Saturday, March 28, 2015

More Than Meets the Eye

The other day I was reading in my Bible from the book of Proverbs.  According to my dictionary a proverb is, "A short popular saying, usually of unknown and ancient origin, that expresses effectively some common truth or useful thought."  We probably all know a few of these kind of sayings and hardly give them a second thought.  Things like, "A stitch in time saves nine," "Measure twice cut once," and  "It's not over 'til it's over." 

So I was reading Proverbs 10:12 and saw this: 

"Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses."

That seems pretty straight-forward and easy to understand.  When we have anger or hard feelings towards someone there can be all kinds of trouble, but if we love them then trouble can be avoided.  It is the kind of saying that just makes sense.  It could very easily be a saying found inside a fortune cookie.  But I didn't find this proverb in a fortune cookie.  I found it in my Bible, a setting that virtually demands I take a closer look at it.  And as I did so I found that it holds more, much more, than first meets the eye.

Where do we first see hatred in the Bible?  We see it in Genesis 3, as the serpent says to Eve, "Did God actually say…?"  Now that question may not look like hatred, but it is driven by Satan's hatred of God and it underlies every attempt on his part to lead people in ways that are disobedient to God.

And the other half of the proverb, "but love covers all offenses," ultimately, where does that point us?  That points us towards our Savior and Lord, Jesus.  He is the one whose love is perfect.  He is the one who offers his love freely to all who would have faith in him and the work he finished on the cross.  That, and that alone, is the only love that can truly cover all offenses. 

Easter is on the horizon, a day when, perhaps, we remember just a bit more clearly the powerful work that Jesus did in going to the cross.  It was an act of love of the most precious type, for it is an act of love that when applied to those who believe in Jesus has the effect of covering all of their offenses before God. 

This Easter may it be your joy to give praise to Jesus as your Savior and Lord, the one whose love truly does cover all your offenses, and in doing so, restores you with God.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 6, 2015

To Thine Own Self be True

I used to belong to a Facebook group organized around issues of ministry.  The people in the group shared prayer requests.  They told stories about situations in their congregation and occasionally asked for guidance with those situations.  And they shared blog posts and news items of interest.

I don’t know how many members the group had when I joined nearly three years ago but it had grown to somewhere over 7,000 today.  A wide range of theological perspectives were represented, nearly all of which grew somewhere on the Christian tree.  And it would be safe to say that if the various theologies were arranged on a Bell curve that the tradition I am a part of, and where I place myself within that tradition, would be between 1 and 2 standard deviations from the mean.  One consequence of my understanding of my theological location within the group was that I learned to pick-and-choose what I posted and what conversations I took part in.  Suffice to say that some conversations could become either quite heated (in a generally respectful way) or just generate so many comments that it was impractical, and nearly impossible, for me to participate in those discussions in a way that was fair to all involved.  So for many threads I would read the initial post, perhaps follow the discussion, but only infrequently join in.

All of which is to set the stage for this event.  Person A posted a brief video of Person B, without making comment on the video and just asking for people's thoughts.  Myself, Person C, watched the video and offered a two-part response.  Part one was my own brief understanding of the issue of the video, followed by my belief of the logical destination of Person B's thoughts would lead.  Enter Person D, who instead of engaging my response, jumped all over me.

So I started to write a response.  This particular person and I have disagreed before and my initial response was to go back to the issue.  I'm not trying to be heroic in describing myself.  It was the issue I was more concerned about than the attack.  But as I worked on phrasing my response it occurred to me that I was spending time, perhaps too much time, on something that really wasn't very important.  I have never studied Shakespeare but the quote of his, "To thine own self be true", started playing in my head.  At first I heard it in regard to responding to Person D.  But then I heard it differently, as some other familiar words went through my head:

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

Who is the self I should be true to?  The self that quickly responds when provoked by confrontation, be it large or small?  The self that can hardly help but to point out theological error in a diverse group of fairly highly educated people?  Or perhaps the self who is a new creation in Christ?  The self where the old has passed away and the new has come?

That didn't take much time to figure out. 

Christ has claimed me as his own, and he is at work shaping me, and all who call on him in faith, to be more and more in his image, which means being less and less like the person I was before faith. 

So deleted the response I was writing to Person D, and deleted myself from the group.  

"To thine own self be true?"  Yes, but only so far as that self is being shaped in the image of my Savior and Lord. 

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.