I hope you’re persisting in the joy, peace & love of Jesus even if & especially when the world around us is considerably less than that.
The Apostle Paul made the news the other day when a verse in Romans 13 was quoted by Jeff Sessions regarding the immigration crisis basically telling people to “obey the laws of the land”. I have no interest in questioning his sincerity or love of God but I was pleasantly surprised to see the almost universal rejection of his misapplication/misinterpretation of the verse, even by his own denomination. That verse has been pulled out to support all sorts of evils including slavery, the Holocaust and the Trail of Tears to name a few.
It’s important to know that in this passage Paul was not advocating for blind allegiance to whatever the government says (especially if “your side” is the advocating it). I can’t unpack it all but here are a few things he was getting at in that passage 1) don’t resort to violence to invoke change because violence is inconsistent with the kingdom of Jesus 2) live at peace as much as possible rather than picking a fight with every issue & everyone every 5 seconds & 3) the law of love for others & especially the least of these (because that is the truest picture of how we think about/treat God) supersedes all other laws of the land. And no matter what “the law” is, we as followers of Jesus should be less partisan & always advocating for policies that reflect love.
And if you think I’m putting words in the Apostle Paul’s mouth think about this: he was arrested, beaten, imprisoned multiple times for resisting the laws of Rome & subverting the authority of Caesar. Oh, and he was ultimately killed for his refusal to play by their rules & for his constant pushback against their system. I’m not sure about you but that doesn’t sound to me like someone who believed we should just go along with whatever the government says.
Our allegiance needs to be to love above all else, love for God which means love, mercy & justice for the least of these. And we must never let our political affiliation (or poor biblical proof-texting) get in the way of that.
Much love to you all, Pastor Chris.
The following text might pop up in one of my upcoming sermons during the summer series on Love so if you see it just consider this a preview:
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently...Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:1-2
A couple of things stand out to me about this text:
1) it says “brothers & sisters”. I feel like the church would have far more respect & credibility if were more committed to dealing with our own issues & shortcomings instead of that in the world. Jesus said it this way: “remove the plank in your own eye (house) before examining the speck in another.” I believe that applies personally but also universally. We need to be more concerned, mindful & even faithful to repent & clean up our own messes but sadly we often have the reputation of judging everyone while excusing our stuff.
2) what are we to do when we see a brother or sister falling short of the example of Jesus? Accuse! Judge! Scold! Make a public example of them! Hopefully, you didn’t “amen” any of those but if you did let’s look at the text again...RESTORE THEM! And it doesn’t even stop there but tells us how to restore them....GENTLY!
Wow, if we could get ahold of & model this, how much healthier would we all be?
We’ve all sinned & fallen short, all of us ...go ahead & cast the first stone if you haven’t. If you think about it, we tend to be a lot more gracious when we recognize how badly we ourselves needed/need grace. And we tend to be a lot more forgiving & gentle when we recognize how gentle & forgiving the Lord & others have been to us.
May we as a faith community offer gentle restoration to all who are broken & weary & caught up in anything that isn’t consistent with the person & ethics of Jesus.
Be blessed, Pastor Chris
Hello SPV Fam!
One of the things that was drilled into me most as a kid growing up in church was that followers of Jesus, “are not of this world”. In fact, I can still (about 35 years later) hear Petra’s song, “we are foreigners, we are aliens, we are not of this world” echoing in my subconscious from my church camp days. The concept comes straight from from the lips of Jesus in John, the writings of Paul in a few of his epistles & even the author of the book of Hebrews (whoever that was) so overall it was probably a more healthy than not concept to have imparted to me. The problem was that I made certain assumptions as to what that meant, or people just out & told me, but either way 99% of, “not of this world”, basically meant to avoid sex, drugs & rock & roll which isn’t exactly what Jesus, Paul & the other guy were getting at.
We’ve done a good job at looking the part spiritually while totally missing the heartbeat of Jesus & what his kingdom is about. Let’s face it, we’re in love with power, fame, wealth, dominance, control, being #1....just as Rome was back then. And Jesus is saying if you’re to follow me then, “you’re not of this world...my kingdom operates on a totally different plane”. And he said it a hundred different ways: “whoever is first shall be last”, “whatever you do unto the least of these you’ve done it unto me”, “blessed are the humble/poor in spirit for theirs in the kingdom of God”, “put away your sword”....
I don’t know about you but this following Jesus thing is a lot more involved & a lot more difficult than just avoiding sex before marriage, just saying no to drugs, and listening to cleaner versions of music! In fact, sometimes it’s so difficult it’s almost as if you need to die to self to make it happen!
We’re starting a new sermon series on Love this week so we’ll be spending a lot of time in 1 Corinthians 13 & this particular verse has been on my mind lately: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
If I’m being honest I’m both conflicted and challenged by this verse. On one hand it’s talking about love being the ultimate marker of maturity and yet how well someone walks in love is hardly ever what we associate with “leaving childish ways behind & becoming a man”. A hard worker, responsible, reliable, honest, trustworthy are all traits of a “mature man”... but loving? When i was growing up I never heard anyone say: “you know that John Wayne/Paul Newman/Burt Reynolds/Clint Eastwood is a real man...they’re so loving!”
And I don’t really think of children as particularly lacking in love either, in fact, we could learn so much from their example of love and faith!
With that said, “leaving childish ways behind” is still a worthy challenge and goal when it comes to striving towards things like patience, service, long suffering & sacrifice. I guess the bottom line is that we all should learn lessons from wherever & whomever we can receive them, especially us men who could learn so much from women & kids in this as well as several other categories. And regardless of gender, age, ethnicity....we can & should always be striving towards maturity which don’t forget, looks like Love more than anything else. Much love, Chris.
Hello SPV fam!
I’ve been thinking about “warning signs” lately. One thing that occurred to me is that I have looked at them in different ways over the years. In my younger, not so mature years I tended to look at them as either a means to control me (who are you to tell me what I can & can’t do) or as a challenge (what, you don’t think I can do this?). Now, sometimes warnings can be a means of control, fear, manipulation or intimidation & sometimes they can be a friendly “listen here, you might want to pay attention because you can get really jacked up if you’re bot careful”.
And who isn’t familiar with the completely ridiculous & unnecessary warning signs like “removing mattress tag can result in improsonment”, “don’t put this plastic bag over your head or you could suffocate” or “don’t eat this Tide Pod” (ok maybe we still need that one)? But now that I’m so mature & wise (*snicker*snicker) I’m really appreciative of warning signs such as the “rocks are slick so don’t get too close to the edge of the river because people slip, fall in & get swept over waterfall”, stuff like that.
And the Bible is actually full of warnings, not meant to manipulate us or cause fear but to make us aware of unhealthy things we could drift towards. There are warning from falling away or from false teaching that’s inconsistent with the person or teachings of Jesus or from being self centered & conceited.
I’m reminded of a verse from the great hymn “Come Thou Fount”: Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love, Here's my heart. O take and seal it; Seal it for thy courts above.
I no longer get defensive about such warnings; instead I read them, give proper consideration (hopefully) & ask the Holy Spirit to seal my heart & lead me into truth...& I invite you to do the same. Much love, Pastor Chris.