love and life (should we try to be an agent of change?)

Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one.

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

Tim Gombis, a New Testament professor, scholar, and writer has a helpful podcast I would highly recommend, Faith Improvised. On this weeks podcast (August 17, 2021) he said something which helped me quite a bit. And what follows is not to be taken as quote from him, or exactly what he meant, but just as my understanding of it.

We have the culture wars especially rampant here in the United States. We have many, including loved ones who reject science and are prone to accept conspiracy theories and seem open to authoritarian, nondemocratic government. And many who do this as if it’s the Christian thing to do.

What are we to do? Should we try to persuade them? Or maybe try to plant seeds so that they might begin to ask questions and have doubt themselves? That is a topic in and of itself, and really beyond me to cover here, nor do I want to. I really don’t care to wade into the politics of the world and controversial subjects on this blog. The dangers I’m referring to really have to do essentially with one thing: The replacement of the good news in Jesus with something which is morphed into it. An easy shorthand of that: US flag and Christian flag at the front of a church “sanctuary.” And this consumes those who follow it, more telling for them arguably and I’m afraid often clearly so then Jesus’s own words and the fulfillment of Scripture in Jesus.

What helped me is just the thought from Tim that we simply just be Christian. Not try to change anyone. Just keep on seeking with other followers to follow Christ. As Paul put it, to “aspire to live quietly, mind [our] own affairs,…work with [our] hands,…so that [we] may behave properly toward outsiders.” And those who are acting like outsiders. And doing so with lives of growing love for the brothers and sisters in Christ and for all.

This is not to say that there’s no time to speak out, as John Lewis put it, “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” But by and large, this is what we’re to do, to be about.

In and through Jesus.

no words needed

But we urge you, beloved…, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one.

1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12

Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

1 Peter 3:1-2

We recently watched a dated PBS documentary, The Amish: People of Preservation (1975), John L. Ruth, John A. Hostettler. Less than an hour, worth the watch. One of the points made was that the Amish ordinarily say little or nothing at all. They believe their lives should speak to outsiders, even I suppose to each other. They certainly talk among themselves, and their preachers go on and on in their worship services.

That spoke to me, and I remember what James tells us:

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.

James 1:19-20

There’s nothing important than the way we live, and why we live that way. Whatever truth is out there is much more caught than taught. “Do as I say, not as I do,” does little or no good for anyone. God wants to break through to where we live, where the rubber meets the road, not just here and there or in a few things, but in everything. And we can be thankful for that. In and through Jesus.

living longer, or living better?

None of us wants to die “before our time”; we would all like to live long, healthy, productive lives right to the end. While good health certainly has value as a gift from God, we do have to be careful not to judge just what might be good in God’s eyes, which may seem less than good ourselves. Or better put for some things, the great good God can bring out of great difficulty, even tragedy. I can’t help but think of Christ’s servant, Joni Eareckson Tada.

But there’s something even more important than living longer. Living better. I was thinking yesterday on how much was missed over the years because of the loss of Jim Elliot and his missionary companions in their outreach and witness to the Auca Indians. We do know that their sacrifice was not in vain since their wives followed up and went right back in with the gospel which transformed that tribe.

The story of good King Hezekiah comes to mind. His story is inspiring, and should be read in its entirety, but sadly, he didn’t end all that well. It’s not like he abandoned the faith as others seemingly did (like King Joash, and King Uzziah). It seems more like there was a degree of complacency and pride which crept in and made their home in his heart. He evidently was worldly in his thinking toward the Babylonians, and he may not have been the father he should have been. At least one of the most evil kings Judah knew, who did repent later in life, Manasseh, was born after Hezekiah’s healing. See 2 Kings 18-21 for the full story.

I’m not getting any younger, into my sixties now, and there are some unresolved matters surrounding my life which hopefully can be resolved. I want to end well. Of course I would like to live a few more decades with health and in service to Christ. But the big thing for us all is ending well. Just how well will we live our lives during whatever last years and days God gives us?

And so I’ll do what I can to stay healthy and live longer if it’s the Lord’s will. But above all, I want to make it my priority to continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord. To mature with others more and more toward the likeness of Christ. So that if something happens which might indeed shorten my days, that “one thing” Paul referred to as his passion in life, will be my one thing as well. Following on in God’s high calling in Jesus. Yes, in my brokenness and weakness. But through all of that, coming to know his strength, and simply him more, as well.

To live well, not longer, the first priority. By God’s grace in and through Jesus.