Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Swear Not!

 Jesus seems to be always pushing the envelope of righteous behavior.  Torah's ten commandments were honed - fulfilled, by Jesus' words - into a set of standards held by no other religious practice.  "You heard it said, 'Do not murder,' but I say, don't even call a person a fool..."  Egad!  There are so many fools!  

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refines and fulfills the truest meaning of many commands, including the command not to take the Lord's name in vain.

You have heard it said to those of old, "You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord."  But I say, do not make any vows!  Do not say, "By heaven" because heaven is God's throne.  And do not say, "By earth" because the earth is is his footstool... Do not even say, "By my head!" for you cannot turn one hair white or black.  Instead, let your YES be YES and your NO be NO.  Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

Matthew 5:33-37

Here, the vow (or swear in KJV) means "as my witness."  There cannot be any outside validation of the meaning of our words.  I can be my only witness.  I have to be good for my word; I must be true to my own words. My actions must follow.   Today we would say, "Walk the talk."

The original commandment means using God's name in such a way that it is emptied of its value by assigning it to our behavior.  Our behavior is our own.  We are the only ones who can prove ourselves.  Jesus wants us to be a standard bearer of our own actions, to take responsibility for what we say and do.

The use of hyperbole of needing to back our words or actions with an external source only proves two things.  The first is that we are not good for our word.  The second is that any attempt to do so is not of the godly order - it is from the evil one.  

This fulfillment by Jesus is to push our definition of integrity, of righteousness.  We are to be true to our nature and honest about it.  We might call that transparency today.  I say what I am and I am what I say.


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Reconcile

 You have heard that the law of Moses says, "Do not murder.  If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment."  But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!  If you say to your friend, "You idiot," you are in danger of being brought before the court.  And if you curse someone, you are in danger of hell fire.  

So, if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there.  Go and be reconciled to that person.  Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

Matthew 5:21-24


Jesus is always clear that our faith expression, our desire to serve God is directly tied to our relationships with others.  Relationship with others is the hinge on which our relationship with God may have its most meaning. You cannot come to God with your gift/service/offering unless your relationship with your brother is right.  Every time, our faith has a horizontal component as well as a vertical component.  

And this is much more than "tolerance," which is a false/fake version of reconciling in modern culture. While Jesus is dealing with anger and bullying, he is asking for more than just a ceasing of hostilities.  To reconcile is to renew a friendship with someone and to change thoroughly.  I'm almost sure it doesn't mean to change them, but to change ourselves.  Given the following set of verses, Jesus references a specific example of consequences relating to debts owed...and we know the debts owed due to love.

What a challenge!  This is a serious piece of getting ready for heaven for me.  I do not want to be on my death bed wanting to get things right with my brothers, near and far.  So, I have to rid myself of hate-prodders.  I have to spend more time with the Lord on that sacred ground of prayer in order to look for leads and opportunities and a change of mindset.  My part lies in the practices of prayer, love, and kindness.

I have found that outreach is the necessary move.  Jesus does say to leave your gift and go.  You can't wait for them to come, or the consequences come with them.  Go in prayer.  God in love.  Go in kindness.

I must!


Saturday, January 02, 2021

Kindness in Me

 The New Testament provides a proliferation of verses about kindness, especially what it should look like in us.  The Old Testament teaches about God's love and the New teaches us.  When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, she will produce fruit easily recognizeable as traits of kindness...goodness, gentleness and kindness.  Here is where we see that definition in the Greek - chrestotes - moral goodness, integrity with gentleness. 

A myriad of verses demonstrate how to gain kindness, develop the character trait in us:

  • Apply the benefits of God's promises in your life...which will result in kindness.
  • Have an eagerness, real zeal, towards love, favor for others and mercy for anyone.
  • Wear the garment of compassion and kindness.
What is in God, we must be deliberate to bring to ourselves.  His promises provide proof of his eagerness to give.  Wear the qualities of compassion and kindness - put them on and get comfortable.   When you have these promises, when you are familiar and easily portraying kindness, an eagerness will develop for favor and mercy for all.

Then, we are given practical directives for acts of kindness...and they are not random, but rather deliberate:
  • Be especially kind to those who are loyal.
  • Help the sick.
  • Be ready to provide an immediate response to need.
  • Provide companionship and sustenance.
  • Be welcoming.  
And then the news gets deep:
  • Be slow to avenge a wrong.
  • Love your enemies!  Do good to them.  Lend to them and don't be concerned that they might not repay.  (Then your reward in heaven will be great...)
If you are not sure how to dig that deep, remember that God's kindness is your lead.  His kindness extended to us even while we were sinners ourselves.  Digging deeper includes being kind to ourselves in that truth:  seek to stay in God's kindness.  Seek the kindness of correction and realize that the rebuke of a friend is a kindness. 

Most of all and, finally, Love is Kind.  Kindness is an expression of love.  I do want that character trait in me.  


God's Kindness

 About ten years ago, I did a deep exploration of kindness because I had decided I needed to be more kind to the world.  I had been defending myself  heavily for years and could have an unkind disposition.  I made some changes and hopefully some people might have noticed.  

Now I face 2021.  Each year I have a Word of the year.  I don't do resolutions, I just have a theme.  One Word.  Almost always, I don't have to search for one.  God brings me one and he brought me Kindness...again.  I could go into the reason why, but this year brings a new application for Kindness of which I am sure he wanted me to be cognizant.  So, I went to my last study, still in my prayer book.  That one is a page of "studying in color," which I often do, but I decided to transfer it into some logical order.

In the Old Testament, the word used exclusively is checed, which is often translated as lovingkindness with overtures of mercy, goodness, or pity.

In the New Testament, there are two words translated as kindness.  One is philantropia - you recognize it - which means benevolence, love acted toward people.  It is used only once or twice.  The word most used for kindness is chrestotes, with an expanded meaning of moral goodness, integrity; gentleness.  This makes kindness a character trait.

This is step one:  focusing on God's kindness.  I cannot do it God's way without a deep exploration of his example for us.  So God's kindness is in his nature.  It's qualities are as follows:

  • it endures forever
  • it preserves our lives
  • it provides opportunity even when we are in bondage
  • it binds us to God
  • even in the midst of sin
  • thus, God's kindness leads us to repentance.
God wants to demonstrate the incomparableness of his grace to us, which is demonstrated by providing Jesus incarnate and allowing us involvement with Christ's reign.  It's a kindness for us to be included in his plan, in his Kingdom development on earth.

Can we keep our own awareness of God's example of kindness?  Can we develop kindness as a character trait for ourselves?  We are to seek to stay in God's kindness.  If you want to let kindness take a hold of you, stay in these truth's about God.  You cannot give what you have not received.  Let God's kindness develop in you.  And be changed.