Unmasked

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

2 Timothy 2:3-4

Here’s a bit of irony for you: the issue of whether or not to wear a mask has unmasked a disturbing dereliction of duty within the Church.

If only the problem were confined to small bits of cloth…

But it isn’t. Every time I browse social media, a heaviness invades my heart.

So much of my feed brims with frustration. So many responses are subtly, or even overtly, hostile. So many opinions flung into virtual print seethe with smugness and accusation but lack verifiable data.

It’s sad to see the bickering in the secular world, but it’s appalling to see it within the Body of Christ. It’s as if we’ve forgotten who our enemy is.

Our enemy is not the lady asking you to please put on a mask in the grocery entryway, nor is it the man walking around without one.

Politicians, political parties, billion dollar industries, liberals, conservatives, illnesses, treatments, “THEM” – none of these are our enemies. And none will be our savior.

In truth, all the issues causing us distress and mouth-foaming rage are temporary. Transient. A vapor soon dispersed by the wind.

For those of us who are in Christ, the time we spend here is not a matter of rights or politics or safety. It’s a matter of eternal life or death.

Brothers and sisters, the hour is growing late. We are ambassadors for the King, and it’s imperative we remember what this means.

And if I may be frank, getting caught up in the swirling digital babble clamoring over politics and masks and disease numbers and the maelstrom of controversy does not point the hurting, sin-weary heart to Christ.

We are called to share in suffering, not dodge it. We willingly sacrifice all else in order to proclaim forgiveness of sin through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If we are in Christ, our allegiance is not to any worldly agenda. It is to God’s agenda, and it we take it up at any cost to ourselves. A quick glance through the pages of Scripture yields several examples.

Jeremiah endured public ridicule and imprisonment, but not for his rights – for the Word of God. And he did it after God told him no one would listen.

Hosea did not place his right to a happy and satisfying marriage over his obedience to God’s command to marry an unfaithful prostitute. The command of God superseded his rights and he knew it. And acted on it.

Ezekiel did not spend over a year lying on his left side and eating bread baked over a poop fire because it brought him joy. He did it for the Lord.

Paul did not suffer persecution, torture, and chains by standing up for his earthly freedoms. He, too, did it for the honor of serving the Lord.

They knew what today’s Church seems to have forgotten. This world is dark, broken, horrible. Bad things will happen. And yes, we will lose rights and freedoms; we will be persecuted. We will suffer harm.

But if we belong to Christ, we will not be overcome so long as we remain faithful to Him and His calling on our lives. But we must have a willingness to share in suffering as good soldiers.

The enemy is not out there, fudging numbers and plotting to cover the faces of the globe with cloth. The true enemy works intimately, stirring up our pride; our selfishness; our sin.

Mine. Yours.

And he is gloating over our distraction from our primary purpose as ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. Let’s no longer give him the satisfaction.

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, 
but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 
Rejoice always, 
pray without ceasing, 
give thanks in all circumstances; 
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 
Do not quench the Spirit. 
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything;
hold fast what is good. 
Abstain from every form of evil. 
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, 
and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:15-24

In So Many Words…

Question:  How does this apply?  What does it look like? 

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.

Over at Inspiration with an Attitude (which, by the way, I highly recommend checking out), one of my blogging buddies recently asked the above question, specifically calling on her “panel of experts” for their input.

My blog appeared in her list, so I fear we must question her mental health (or perhaps we can chalk it up to the contrast between my scribblings and her daily bombardment of middle school angst…)

Nevertheless, the question is a good one and coincided nicely with some other tidbits I’ve been pondering, including a conversation between Yeshua and some religious leaders as recorded in Matthew 22:23-32.

These fellows had approached the Lord with what they probably considered an insoluble conundrum based on Deuteronomy 25:5-10 – a law which provided for the continuation of a man’s family line in the event of his untimely death. The scenario they postulated is quite foreign to today’s way of thinking, but basically their question was an attempt to apply eternal significance to a matter of temporary import (as we all tend to do).

I love the way David H. Stern translates the Lord’s response in the Complete Jewish Bible:

Yeshua answered them, “The reason you go astray is that you are ignorant both of the power of the Tanakh [Scriptures] and the power of God.”  Matthew 22:29

And there it is in a nutshell – the actual problem lurking within the doors of every church and snatching the joy of salvation from the unwary heart.

Too often, we understand the Scriptures theoretically but not practically; or temporarily and not eternally. We talk about the Bible but somehow fail to put His Word into action in specific, mundane ways.

But not always.

As many of you know, this old dog has been slowly and painfully trying to learn a new trick: I’ve been studying Hebrew, and a couple of years in, I can probably read about as well as your below-average 4-year-old Jewish child.

One thing I have learned is that Hebrew is primarily a verbal language. Now there is a lengthy grammatical explanation behind that which I will avoid here. Suffice to say the language is rooted in verbs rather than nouns.

I admit I may be so far off base that I’m on the swim team with this thought, but one idea which has stubbornly taken root in my mind is this: perhaps in a verb-based language, there is a greater emphasis on doing rather than abstract ideas.

Maybe, just maybe, the concept of walking in trust is not merely verbalizing our trust but actually trusting God enough to do the crazy things He commands us to do.

Crazy things like my friend who recently learned her husband has continued in multiple acts of infidelity over the span of five or more years. Yet instead of stringing his character up for public castigation and gloating over his fall, she is prayerfully working on a solution. In the midst of it, she actively forgives him every single day – not because he is worthy of forgiveness, but because she knows none of us are, and yet God has forgiven us anyway.

And there are many more examples…

God’s power looks like another couple I know whose pasts are both haunted with horrendous abuse – abuse which has infiltrated their health and their marriage. Yet they have not given up but cling closer to God. They have learned to submit to Him, address their own sin and forgive the sin of the other, and they are providing a beautiful and loving environment for their children… all by the power of God.

It looks like Rachel Saint, her young nephew Steve, and Elizabeth Elliot going to live among the Waodani people in order to teach them about the Lord AFTER the tribe’s warriors speared Rachel’s brother and Elizabeth’s husband to death. Steve went on to continue his father’s mission work  into the present day.

Interestingly, at the time of first contact, the vengeance-based culture of the Waodani did not even have a word for forgiveness. How do you share the forgiveness of God with a people who do not even conceptualize it in their language? You show them… by the power of God.

The power of God looks like Betsie Ten Boom thanking God for the fleas in Ravensbruck concentration camp…

It looks like cleaning a sick neighbor’s house or mowing their yard when you can’t even keep up with your own; or doing what is needed in your church, home, or workplace rather than what you prefer

It looks like doing all of this and more as acts of worship rather than for acknowledgement or personal gain.

In fact, it looks like doing them despite being taken for granted or even insulted because you are doing them for God.

It looks like Yeshua in the Garden of Gethsemane – prepared to pay the price of crimes He did not commit on behalf, even, of those who would torture Him – praying, “Nevertheless, not as I will but as You will…”

The power of God looks a whole lot like staying involved in church or in family or in any relationship even when it hurts because by putting up with the crazy of others, you begin to understand why it is God continues to put up with you.

Hmm… it seems the power of God looks an awful lot like humility…

Where have you seen God’s power at work in large ways or in small?