It would appear that we live in an era where an unprecedented number of high profile leaders have stumbled and fallen. Why? Is it because the internet and social media have made everything – especially the ugly and salacious stuff – more public? Is it because the internet and social media have made the ugly and salacious stuff more available? Is it because we live at a really difficult time in history and curtain-time is approaching? I’m guessing that it’s a combination of all three of these things. The easy answer would be that this is typical of Christians – they’re all hypocrites – or that the organizations just aren’t policing their ranks. The truth is the most Christians are hypocrites in some arena of life – that is, not practicing what we know is right; you know, when it comes to loving our enemies, forgiving people who hurt us, being kind and generous and loving. We don’t justify that – but we know it’s true. When it comes to not policing the ranks – well, God comes under fire there. After all, Satan – His creation – rebelled and took a third of God’s angels with him. Jesus prayed all night about who to choose as disciples – and still ended up with Judas! Here’s the question; What does this mean for you and me? What do we need to do to NOT end up as a casualties?
In the story of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan stopped, he served, and then at a significant cost to himself, with no praise or reward from the victim’s family – uses his own supplies, his own vehicle, and his own money to love this guy from near-death to health. After a night of taking care of him – he pays more for him to stay a few more nights. Two silver coins – two full days wages. And he promised more money if the need arose. We often have no problems being generous with ourselves. We buy things – houses, cars, clothes, vacations – tattoos, hair stuff – even education to fit in or feel good. But true generosity? As in, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, I was naked, I was homeless, I was sick and in prison…”? It’s often in the back of our minds and in the secondary columns of our budgets. Through the story of the Good Samaritan Jesus is calling us to be part of His movement of generosity. Calling us to have over-the-top love which moves us to generously serve and give financially to others in need.
We think up is fantastic. We want up. We worship up – especially when it coincides with our stock, our reputation, our health, our followership, our income – and all the other things we want to see grow up and thrive… like our kids. Jesus’ UP side of His horrible DOWN was astounding. Literally, unbelievable – even by those who knew Him best. And it was kinda understated – not like fire from a volcano. It was little sightings from here, then from there… hints. But the UP never went back down. To those who loved Him and watched Him die – it was vindication for staying in the game – even when it got really difficult to believe.
Funny, isn’t it? In a strange way – it’s still a little hidden. It’s unmistakable with history in two big chunks. How history has been re-written by those who have known Him, believed in Him and loved as He said to love. His resurrection is still in some ways quite subtle. It’s obvious – but still requires faith. And Jesus still asks the same question; Do you trust me? WILL you trust me – now and forever? See, the down side of following Jesus, even though He defied death, split history and changed the world – is that it will never be easy!
Jesus, near the beginning of His ministry, met with a religious superstar. The guy had a good heart, but was undecided – and remained undecided until Jesus was dead on a cross. In Jesus’ initial conversation with this guy, Nick, He had compared Himself being lifted up – to the historic event where Moses draped a brass replica of a poisonous snake on a cross – and lifted it up for people to be healed from snakebite. The connection with God’s words to Adam and Eve when they sinned are too ironic to miss. The question is, in retrospect – who actually died that Good Friday? The snake or Jesus, Son of God? Both hit rock bottom – but one came up and continues up; and one went down and continues down. And that’s the parable, right? To go down with Jesus – is to go up with Him; and to go up with the devil – is to g
Six days before Jesus died, He seemed to make a comeback in the polls. Maybe He could still be President, or Prime Minister – or King – or Something! There was this big splashy entrance into Jerusalem that literally shook the city! It even had the religious professionals shaken up, thinking, “Oh, oh! I think we targeted the wrong man! Maybe we’re the targets!” And then, Jesus poked the eagle – you know, the religious professionals and their guiding star. The Eagle – Rome! And He did it by prodding one of the best money-makers in Jerusalem. The Temple! A few days later, there was a voice from Heaven that praised Jesus – and it raised the question; was it God, was it an Angel – or was it just thunder? And that really is the question… and still is?
Most people seem to be driven by the desire to go up, to rise in popularity, money and power as quickly as possible. The trip down was clearly not all that attractive to Jesus closest followers – or people in general. People wanted to be healed and all and wanted their citizens demon-free. After all, troubled neighbours are disturbing and affect property values. But when someone tells you they’re going down – and there’s going to be pain for everyone – that’s not a great recruitment strategy. Jesus’ pronouncement that people who tried to save their lives – would lose their souls? Not popular! It all seemed so… humiliating!
When Jesus started His ministry and sent demons, disease, and death running for their lives, so to speak, you’d think everyone would celebrate that! It was amazing. Wouldn’t you want, as your key leader – someone with the power to do that? Someone who lived with humility and identified with the down and out? What made this different was that it was pre-humilitas. Strangely enough, humility was not seen as a virtue at that point in history. When Jesus didn’t ride in on a massive horse, with glistening armour – with an angel army in the trillions, He seriously went down in the polls… and kept going down. Jesus was introducing a kingdom that, in 30 A.D., seemed upside-down! He presented a way of living and a way of thinking that was dead-on accurate – but it repelled people who were driven by the UP philosophy of the world system.
From my perspective, FEAR has been the predominant emotion in the GTA – and maybe the world, for the past 2 years of COVID. Frustration and anger may come in a close second. So, here’s the deal; fear never accomplishes anything good long-term. Initially, it causes a reaction that helps us be alert and avoid immediate danger. But when it begins to settle into your heart, your soul, and your mind – it has a paralyzing effect. If you’ve ever known someone with PTSD, you know this is true.
And that’s why fear is not from God. In our relational world, fear is destructive – because fear focuses our attention almost exclusively on ourselves and our own interests. That’s why, biblically, we say, Caution – YES, Fear – NO! Again and again, God has said over the years to people confronted by fear, Don’t be afraid – for I am with you! Caution shows respect for God and what He has promised – and for people who are usually the victims of our reactions. Fear disrespects what God has promised – and usually causes us to disrespect people. Fear does not lead to anything good – including being safe. The bottom line is that we do not have to be afraid!
When God created people, He arranged them in family units. The integrity and permanence of those family units was critical. Jesus, with a background in carpentry, described this union as cleaving – or two becoming one. That is what hast to happen to create tables, chairs – or any large flat surface. And then Jesus said that the intent was, “What God has joined together, let no one pull apart.” We call it unity.
When boards pull apart, when plywood splinters and separates, their purpose gets compromised and people are injured by the sharp edges. Every good carpenter and woodworker knows that to keep things together, wood needs to be glued with really good glue – and then held together by really good clamps. The glue is intended to last even when the clamps are removed.
God intends for His gathering of people, His church – to be one! That’s the only way His Church can be useful and help people – or hurt them or let them down! The relational glue for all humans is love. The clamps are God and the community of others around us. God speaks, moves, gives us power and direction. Other people support us in living in peace… as far as it depends on us!
Our temptation is always to chase being right isn’t it? Our ego always demands that. Right seems so… certain, so good, so biblical, so logical! I mean, isn’t right part of righteousness? Aren’t most people right-handed? We know that there aren’t many truths out there – where only TRUTH is the center line down the highway. Shouldn’t we find it? Somewhere in all of this stuff, the clear truth of the Bible is – to pursue peace. You may feel that you’re right – that you’ve got the right nuance, the right interpretation, the right methods, the right insight on Jesus. You don’t have to give that up – if, as far as it depends on you, your pursuit is UNITY. And that will take some doing in a splintered world like ours where everyone has an opinion.