“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching,
but having itching ears they will accumulate
for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”
(2 Timothy 4:3; ESV)
I heard a prodigious scream. It meant one of the children had been hurt, or was about to be. After dodging a yellow Tyrannosaurus rex flying into the hallway, I arrived in their room to discover that a death threat had, for the moment, not yet been executed; no blood was splattered on the wall. Whew! As with most siblings’ perpetual disagreements, this squabble had circumvented toddler-aged common sense and stuck its nose in the middle of a normally quiet Saturday morning.
My youngest and more traditional son was playing farm. He had his cows, horses, and chickens lined up inside the plastic-fenced corral next to the barn. His older brother is a bit more creative and decided he would bring a colorful array of plastic dinosaurs to the farm. So, without asking or even discussing the idea, he proceeded to place the prehistoric icons right in the middle of the corral. After all, the more animals the more fun they would have, right? It would only benefit the farm.
In revisiting this nostalgic flashback, I realized that by the time I had reached their room a great battle over right and wrong had already emerged. Delaying intervention meant an even wider division between the two. Neither was willing to compromise on their definition of playfully correct. Each child blamed the other for his ignorance of how a real farm should look. It seemed that both were really angry and bitter, ready to leave and find a new farm where they are welcome, a farm where their lil’ ol’ hearts and ears could be tickled pink with affirmation of their correctness. A teaching moment had arrived, and I’d used the opportunity to teach the boys to understand that, though new ideas do break tradition, they are not necessarily wrong, and that even though it may be a better idea, you shouldn’t force it on someone without explanation or discussion. His brother wasn’t getting rid of the farm; he just wanted to add some animals.
There are times when getting two young children to understand each others point of view requires vigorous effort. Over the years I have discovered that it’s just as hard to get adults to understand each others points of view if they are unwilling to listen.
God’s people, the Jews, had become traditionalist, handing down from each generation different ideas of how to worship. They propagated oral laws to help define God’s written Law so men could better understand how to live more righteously.
The Word said to “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.” Well, just what does keeping it holy mean? The high Priest and other leaders took it upon themselves to define ways to keep it holy. One example was that if you took over 400 steps on the Sabbath you were working, and therefore, not keeping the Sabbath holy (I don’t know who took the time to count the steps but that sounds a bit like work itself).
Though they meant well, through the centuries, they created a self-righteous pattern that led them away from God. Now these Oral Laws became the way of salvation through ones ability to not only keep God’s revealed and written Law, but the Oral and traditional law as well.
Jesus brought a new paradigm. He came bearing good news.
“You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt.22:37-40)
Now, to some extent these Oral Laws sound silly, but are they really? Do we not do the same with our views on the ways things should be done today? Jesus did not propose getting rid of the farm, or the Law. He simply reemphasized what the Law always said: Love your God with your total being. In other words wrap your arms, legs, heart, soul and mind around a loving God just as tight as you can and never let go. And the new law was to love your neighbor just as much as you do yourself. Notice He placed self, last.
Jesus wasn’t telling us that when disagreements arise we need to accept others’ ideas simply as a way of saying we love each other. Neither was he saying we need to see those who disagree as unloving. In society’s new world view, I believe they call it, tolerance? But then that is polemic for another post so I’ll save it.
Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness,
strife, selfishness, or unworthy ends] prompted by conceit ‘and’ empty arrogance.
Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others
as better than ‘and’ superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another that you do of yourselves]. (Philippians 2:3; Amplified Bible)
If we look at the great and foremost commandment again, we can see that Jesus brought the paradigm back to the beginning of God’s Word. Here he simply reminds us that our very heart, soul and mind should be devoted to God first. We should have a relationship so intimate in prayer and Word that we recognize His guidance over our own. We must desire to know God better. Our soul should be so thirsty for Him we become like a ball of cotton absorbing every ounce. Our mind should hunger for His Word as if we were on the verge of death by starvation.
So, what about division between church members, family and friends? We don’t need to go back to the time before that childish farm. As Christians, it is time to evaluate ourselves and our congregations with this new example, given by Jesus. It is not a new standard, it is the very one He taught His disciples while in their presence. Are we following that standard and not compromise it away? Maybe it’s time to ask God to point out a few good and faithful saints that will pray with us on a regular basis for an old fashion revival in our congregations. Maybe it’s time to pray until it comes!
“… Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:23 NIV)
As a member of your congregation revival begins with you. Be encouraged. Stand up, and hold your head high so that those in your congregation are also encouraged.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement
give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.”