What we are hearing, observing and feeling in our world has been here long before the day you were born. It’s just much more exposed today. Like a pile of wood soaked in lighter fluid, it just needed some spark to turn it into flames. We’ve had a lot of sparks the past several years. We’ve had many years of applying the fluid.
The good news coming out of this is we are wakening out of our neutrality or if we were already vibrant for the Kingdom, we are more so now. The first century church thrived under much more trying and contentious circumstances than we can even imagine. Persevere! There were no stimulus checks coming from Rome. Disciples often had to meet in secret as many do today.
Even with the passing of Steve’s mom, Sally, whom we were all blessed to meet and be with the last several years of her life, we are reminded about the brevity of life and we are stopped to reflect on what matters most. With those we know, and love, their passing is an opportunity to remember, whether we believe it or not, we’re just temporarily here. So, glorify God, make the most of everyday and give thanks in all circumstances. I believe when someone we know passes, especially a disciple, it’s a great time for reflection.
To that extent, I keep thinking of Paul’s second letter to Timothy where in 2:22-26, we have this instruction today:
Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
There are so many different avenues where we can get caught up in the argumentative, anger, bitterness, indignation, pride, rage mentality that so pervade our airwaves, websites and articles. We can be drawn into the same “heart”. Our hearts can become stones. Instead, what we need to be reminded of is our need to pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace... turn off the voices of the world, listen and follow the voice of God.
Like our theme scripture from last year from Philippians 1... “no matter what happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
Reflect on that. Right now, reflect. Allow for some meditation. Be sober (objective, sound, real) in your self-assessment. Maybe ask a family member what kind of spirit they see coming out of you. Compare and contrast the argumentation of the world, our country, maybe even disciples today with the Timothy text above, and then overlay this with 1 Peter 2: 21-25:
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
And of course, there are those powerful words of Jesus as he hung naked, beaten and despised on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing”, Luke 23:34. Can you imagine the capacity to love that way?
Let me just throw two other thoughts at you as we move into, more than likely, more tumult. One is from Philippians, the other Galatians.
In Philippians 4:4-9, the setting is a problem of two people in the church having a hard time getting along, Paul encouraged the church this way:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think (meaning to use one’s mind actively to form connected ideas about someone or something) about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
What a great call today... let these be the kinds of things we are drawn to, that we listen to, that we pay attention to. Otherwise, we will fall into the trap of the devil and we will be taken captive to do his will... make no mistake about it, we will! And we can easily observe this...
How?... by inspecting the fruit our lives produce. Is our heart and mind and thus our attitude, conversations and conduct the fruits of the Spirit, or the polemics of the sinful nature...
Check out Galatians 5.
These scriptures are not just nice religious sayings. They are the rhythms of life for walking the way, the truth, the life. But we can’t just read them. We have to live them; we have to train ourselves by them... “put it into practice”. It’s a whole different dance!
Psalm 19:14 NRSV-May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.