Thursday, June 2, 2011
Being not doing
In Romans 14 Paul uses a certain phrase a lot. That phrase is "to the Lord”
The one who abstains does so "to the Lord"
The one who eats does so, to the Lord
The one who keeps the Sabbath does so, to the Lord
The one who lives, lives to the Lord
The one who dies, dies to the Lord
We belong………….to the Lord
To the Lord. What the heck does that mean? I think you could replace the phrase with several other options - Live to the Lord, Live for the Lord, Live in the Lord, Live with the Lord
But the import, it seems is this - We are called to be so connected to Christ that everything
All the rules, all the priorities
Is secondary to that relationship, and the love.
This has been said by people other than Paul
Martin Luther is credited with saying what is much the same thing “Love God and sin boldly”
He didn’t actually say that. What he did say was "Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly... Pray boldly - for you too are a mighty sinner." Which says much the same thing….
Dallas Willard once wrote “The positive characterization of the kingdom attitude is agape love… Jesus calls us to him to impart himself to us. He does not call us to do what he did, but to be who he was, permeated with love. Then the doing of what he said and did becomes the natural expression of who we are in him.”
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world (Matthew 5) - - see too it then that the light within you is not darkness, therefore if your whole body is full of light, and not part of it dark, it will be completely lighted” (Luke 11)
A lot of people think the question is “What would Jesus do?” But the it is not so much a matter of asking “What would Jesus do?” as it is asking “how would Jesus BE.” Or better, “How can I let Jesus BE IN THIS SITUATION – WITH THIS PERSON”? Or even more clearly, how can I be so permeated with the presence of God, that I have the perspective of Jesus, the eyes of Jesus, the love…. Above all the love… of Jesus – so that in my life, and in my actions Jesus is present?
You know when we ask “what would Jesus do?” we have this tendency to edge back into LAW and away from GRACE. We are so well intentioned. We want to be good people. But we end up majoring in minors. We end up wrapped up in all kinds of stuff. Like THE RULES
What is “right”. What is “wrong”. Think about the examples Paul used. What were people worrying about. What was OK to eat (like pork or no pork) and what was not OK to eat. What day should the Sabbath be. Saturday or Sunday. You see where this is going don’t you ?
It is all too easy for us to get wrapped up in should and oughts. Not only with respect to ourselves… but others.
Living the faith is not about following some rule. It is about being so filled with God
So aware of God’s love
So overwhelmed but our sense of being forgiven
That we are simply, different
And what does that “different” look like?
According to Paul in Romans 14 it looks like accepting weakness, and not chastising and not screaming about “accountability” I looks like forgiving, not judging. It looks like doing what leads to peace...
It looks like being the kind of people who are bring forth mutual growth, understanding, and knowledge
It becomes a matter of priorities
About what is important.
What is important, Paul says, is (Romans 14:20) “not destroying the work of God”
In short, not getting in the way of the Gospel
And Paul is most adamant that we not let our ideology get in the way of grace. I find this statement in verse 22 amazing. “So whatever you believe about these things (essentially all these “moral rules” and all our ideological stances), keep that between yourself and God”.
Why? Because in our hands the rules, the ideology can become a club we use on others, and we end up “no longer acting in love… and we destroy rather than build.”
Being love, Being grace. Those are the priorities. Paul has given us a great start at understanding what that looks like. Forgiveness, patience, peace making. And he has given us a great start at understanding what it isn’t. It is not enforcing the rules. Not pushing a holy agenda. Not stuffing ideology down people’s throats
Think about how different things would be if we merely focused on living life “to God”
If our first priority was to get connected to God, permeated as Willard puts it with God
And our Second priority was to be loved by God, forgiven by God
And then our third priority was to be like Christ for others… to be love, unconditional, extravagant love
Think about how that would impact our decisions. We are in a time when we have to cut government budgets. If we are “being love” how does that impact our thinking? Jim Wallis of Sojourners illustrates it with his striking question, “What Would Jesus Cut?” Good question, but we can’t even get there until we are willing to be permeated with Jesus and be love… in the power of the Spirit.
How does that impact how we look at the unemployed, the person afflicted with addiction, or mental illness, or the person in debt? How does that impact how we are with them…Because it really comes down to that… how we are with them.
I have a friend who is into what are called the “metta phrases” There are four. And they are wishes, one could see them as prayers, for good things. They were originally designed for self compassion. So a person with anxiety for example, or in emotional pain, would say “May I be safe, may I be healed, may I be happy, may I be at ease” But you can use these phrases for others. May you be safe, may you be healed… may you be happy, may you be at ease.” You can you these phrases for your worst enemy… or the person you might naturally look down on or despise. … “May my enemy be safe, may the one who wronged me be healed, may the one who hurt me be happy, may the one who created chaos in my life, be at ease.”
But we get the idea don’t we? As we are faced with hard decisions. As we encounter people who make us cringe. As we struggle with human weakness, and we seek to live a life that makes a difference and does not “destroy the work of God” … we are called to be people who simply try to let Christ be… active and present - in us, and through us. When we want to hold other’s accountable. When we want to straighten out other’s theological stances… when we are tempted to get caught up in the rules, the oughts, the shoulds….. we need to simply let Christ be… in us and through us… and….
I suspect that God will do the rest. . .
It is, his work