Sunday, May 10, 2009
This past couple of weeks I have had some amazing conversations with some wonderful new people in my life. Within the context of relationship (getting to know, respect and like each other) the question has come up more then once: What IS a Christian?
This question is not as easy to answer as you might at first think. Most of the people that I hang out with throughout the week have a lot of different ideas on church, religions, Christianity. I would say that many of those I talk with who have indicated that they, "tried Christianity," will say, "it didn't stick" or "wasn't for them", or simply "Christianity is just like every other religion." I would venture that 95% of the time, with further conversation (listening more then talking), I discover that really the person has rejected religious Christianity and has never really took a hard look at the claims of Christ for their life. So the question might be better put, "Who would Jesus call a Christian?" A deep, thoughtful study of the Sermon on the Mount and how Christ put flesh to the message of the kingdom He proclaimed will best answer that question.
The Beatitudes point out, unappoligetically, those who will be blessed by being included in the kingdom of God. In essence these qualities ARE the answer to the question. Jesus tells us that those who are Christ followers will be the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek, etc. This is not a list of seperate people groups. This is a description of the make up of EVERYONE who will enter the kingdom- EVERYONE who Christ would consider a Christian. When you read over the words of the Beatitudes with this in mind, at some point in reading the description- if you claim to be a Christian and are seriously checking to see if this describes you- becomes disturbing. I don't know about you but for me it gets really uncomfortable right here: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled."
I find within me a distracting hunger and thirst for all kinds of things that I would not consider to be truly 'righteous'. In fact often times we are quicker to turn to the things that we KNOW are unrighteous (ungodly-not right- in God's eyes). The thought of hunger and thirst is a pinning, for, a longing, hoping, seeking, deep desiring for. Righteousness holds the idea of right standing, a justified acceptance for who we are based upon a record of what we have done. Here in lies the rub, the discomfort that rises up in my soul. I long for a sense of deeper soul rightness. I find within myself a need for a deeper assurance of acceptance on a soul level yet there is nothing I can do, try, buy, change, or succeed at that will give me this deeper assurance of righteousness. When I say nothing I mean nothing- including religiosity (rules, dos, don'ts for measuring your goodness).
The righteousness that you and I long for is a surety of acceptance that only KNOWING a right standing before God, our Creator can give. In the book of Ecclesiastes we read, "God has place eternity in man's heart, yet he cannot know the beginning from the end."
C.S. Lewis put it this way- “If I find in myself a desire that which no experience in this world can satisfy the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
This is why neither the world nor religion will ever satisfy the deep longing, the hunger and thirst we feel on a soul level. For that kind of satisfaction we need something that only God can give us.........
Sunday, May 3, 2009
"Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth."
Someone has said that trying to count spiritual character in somebody is like trying to count rocks at the beach, or stars in the sky- often times what you thought was a star turns out to be a slow moving satellite, or what looked like a rock was a clump of dried mud.
When it comes to the Beatitudes we feel this same burden, is this a quality I possess? Do I just need to work on it harder? Am I hopelessly unable to ever really do this so, I might as well forget about it?- counting stars. These 8 short statements that make up the Manifesto of Jesus, often seem hard to pin down as to what they seem to be measuring or pointing us towards. What may be even more difficult for us is that the beatitudes do not describe a bunch of different groups of people who possess a variety of character strengths that God will one day bless. The characteristics herein described are inclusive. If you are a blessed one, one who finds favor in God's kingdom, these characteristics- all of them- are supposed to be evident in your life. The question of where and how will be answered if we will do a deeper study of the teachings of scripture regarding these characteristics.
The beatitude of meekness may be one of the hardest ones to define, or truly identify in our lives or the lives of others. Let me try and help our understanding by pointing us to other places in scripture where meekness is demonstrated:
1. Numbers 12:1-4 Moses shows us that Meekness Takes a Hit/Punch/ Absorbs Offense Moses is accused, by the spiritual leaders around him of being a selfish, arrogant leader - who thinks that only God will talk through him. These other leaders doubted it and decided to confront him about it. Right in the middle of the struggle- where you expect Moses to stand up and point to his record of phenomenal miracles- we get the verse "And Moses was the meekest man in all the earth." This then is followed by God who advocates for Moses. Meek people are able to let God make the wrongs right, they just absorb the hit, take it to God and wait.
2. James 1:19-21 Meekness Takes a Backseat/Is Reasonable/Teachable James, as he often does, gives us a comparison of two different types of people one is quick to anger, quick to speak up, quick to hold to their opinion as the absolute right opinion. The other person is quick to listen, slow to anger, profoundly aware that they might not be right about everything all of the time. They are willing to learn, open to reasonableness. Have you ever been in a discussion where someone says, "Well you have your opinion and I have mine. I guess we are just going to have to disagree." They say this, like at a board meeting, as some great act of their intelligence of getting along- the real story behind the opinion is, I am refusing to be open to a reasonable argument. I will not allow my opinion to take a backseat to the collective wisdom of others who may also have spiritual insight on this matter. They are not willing to change if they can be shown error in their thinking because they are not willing to see- therefore they do not possess meekness, even if their statement to disagree comes across this way.
3. Galatians 6:1,2 Meekness Takes a Gut Check/ Self Suspicious Jesus, in absolute meekness, when encountering evil, deceit, harmful doctrine, and ungodly behavior confronted, rebuked, threw over tables and whipped people. How are we to act in humility when we need to confront? ACT- confront in a spirit of meekness but keep watch on your self. Gut check, self suspicious of our own faults even as we confront and journey with someone to restoration. Jesus will bring up this same issue further along in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1-5). He doesn't say, "Meekness ignores sin." Meekness confronts the sin while being careful to take our own sin and weaknesses to the cross first.
Meekness can only be shown in these external ways if we first possess meekness internally. True Meekness may be difficult at times to identify but false meekness is quickly seen as fake when conflict arises. What gives the Christian a courageous meekness in how they view life and relationships? Each beatitude has as its conclusion a promise- For those who have meekness, "they shall inherit the earth". Why do I have to be right, own the biggest car, the biggest house, be known as 'the big man around town' and hold all the correct opinions about everything important, when I have a Heavenly Father who owns the entire city? Meekness is indeed a shift in trust. From trusting our own agenda to trusting our Heavenly Father to have the answers, hold the truth and being willing to be used for His glory, not worrying over our own. This is where internal meekness begins- recognition and surrender to the will of the Father. This is a Jesus' type of meekness.