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“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the beatitudes, but often with tears in their eyes, they demand the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I’ve haven’t heard any of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the beatitudes, be posted anywhere. 'Blessed are the peacemakers' in the Pentagon? 'Blessed are the merciful' in a courtroom? Give me a break.”—Kurt Vonnegut
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”—Matthew 5:43-45
Did God ever tell you something and it impacted you, but you know when you tell it to somebody else it isn’t going to hit them the same way?
Maybe it’s because it’s something that is said so frequently, we’re mostly immune to it. If somebody says ‘God loves you’. You’d probably be like ‘uh-huh.’ But if somebody got a revelation of God’s love, that phrase would hit them so deeply in that moment that they would start to cry.
I think what I’m going to write today is like that. It’s going to be cliched, but God really hit me with it yesterday. So if you want to skip this one, or it seems a little flat to you, no hard feelings. :)
I’m still reading The Cost of Discipleship right now. It’s taking me forever to get through this book, but mostly because it’s really good and really deep. I frequently have to stop and process what Bonhoeffer is saying or re-read a section. Usually both.
In the section I just finished, he was going through the Sermon on the Mount. As I rode the train home yesterday, I read the section based on Matthew 6:25-34. This is essentially the place where Jesus tells us not to worry. In paraphrase, “If God clothes the flowers of the field and feeds the birds of the air, won’t he take care of you since you’re more valuable than they are?”
If we serve an all powerful and loving God - if we truly believe that - not only are we not permitted to worry (Jesus says ‘do not worry’ three times in this short section), but we don’t need to worry.
Worrying did not cause manna to appear from heaven to give needed provision to the Israelites. They didn’t have to labor and toil for it. They just had to gather it.
I’ve noticed in my life that one of the ways I try to exert control instead of trusting in God is to store stuff up.
At one point in my life, I was hoarding money for myself rather than using it to advance the kingdom of God. On my tumblr account, I had about 18 drafts just in case I didn’t feel like I had anything to write for a particular day (I deleted 16 of them last night). When I go to Sam’s club, I like to buy an excess of things I know I’ll eventually need. Having 78 rolls of toilet paper in my attic makes me feel comfortable knowing I’ve provided for myself for an extended period of time. Then I fill it back up when it gets about halfway down.
It would have been painful for me to learn that manna doesn’t last more than a day (besides the Sabbath). I would have constantly worried about the consequences if it didn’t show up one day.
That’s why I think I’ve been dealing with this period of wanting to leave this dead end corporate job which I don’t care about but finding no roads of opportunity open to me.
God has been teaching me to rely on his daily provision of grace and comfort. I can’t store up any peace for tomorrow, I can only gather enough to last one day at a time.
God is teaching me to live according to his surplus, not mine.
One of the reasons God provided manna was to prove his faithfulness to Israel. If God had failed them for even a day, it would have dire consequences. But God didn’t fail. He never did. Not a single day in 40 years.
At the end of that time, God’s people knew he could be relied on. They were ready to obey God rather than to question whether he was willing/able to protect them and provide for them.
By God’s grace, I am going to learn this lesson. I am going to leave this season of my life with the absolute, functioning knowledge that I can rely on God in every situation. My security isn’t based on what I’ve stockpiled, but on the fact God’s stockpile is endless.
My job is to trust him for the ‘what’ and ‘when’ in his giving. When I wake up each morning, I will gather into my heart the peace and grace and comfort he has provided.
That is what it means to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Accepting what he provides and leaving control in his capable hands.
“The reason money is so difficult is because it will call you a liar. Here's what I mean. Down here, you can run your mouth all you want about the greatness of God and how good He is and how beautiful He is and how right He is and you can get John 3:16 tattooed on your throat, you can do all of those things and you can buy the t-shirt with the buck and “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for You,” you can put nine ichthuses on your car, depending on how big your family is, you can do that whole deal, but your checkbook will reveal what you really value. So you can yap your mouth all you want and you can come to church all you want and you can do all of the religious games you want, but in the end if your money is your money and all of it is spent on you and all of it is spent on what you want and you have not concept of a greater kingdom and a greater purpose for which you're here and that money was given to you, your treasure is not the kingdom of God, your treasure is you. And that's what makes money so difficult, because it doesn't have an opinion, because it doesn't love you or hate you. It just betrays you and shows you who you really are”—Matt Chandler, Buying the Field
"Blessed are Those Who are Persecuted for My Sake"
I posted about this before, maybe a year or two ago, but it’s been on my mind again.
Christians use this quote to martyr themselves. “Don’t like me? Well blessed are the persecuted!” Then they proceed to shove it down people’s throats, shove their doctrines [which they haven’t entirely figured out yet themselves], shove their lifestyle. Shove, shove, shove. They choke their pet projects, turn away their lost souls. Understand, I write this from he perspective of a Christian. This isn’t an anti-Christian musing.
However, what of those turned away. They were turned off from the religion for “His sake,” weren’t they? What of the gay couple who saw the “God Hates Fags” signs, who were told they were going to hell no matter what they did? That’s persecution for “His sake,” isn’t it? What about the victims of the Westboro Baptist Church protests who are not only disgusted by that conception of the Christian church, but also terrified of it? Didn’t Westboro think they were persecuting people for “His sake?”
I guess what I’m getting at is this, that I believe there’s a special mercy for people who were scared off from the church. How could those people help turning their backs on God when His supposed “disciples” are are pointing angry pitchfork fingers in their faces? How could anyone want to join a church that holds up profane [that’s right, Westboro dumbies, the Biblical conception of profanity doesn’t just refer to swear words, assholes] pickets at funerals, shitting all over the dead with their words?
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for My sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
If you’re somebody who has been persecuted by the church—hell, I’m a Christian and I’ve even been persecuted by the church—know two things. One, that I believe in/pray for a special kind of grace for you who have been scared away from God, and two, that not all Christians are like that. I promise.