the opinion/knowing that matters

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

I think it’s wise when a church does not rush into judgments “where angels fear to tread.” At the same time the church does have responsibility to make judgments on cases involving sin which violate covenant faithfulness. We see that in this same letter, soon following this passage (5:1-13). So this passage has nothing at all to do with that.

What Paul was getting at here is judgment of the heart: the motives, why people, specifically in this case Christian leaders do what they do. Whether it’s for the glory of God, out of love for God and for others. And that standard was not just for leaders, though they were to exemplify it.

The older I get, the less trusting I am of either my own motives, or my ability to judge them. It has been well said, people have mixed motives for what they do. Some may be good, some not as good, and some even bad. It it’s to call any attention to ourselves, or somehow to make us think we’re better than others, than of course it’s no good. I am skeptical of the idea that whenever we do something, it is bound to have mixed motives. I’m not sure that’s sound Biblically and theologically. By grace it seems to me that we can do something out of sheer love. But in the end I would go where Paul goes in this passage. I can’t judge the heart on any particular instance. Only God can do that.

Sometimes I do need some straightening out along the way. That can come indirectly through others, and always directly from the Lord through the convicting, convincing work of the Holy Spirit. Often though for me, I’m muddling along in the messiness of life, aware of perceived deficiencies, sometimes seeming to crush me in a kind of condemning way, a sure sign that God is nowhere near such a judgment.

Anything like that we need to let go of. Realizing that in the end it’s God who will make the final judgment, and in the meantime will help us along the way. The bottom line is that we need to trust in God. Sometimes in this life someone like a needed surgeon, can help us discern issues underneath the surface which are harmful to us, and likely to others (Proverbs 20:5).

In the end, it’s God who makes all the final judgments. And note that then, each person will receive praise from God. Not condemnation at all, nor even censure. The text says, praise from God. We can’t make an argument from silence, but this is encouraging. I take it that the Father will want to sound that note for each of his children, when it’s all said and done.

Does this thought lend itself to carelessness? I surely hope not. God’s grace is at work in our lives to give us a heart to follow him in love and service for others. In and through Jesus.

God’s measuring line

It’s that more or less dreaded time of the year for job reviews, which in the case where I work end up being rather routine and relatively short, after which we might chat a bit about something else to not end our session too soon. Still, this is not my favorite exercise except that it can be a time of both encouragement and vision in terms of development. For me, I’m getting closer and closer to the end of my work days, even if to some extent I never plan to quit working altogether, as long as I’m able.

I think too of the assessment of others, either in terms of once accepting and even appreciating, but in time completely (so it seems) writing one off, or in terms of praise received. These can be both discouraging, as well as encouraging. What ends up being the bottom line for me is that I am simply a servant with significant limitations for sure, but one who offers the little I have to the Master who can take the five loaves and two small fishes and feed them to a multitude. This is certainly true for each and every one of us, in and through Jesus.

The evaluation which counts is the Lord’s evalution of ourselves, of our works. Everything is of grace for sure, we don’t do anything that is of God apart from God. There may be good humans do which moves God, as was true in the case of Cornelius the Roman centurion in the book of Acts, who feared God, gave to the poor, and helped the Jews in their religious setting. Prevenient grace, the teaching that God’s grace precedes so that only by that grace sinners can repent and believe and do well in God’s sight, as well as the common grace God gives to all by which mothers self-sacrificially care for their young, along with a whole host of other human activities we find good and even at times inspiring, these are all in the mix, when we consider the evaluation of our lives and what we do (and don’t do).

So for me, while I really do appreciate encouragement, and can see that as from the Lord, even when given by another human, perhaps helping overcome despair, the one evaluation which for me in the end matters, is exactly what our Lord will say on that Day, the day when our lives and works are evaluated.

One of the keys is to prepare well now. And a very necessary part of that is to judge ourselves, with the help of the Lord. In a certain sense, we can’t do that at all. God is the Judge, and only God sees everything as it truly is. But in a different yet related sense, we do need to judge ourselves, depending on God to give us discernment to do so, primarily in terms of confession of sin, and change in getting rid of whatever sin we might be dealing with since we have the promise of cleansing in this life, in the progressive sanctification for holiness that is ours in our Lord.

This never negates our need for further confession and cleansing, sanctification in being set apart to God to be holy, a life-long process. But other than never getting beyond temptation to sin in this life, we should be making progress, so that what might have been characteristic of us years ago, is now either unthinkable, or at least an exception to the rule, or at the very least we are ultra sensitive to the danger of such, so that we want to do our best to distance ourselves from it.

All of this to say that in the end it is God’s measuring line which counts. And that standard is Jesus himself. We are not only believers in Jesus, but followers of him, as well. So that our lives are to be taking on more and more of his likeness. So that even if in complying to the standards imposed on us elsewhere, we know we do so only because they are required of us in that context, of course as long as they don’t violate God’s will for us in Jesus, we want in everything to be pleasing to God which we know is always completely from and because of God’s grace, and to God’s glory.

Jesus is the measuring line for us all, and the Spirit helps us see just what that means for us in the course of a day, with reference to the demands placed on us, and concerning the issues which face us, especially in living and working with others, some of which might rub us the wrong way. The question for us remains, what does God want of us, even as we seek to comply with what humans expect from us.

We know it is the Lord’s evaluation which matters in the end. We want to encourage each other, but above all, pray for each other, for God’s greatest good, God’s best in each life. Knowing the Lord is able to make us stand in his grace, and go on, with the goal of hopefully being more and more formed into his likeness.

attitude check

We say so and so has an attitude. That can mean all sorts of things, but it’s often like the elephant in the room which everyone ignores and pretends doesn’t exist. But all too often we can be drawn in and end up having an attitude ourselves. Jesus warned against the attitude of rolling one’s eyes, speaking lightly of another or in the grip of anger cursing someone in one of the worst possible ways of one’s culture, or maybe even in a “Christian” manner, cutting them down.

There are times when I need an attitude check. I may well be right in the limited way we humans can be, but all too often I am not entirely right myself in reaction to the person or issue that seems off. It is hard to know when to speak up and hopefully gently challenge something or someone, and when to be silent. Most of the time I think we do well to err on the side of silence and grace, resorting to prayer. And most of all, we do well to avoid an attitude in which we often descend to the same level of that which we are reacting to.

I may need a time apart, even if brief (if possible) and certainly prayer lifted up to God to confess my sin, what is wrong in my attitude, and maybe even to the person, if need be. Perhaps at least taking something back, or moderating what I said earlier.

Interestingly when this is done, we then see much more clearly. All too often a judgmental attitude colors what we see, so that we don’t see clearly enough. We need to judge ourselves first before we can see well enough to possibly help another with their problem. Always in much grace and love, along with the wisdom we need in this from God.

And so we need the Lord’s help, his light on ourselves as together in Jesus we seek to live out his love and truth with each other and for the world.

shunning

The Amish practice shunning, which to them means not having any fellowship with those among them who depart from their tradition, their distinct practice of the faith. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he makes it clear that there is to be a strong discipline practiced to help unrepentant believers. In another passage he says that they are to be warned as those in family.

Unfortunately in our day extremes are practiced. People can go on from church to church with little to no accountability concerning ongoing sin issues in their lives. The church can’t help them, because they refuse any accountability. The high churches which are steeped in sacramentalism, are relegated to the sacrament of confession to a priest. The churches which reject that all but lose out on confession most of the time, until the sin arises and comes to a head, so that the unrepentant one is all but lost, whether or not they remain in the church.

How do we approach sin issues in our own life which may bring reproach on Christ’s body the church, as well as be destructive to ourselves and others? How do we approach the same in a brother or sister who may be close to us?

We need to look at ourselves first, and pray that God would uncover in us anything contrary to his will. We’re to cover over many sins, or pray for the one sinning, and confront when need be the sins of other brothers and sisters in Jesus. And we must hold to a balance of neither imagining that we in Jesus are without sin in this life, or that we must sin in everything we do. But there needs to be a commitment to accountability, if we’re to follow our Lord faithfully together in him. For the world.

loving one’s enemies

I hesitate to think of myself as having enemies in the biblical sense,  because enemies in that sense seems most evidently to be those who are enemies against God. They are the faithfuls’ enemies, because of the faithful, living in the way from God. Sometimes I don’t know why I have the few enemies I have. Other times though, I know I either rub them the wrong way, or we have conflict in a life situation which ends up unsettled. Sometimes hard to pinpoint or even surmise. I am not talking here about someone with whom one might have a conflict which then is resolved. But I’m referring to those who seem to be dyed-in-the-wool enemies.

It is especially galling when an enemy was once a friend. When one is ignored no matter what, or treated as one outside the family of God, and there is no reconciliation, then and there it seems one has an enemy. Or at least not a friend. When one has been a companion with another and is now rejected out of hand, even if for a reason that is either a sin, or could become a sin, but the other has repented of, then it seems the one withholding reconciliation has become an enemy. Of course in many societies in the world, simply to name the name of Christ means one has enemies who threaten their very lives. That is certainly not the case in the society in which I live.

How then are we to love our enemies? We can’t love them as friends, even though it is galling when they treat us as friends in certain contexts. As if they’re simply putting up with us. Are we seeing their perspective? Maybe there is some offensive way in ourselves we need to repent of, not only to the Lord, but also to them. Ironically, maybe they see us as an enemy, as well. That would be a good question to consider. Have I removed the plank from my own eye, so that I can really see clearly to remove the speck of sawdust from my brother or sister’s eye? Sadly one can treat others with contempt. Jesus said when we go down that path we can end up being in danger of hell fire.

Of course we know what the directive from Jesus is. We’re to love our enemies, to do good to them, to pray for them, and therefore be “perfect” as well as merciful, as our heavenly Father is perfect and merciful. We’re not to try to get revenge, but leave justice in God’s hands. At the same time, we should be like Jesus and Stephen who emulated Jesus in his death. Praying for our enemies right to the end, not for God’s vengeance, but for his mercy to them. That they might be forgiven.

As for those who are named among the faithful and yet essentially live as enemies, we’re to seek reconciliation. To do our part, and then to leave it in God’s hands.I consider being faithful to God and to the new covenant given to us in Christ, means to be faithful to each other as a brother or sister within the same family, the family of God. We should try to see the bigger picture around it, that perhaps they have a general problem which causes them trouble in other contexts. While wanting to be sensitive to whatever extent that may be true in our own life.

At any rate, we in Jesus need to show the world the difference following Jesus makes. A difference which involves loving the unlikeables, even those who are our enemies. Continuing to forgive those who continue to wrong us, that we might be forgiven, and bear the message of forgiveness and reconciliation in Jesus to the world. Together in Jesus for the world.