guest post: relationships & responsibility

 

The following is a guest post by my friend Virgil Fry. In it, Virgil addresses two proverbs rarely commented on, and he does so with deep insight. Thank you, Virgil!

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If a man pampers his servant from youth, he will bring grief in the end. (Proverbs 29:21)

Do not slander a servant to his master, or he will curse you, and you will pay for it. (Proverbs 30:10)

This 21st Century reader lays no claim to understanding fully the context and content of these two proverbs. A lot of commentators throughout the centuries are equally unclear on the concise meanings.

Both verses refer to a servant/master relationship that is not as readily practiced in our current American setting. That said, there are certainly class distinctions and practices that do permeate our society (for example, being a Caucasian male can open doors of opportunity that others may have to fight for).

Two issues that do permeate these verses are: overprotecting another from responsible living, and the high cost of character slander. In human relationships, one person in power can over-shelter another (whether it’s one’s child or some other relationship). In parenting, the current vernacular coins the term “helicopter parenting.” That phenomenon is seen when a parent refuses to allow any part of a child go unsupervised, smothering the child with hyper-vigilance. In addiction recovery, families often learn that covering up destructive addictive behaviors actually enables, rather than assists, the one dealing with addiction. When we take on all responsibility for another’s foibles, in the name of trying to avoid conflict, all pay a heavy price for the lack of responsible behavior. That is part of the “grief in the end” I read in this proverb. Entitlement living, of which we are all capable, is not healthy living. We are at our best when we take responsibility for our own actions, and allow others to do the same.

Then to consider the high cost of slandering another: we all know the destructive carnage that character assassination reeks. There is a fine line with truth-telling about another’s weaknesses or taking great pleasure in bolstering my own ego by vilifying another’s faults. Jesus spoke clearly to this issue: Judge not, that you be not judged. Tearing down another person without taking it up with that person directly is a human relationship disaster. We are called by God to be more than character assassins: we are to be bridge builders, those who encourage one another.

So let us be mindful of overprotecting those we blindly idolize. And rather than indulging in relational sabotage, let us be those who help build healthy relationships.

the temple: a prayer

Stained-glass-window

Thank you, Father, for your temple. For bringing to this earth a place to reside with your human creation.

A place of worship. A place of prayer. A place of revival, refreshment, rejuvenation and great celebrations.

A fortress for your people. A safe place where your light always shines.

Indeed, a wonder for all of the world to see the true love of the true God of this earth.

The place where heaven meets earth. The place where you now reside. In our human hearts.

Thank you for living in me. For the blood of Jesus that made me pure enough to receive you.

Thank you for entrusting me with your Spirit. Forgive me Father for not using your Spirit to the best of my ability. Forgive me Lord for letting your light dim. Please help me Lord to revive your Spirit in me so that your light, your love, is fully displayed in me. You promised to always be with me. To be with us in your holy temples.

And now in this place look upon us with your favor. Bolster your Spirit in our worship. Prepare our hearts to remember your great sacrifice as we share in the feast of the body and the blood of your Son.

Prepare our hearts to receive your word and send us on our way refreshed, and revived with the light of your Spirit, so that we may with great joy bring your blessings to the poor, the sick, the aged and infirm and those imprisoned …

Until the end when we will hear you say, “Well done.”

(by John Jacobson)

links: this went thru my mind

Artifacts, history & Israel: Selected Artifacts from the Collections of the National Treasures

“The artifacts on the site are arranged both chronologically (according to archaeological periods) and typologically (according to the type of artifact), allowing either a gradual guided entry through the main title pages to the artifact’s information card, or directly to the artifact’s information card using an advanced search box.” [just type something in the search box; i.e. - lamp, seal, sword, etc.]

Atonement, Eastern Orthodoxy, morality, science, sin & transformation: Atonement: An Orthodox Perspective [14 min. video]

“… morality can become a heresy … a substitute for the inner transformation of the heart.”

Christian faith, influence & witness: Christians Should Give More Offense

“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christians should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Church & discouragement: Five Ways to Discourage Your Pastor

“If you are bent on discouraging your pastor, here are 5 surefire ways of doing so …”

Football & injury: Brain Trauma to Affect One in Three Players, N.F.L. Agrees

“The National Football League, which for years disputed evidence that its players had a high rate of severe brain damage, has stated in federal court documents that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at ‘notably younger ages’ than in the general population.”

sum of the sermon – love is a battlefield: being strong in the Lord (4)

In the ancient world as described in Scripture, it was a common thing for rulers or kings to erect an image or statute of themselves in the distant realms of their domain. Rather than merely feeding the ruler’s vanity, these images served important purposes. They were erected to remind the people there, most of whom would never see him in the flesh, who it was who provided for them and protected them. The image reflected his likeness and depicted some of the qualities that he not only saw himself embodying, but those who wished to see imitated by his people (i.e. – confidence, strength, looking to the future, etc.).

This image/statue – an obvious, constant, physical combination of reminder and reflection – stood out to all who encountered it as a representation of the ruler/king. He was not to be forgotten and his representation was statement of his “presence” over, and among, his people. He had expectations for them to live up to – and he to them – and these expectations were rock-solid, like the image/statute itself. His rule concerned things important to his people’s well-being and his people were to support him well in the way they represented him with all their actions.

And so, when the story of how the living God made humankind and set them in the midst of his creation, it is revealing to see God use this very same language of imagery. Literally.

“… God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1.27)

God made humans as a representation of himself. Being a reflection of the Creator’s character and abilities, their role in creation was to function as reminders of the Creator and his ongoing work; though we do not see him, he is here. Humans were to represent the Creator and Sustainer God well in their dealings with all that is creation, as well as in their dealings with each other.

We know the story, though, don’t we? Quite personally! We did the unthinkable – we rebelled against our God and in so doing, we defaced his image in us. As we filled creation with violence and selfishness, our ways did little to remind people of the only good and benevolent God. Since our ways did not reflect his ways, our representation of him was warped and twisted; we gave people the wrong impression of what God is like.

But, good and merciful God came into our midst and, rather than wiping us out, he came to rescue us from ourselves. In doing so, he, in effect, delivered us and created a new humanity – a new representation of himself – through the work of his Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

What an awesome God!

And so, this is where we stand today. We who follow Christ today are the new humanity, created in Christ to represent God afresh to all of creation. This work of his in us as humans is more wondrous than his first work, for we know our reflection of him now represents his redemptive work of grace and mercy on a whole new scale.

To be sure, it’s still a battle. Our false expectations all too often remain with us. As does our temptation. And on ears hard-of-hearing, his instruction comes. But, in Christ Jesus – as Christians – we set our face to the task at hand – to belong to our God and to represent our God like never before. We are determined to do so, and enabled to do so, in our spirit and ways:

As … God’s picked representatives of the new humanity, purified and beloved of God himself, be merciful in action, kindly in heart, humble in mind. (Colossians 3.12 J.B. Phillips)

As he spoke us into being in the beginning – and afresh in Christ – we pray that our very words reflect God’s good character and timing:

Pray that I’ll know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all, the Message that I … am responsible for getting out. (Ephesians 6.19)

For we now know who and what we are in Christ – as one of God’s special messengers to us put it succinctly:

… we are ambassadors who represent Christ. (2 Cor. 5.20a)

And this we shall not forget again – nor shall we let the world fail to see – Christ living in us.

So go, and be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power!

Amen!