Now, regarding the one who started all this—the person in question who caused all this pain—I want you to know that I am not the one injured in this as much as, with a few exceptions, all of you.So I don’t want to come down too hard. What the majority of you agreed to as punishment is punishment enough. Now is the time to forgive this man and help him back on his feet. If all you do is pour on the guilt, you could very well drown him in it. My counsel now is to pour on the love. The focus of my letter wasn’t on punishing the offender but on getting you to take responsibility for the health of the church. 2 Corinthians 2:5-9 (The Message)
Moments that Test our Motives
Years ago, I was in a race with several hundred other people. It was a triathlon. It started on a beach in Corpus Christi, Texas. After a half-mile swim in a very choppy ocean, we all ran to a transition area. There we quickly put on cycling shoes and rode off on a 25-mile bike ride, about half of which was directly into a stiff and steady 20-mph headwind. By the time I got off the bike, my legs were jelly and my body was exhausted.
I sat down in the transition area, thinking about the 10K run still ahead of me. Genuinely torn about what I would do, I could quit now and just lie back and relax or I could strap my running shoes on and stand up and “will” my legs to work again. It was the very kind of moment most endurance races bring: the moment of decision, whether or not to finish what I started. How we respond to those moments …
And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:21
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. Colossians 3:15
This Summer, my younger daughter is living with my older daughter (and her husband and their dog) while she does an internship for her major. This last weekend, I had the privilege of visiting them for the first time since that arrangement started. So far, nobody has killed anyone. I am happy about that.
The truth is, my girls get along really well with each other. They give each other a hard time, but they are also clearly best friends. And when they fight, they fight fair. That’s important. That brings an amazing amount of peace to a parent. I am pretty sure I would never have understood that peace until I became a parent.
There is an aspect of God’s perspective on our love for each other that is “parental” in nature. Paul references it in Colossians 3 when he admonishes that church to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”. I do not read Aramaic, nor Greek. But I am told that Paul actually wrote peace of Christ in Latin (Pax Christi), so as to make it a play on words for that culture. You see, the nickname for the Roman occupation under which those churches operated was the Pax Romana (“Peace of Rome”). It referred to a kind of imposed peace which Rome enforced in all of its territories. It was an understood connotation of Pax Romana: you and your neighbor are both now part of the Roman Empire…if you have a problem with your neighbor, you have a problem with Rome. Paul …
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that the man of Godmay be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
After some 40 years of studying the Bible and some 25 (or so) years of teaching it, I can safely say I am more thirsty for it today than ever before. My prayer is that God will keep me ever more thirsty for it my whole life. So far, so good.
Today’s post begins a Summer Tuesday series on Spiritual disciplines which church leaders should be practicing and fostering. These are valuable habits in making and growing disciples…routines about which the church should be intentional. You should be teaching these disciplines and, in some cases, you should have a system in place for insuring their practice in the lives of your congregants. The first of these disciplines is Bible Study.
At my church, we call it our Re:Verse system. We all study the same passage all week long, meditating on it each morning, reading our pastors’ daily devotional thoughts on it. We study it again in our Sunday morning Bible Study groups, and we hear a sermon on the same passage in any of our Sunday morning worship services. Lastly, in the following week, we look back at the passage in our small accountability groups, gently pressing the truths from that passage into one another. Of course, the details of the system are not the point. Having the system in the first place is the point. It is important that a church’s structure and programming and culture all hold Bible study as a high value. Few spiritual disciplines will have a bigger impact on our people.
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4
I think I am a pretty good supporter of my pastor…I try to do the things he asks and I try not to do things I know he would frown upon…but he is going to HATE this post. And that makes me happy. I have learned a great deal about “shepherding” from watching my pastor. In fact, in my work with conflicted congregations, there have been many times when I wished young pastors could just sit with my pastor for a few days and learn the balance between humility and authority, between assertive and quiet, between empowering and disciplining. My pastor has shaped how I see many of the difficult issues pastors face today.
I am meditating this week on the 27th Psalm, and it made me consider what kind of leader David must have been in order to say these things. Amazing and gifted in so many ways, but at the end of the day, he just loved God and wanted to spend “all the days of his life…gazing upon the beauty of the Lord.” Those “mighty men” of his probably followed him for lots of reasons, but surely none more compelling than this. He was a mighty warrior, a passionate leader, a visionary King, a loyal friend, and the quintessential complicated, flawed hero…lovable for so many reasons. But all those qualities and characteristics of David boiled down to a shepherd boy who loved God above all else…”this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of …
“As for the prophets who lead my people astray, they proclaim ‘peace’ if they have something to eat, but prepare to wage war against anyone who refuses to feed them. 6 Therefore night will come over you, without visions, and darkness, without divination. The sun will set for the prophets, and the day will go dark for them. 7 The seers will be ashamed and the diviners disgraced. They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God. ” Micah 3:5-7
This passage from Micah has something to say to us about pastoral authority. And so does professional baseball.
They say that, among the various professional sports skills, hitting a major league baseball pitch may be the most difficult. I’ll buy that. And as far as I’m concerned, nobody practices that skill any better than Josh Hamilton. I honestly think he has maybe the sweetest swing in baseball. Last year, his four-home-run performance against the Orioles became just another illustration (just to put that in perspective, that has only been done 16 times in all of MLB history…that makes it even more rare than pitching a perfect game). But let’s be clear about those home-runs. They do not happen because of Hamilton’s amazing backstory, and they do not happen because of his title or his position as a major league player, and they do not happen because he has somehow earned the respect of his team mates or of opposing players. Those home-runs happen because of many long hours of perfecting a swing and then repeating that swing perfectly under a variety of circumstances. It is about sticking radically to that perfection and not wavering from it even a little bit. When Hamilton does that, when he sticks …
“Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger,
in whose hand is the club of my wrath!” Isaiah 10:5
I know I have joked (kind of) in previous posts about how theology watchdogs in the blogosphere (and in the church) are annoying in the same way as that teacher in high school who constantly corrected your grammar while you were trying to talk. But I also do recognize that God has given us brothers and sisters whose giftedness and very calling is to help us keep our doctrine pure…they are the doctrine disciplinarians, if you will. You know the ones I mean. They blog about your favorite pastor, who made a horrendous, unbelievable, heretical, probably-not-saved-if-you-say-this theological error in his sermon last week. They call him out by name, and the venom with which they attack him is, well, pretty ungodly. Or they review the most recent book by one of your favorite authors and basically question his very humanity, not to mention his spirituality, because of the position he seems to have taken on this theological issue or on that social issue…again, with uncommon rancor.
[And, as an aside, you know what is one of my pet peeves? That blogger almost never makes any attempt at all to actually contact that pastor/teacher/author in order to practice this “discipline” or “accountability” Biblically, which pretty quickly gets me wondering whether they are really loving this brother or rather are just a little envious of his acclaim. But I digress.]
I know that God disciplines us. And I know that he often uses others to do it. I am really OK with that. In fact, it seems like a good plan to me. I think scripture gives us plenty of examples of God using people to discipline his children. …