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 …
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. Matthew 16:16-17
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:22-23
I was the baby in my family. That means I got to learn from my older sibling’s mistakes (sorry, Sis)…not that there were THAT MANY mistakes there to learn from…but there were a few. And I did learn from them. That, it seems to me, is a huge benefit of being the younger brother.
I think of Peter that way…an older brother from whom we can learn. For me, Peter’s spiritual pilgrimage has always served as a great illustration of the human frailty of the church. Just like a local body of believers, there are times when Peter got it so very right, and there are times when he got it so very wrong. Looking at his pilgrimage in Matthew 16 raises for me a couple of important lessons for the church.
1. Celebrate when we get it right, but don’t get too cocky…we may just get it wrong tomorrow. My church happens to be one of the really healthy churches in our community right now. I like that. It makes me feel good. Even though people coming from other, less healthy, churches do not constitute “kingdom growth”, I am not going to lie and act like it doesn’t make me feel good. My …
How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:4-5
How are you at removing splinters from children’s fingers? Yeh, me neither. It is quite an ordeal, even under the best of circumstances. It takes a steady hand, a soothing voice, and really good eyes. As I write this, I am just now realizing how cool it is that so many of us did not need reading glasses until after our kids were old enough to get their own splinters out. Isn’t God smart? I can still remember feeling all medically superior one day when one of my girls came to me with a splinter in her finger. I brought her into the bathroom (where the light was the brightest), got some tweezers, picked up her hand and examined the finger closely. “Wow, this must be a tiny one” I told her, “I can’t even see it! Where is it?” And she answered, “It’s right here”, as she held up her free hand!
Being able to clearly see the splinter, it seems, is pretty critical to the entire process of removing it. And so it is with helping a brother with the “Speck” in his eye. Notice: Jesus’ aim in this lesson is for us to “see clearly”…that is the goal, so that we can help our brother. When you cannot see clearly, you simply are not capable of being any help.
It appears to me that commentators are all over the board regarding what, exactly, the “log in your eye” …
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”… Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:24-25, 29
The ears and the mind are necessarily connected. That is because hearing requires much more than just ears. When we were children, we could hear the wind blowing through a sea shell but we thought we were “hearing the ocean”. We could hear just fine, but we could not discern very well. Now, as I get older (alas), I am finding that my ears don’t always hear very well. I can be sitting with you in a crowded restaurant, trying to hear what you are saying and my “discernment” has to kick in so that I can make up for what my ears cannot hear. I suppose that balance shifts more and more with time.
Interestingly, our Spiritual hearing works in a similar way. When we are young (spiritually), we don’t discern all that well. We may hear God’s voice, but we hear it along with all the noise and may not have the spiritual maturity to discern that which is God and that which is other. I believe we develop that discernment over time, with the help of the Spirit. I also believe this spiritual skill is critical to our life together in the church. Wasn’t that the point of Jesus’ lesson to Thomas in John 20?