I have a sort of recurring day dream about my first appearance before God at Judgment time. It’s probably horrible theology on a number of levels, but I just can’t seem to shake the picture, and it is all because of a cool little comment Jesus makes in John 17:12… While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
I am haunted by those words, “…none has been lost”. I have this embarrassing picture in mind of my standing in my bath robe in front of God and Him asking me about all the people He placed under my influence in the church and who left the church at one time or another and I never heard from them again. I’m talking about members of Sunday School classes, choir members, committee members, etc. for whom I had some leadership responsibility (or at least a friendship) and who have disappeared from the church’s radar screen. Oh, how I wish I could look up and say (with Jesus) “None has been lost.” But I cannot. Can you?
It is what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 18 in his parable of the lost sheep. The context in which Matthew recalls that parable is a very different context from how Luke uses it. Maybe Jesus told the parable more than once. In Matthew, Jesus is clearly talking about the church and “sheep” who wander off. Jesus poses this question: what kind of shepherd would not leave the entire flock in order to go after the one lamb who wanders away? Of course, it makes perfect sense in that scenario that any of us would do that. …
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
Want a chuckle for today? Check out this Wiki article on 7 steps to survive a lion attack. Yeh, I’m not altogether certain about those seven steps. I have a question or two about them. For starters, do I try to recall these steps before I wet my pants or after?
I love that Peter uses this illustration to make his point about our enemy. It is perfect for so many reasons.
Consider, for example, how a lioness hunts. She is capable of following a herd of animals for days, even weeks, stalking and studying. She watches to learn which of the members are the weakest and the most likely to fall behind the rest of the herd. You see, when it comes to lion attacks, there is protection in the herd. The lioness watches for lame or young or otherwise “slower” members of the herd who are more likely to make decisions that tend to “distance” them from the herd…decisions that might make the protection of the herd more and more tenuous.
The same is true of our enemy. He watches the church (the “herd”)…stalking and learning. He watches for those members most likely to distance themselves from the church…most likely to forsake the spiritual protection of God’s people. You see, being created for community means we actually need each other’s diligent protection against the schemes of our enemy. We really must let friends get close enough to us to protect us. We must make arrangements with brothers and sisters who will love us enough to ask us some hard questions about our choices. That, my friend, is what “accountability” means.
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:13-16
Passages like this one from Pastor James make us squirm. We see them in scripture and we gloss over them, because they make us uncomfortable. We honestly do not know what to do with them, because, if we’re being honest with ourselves, they bear almost no resemblance at all to the church with whom we are familiar.
The notion of being so involved in one another’s lives, so intertwined together, that we know each other’s struggles and are fully mobilized to help and to pray…the notion that we would be so interdependent on each other that we would share our deepest fears and our hardest temptations, i.e., that we would actually confess our sins to each other…the notion that we would live our lives fully open and exposed to our Christian community, knowing that it is safe and that they will love and support us even with all our flaws…these notions are all foreign to our culture of self-sufficiency and anonymity.
We have reared at least two adult generations of Christians who consider social interdependence a weakness in an individual. Saying, “I am hurting and am needing help” is reserved only for the …