time was the gospel. Her response spoke volumes. “I’m glad I ain’t a Christian. It’s tough enough just bein’ a sinner.” You see, the beatitudes are not commands (“You had better live like this or else.”). Rather they are the pronouncement of blessings that are available to us from a loving Father.

We could focus on any of the Beatitudes, but one in particular has haunted me this week. It’s verse 9—“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Although Randy Harris is not the first to make the point, what he says is certainly true. “Have you ever noticed that nobody really appreciates a peacemaker? You know, those people who refuse to get drawn into the violence and confusion and hostility of their age, but simply by their presence create peace.” It’s true. Peacemakers are often seen as weak, compromising people with no principles they are willing to stand up for. We really don’t like them.

The advent of social media (including blogs) has made it so easy to put our ideas out to the world. Too often it has taken the form of venom that I am convinced we would never say to a person face-to-face. People forward links to others who spout the venom for them on Facebook or Twitter, without bothering to check the facts at snopes.com or in some other way. In most instances these postings are not true, and so it makes us look gullible and mean-spirited.

I received a second reminder just last night. During a Wednesday night service we read from Psalm 37. I was struck forcefully by verses 7 and 8. “Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for Him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm.” (NLT).

I must admit (before someone who knows me reminds me) that being a peacemaker doesn’t always come natural to me. There are so many things going on in this world that I believe are wrong and, left unchecked may bring us to ruin. And it is so easy to respond in anger. But I have decided that I would rather be remembered as a peacemaker than a crusader. And I do want to see it as a blessing, rather than a command. There is so much hatred in this world. Do we really need to add more to it? And if we cannot advance our “causes” without anger, perhaps we should consider whether we are the ones to advance them.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”


Read Full Post »

Earlier I tried to write a post about the tragedy at Newtown, but even as I wrote it, I recognized how flat it was. I read a number of posts various people have put forth. None of them resonated with me. I determined that I needed to be quiet for a few days. To think; to listen; to pray. We shall never know what complex influences, inner demons, or mental issues combined to drive Adam Lanza to commit these horrible acts. If he had lived, he might have been able to provide an explanation that made sense to him, but I doubt anything he could have said would have satisfied the rest of us.

Out of all the complex emotions I have experienced, one thought keeps coming back to me. In various forms I have said it before, and it is what I would leave you with. We have become a nation in which hate is not only acceptable; often it is considered a virtue. We feel that if our cause is right, we are allowed to hate those who oppose it. Republicans, democrats, gay rights advocates, evangelical Christians, on and on goes the list of people we feel it is okay to hate.

I am a Christian, which means I am commanded by God to love even my enemies. That is not a command to have warm fuzzy feelings about people whose beliefs or practices are repugnant to me. It is a command to love them in the Greek “agape” sense. This means that I wish and will work for the best for every human being I encounter. THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS!

While unconditional love is simple to understand, it can be terribly difficult to practice. Yet we dare not become satisfied with anything less.

We must stop hating other people. It is that simple, and it is that hard.

Read Full Post »

Let me begin by acknowledging that I stole the idea for today’s post from an article written by the Associate Minister for the congregation in Florida where we attended when we lived there. I hope that’s okay, Matt.

Too often people have a negative view of Christians, because we are perceived as being—well, negative. Christianity is often thought of as being primarily about keeping us from having any fun. If it sounds like fun, it must be wrong. When I was growing up, the churches I attended seemed focused on the commands found in the Bible, especially those that condemned a lot of things I wanted to do. The truth is, we did a really bad job of portraying the message of the gospel in any way that could remotely be described as “good news,” which is what the Greek word for “gospel” really means. I believe that’s our fault. Yes, there are negatives in the Bible, because there are things that are dangerous for us. All parents know that there are some things our kids want to do that we have to forbid them from doing, not because we don’t love them, but because we know how destructive those things can be.

But that view is not typical of what the Bible presents. Just one example is found in 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18. You can read the whole passage for yourself, but there are three “commands” listed there that can really serve us well, if we take the time to follow them. These “commands” are “Rejoice always,” “pray continually,” and “give thanks in all circumstances” (NIV).

Now those are some commands I can understand and get behind. Just for today, why not try doing three things.

Find something you can rejoice about. I know life may be difficult now. Last year it was tough for us, because my wife was struggling with cancer. But even during that frightening time, we experienced so many examples of things for which we could be thankful. Thankfulness is not the result of circumstances; it is the product of a mindset that sees the beauty and goodness in the world, and in the God who created it.

Pray. The text says “pray continually.” That’s because prayer is also a mindset. It’s not just a ritual we perform at church or even before we go to bed. You don’t have to close your eyes or even say the words out loud. Prayer is a state of mental communion with God, recognizing His presence and working in our lives.

Finally, give thanks for something or someone in your life. Certainly, all of us have so much to thank God for. How about other people? Can you think of someone who has made a difference for good in your life? Why not take the time to thank that person? A card, a letter, an e-mail, or a phone call can really make a difference. And I suspect you will feel better for doing it.

“Rejoice always.” “Pray continually.” “Give thanks in all circumstances.” How much richer our lives would be if we lived that way every day.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: