Showing posts with label law. Show all posts
Showing posts with label law. Show all posts

21 June 2013

Back to front truth

Leaders in the church, Part 11
< Jesus makes a start | Index | Some issues to grapple with >

Jesus gets away from the crowds and begins to teach his closest followers. There are strong hints here, and more than hints, that leading is going to be costly. It will require great humility and self sacrifice, hard labour, unpopularity and persecution, and (not least) righteousness.

Galilee with hills on the horizon
Galilee with hills on the horizon
Chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew's Gospel show us Jesus teaching his close followers. It is his apprentices that he speaks to here, his disciples, not the crowd. Matthew 5:1 explicitly says that when he saw the crowds he went up on the mountain and while he was sitting there his disciples came to him.

In terms of leadership there are several things to pay attention to here. Yahshua has been travelling throughout Galilee speaking about the good news and showing it in action by healing the sick. As a result he is now being pursued by large crowds, he has become famous.

Heading out - Leaving these crowds deliberately, he goes to a remote spot involving a steep scramble that many of the sick would not have been able to tackle. He sits down on a hillside far above the lake and away from the towns and villages. Only the most determined would have followed him there. He wants to train those who will continue the work of the kingdom after he has returned to the Father.

Leaders all need to do this, at least some of the time. It's essential to reach the crowds, that is the purpose of the mission. But it's every bit as important to pass on the method and the foundational truths to the core followers. What is unique about Yahshua is not that he teaches his followers; all Jewish rabbis did that. He is different because he also goes direct to the crowds. The Pharisees and Sadducees taught their disciples in great detail, but they didn't touch the lives of ordinary people very much.

So here, in Matthew 5:1-20, Jesus comes away from the crowds and does some standard rabbinic teaching. As you read it, remember that he's speaking to leaders, those he will soon be sending out on their own. He needs them to understand some basic truths. And these truths are all back to front. Did the Pharisees think the weak would be blessed?

The beatitudes - These famous sayings of Jesus are very intriguing. Most people are puzzled by them at some level and it's likely the disciples were too. One way to get to the bottom of what seems to be a conundrum is to reverse the individual statements. I outlined this idea a couple of years ago and I have just revisited it in more detail in another post.

But the thing to notice right now is that these statements would have made the disciples think. They would have understood that this Jesus was not motivated by power or wealth, but by humility and compassion. And they would begin to realise that he wanted them to have the same approach to life. This is the underlying philosophy that all church leaders need to have. If not, church becomes an oppressive and hurtful place instead of the place of peace and welcome that Jesus intended.

Trouble, salt and light - In verse 11 Jesus makes it very clear that leaders can expect to suffer in a variety of ways because of him. Why because of him? Simply because anyone who says what Jesus says and does what he does will attract the anger of those holding worldly authority. The scribes, law teachers and Pharisees handed Jesus over for execution. The prophets suffered in the same way. The newly arrested John the Baptist was a very fresh example if one was needed!

And he explained that leaders are responsible for providing flavour and illumination. Those who do not provide these things are of little or no value as leaders in the kingdom. We often read these chapters as if they are written to all believers - and to some degree they are. But specifically they are for the disciples, then and now. Of course, we are all disciples and we are all called to lead and show one another the way. Also, we are all called to the mission of going and making disciples and teaching them everything Jesus taught us. Disciples follow and lead others so that they in turn will become disciples.

And what of the Law? - Jesus explains how his coming affects the Law. Again, it's all about leaders. Those who are obedient and teach others the same will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Do you want to be called great? You will need to become more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees (who attempted to obey the Law in minute detail). How can any man or woman become righteous? It's only possible by believing Jesus, and if we believe we'll teach others to do the same.

Clearly, the standard for leaders in the church is very high indeed. Not in terms of paper qualifications or head knowledge (the Pharisees had all the learning and theology anyone could wish for). Not in terms of appointed authority (the High Priest had that in spades). But in terms of Christ-likeness.

If you aspire to lead, begin by reading Matthew 5, 6 and 7. Then consider what it means to 'follow Jesus up the mountain'. It is hard and dangerous work but very rewarding.

Questions:

  • Are you a leader? What do you think defines a leader?
  • Are you following Jesus? If so you are a disciple, doesn't that make you a leader?
  • Why do you suppose Jesus wanted to spend so much time with his disciples (rather than the crowds)? Surely the more people he could reach the better.
  • Is it better to go wide or deep? Jesus went wide with the crowd and deep with the disciples.

See also:


< Jesus makes a start | Index | Some issues to grapple with >

11 March 2013

The gun of self defence?

How do you comment on American gun law if you are not American? On the whole I think it may be best if you don't, so instead here is something gun-related, in a way. Hopefully it will amuse but also provoke thought, though not necessarily pertaining to guns.

Armoured Roman legionaries
March's Synchroblog is on the subject of guns, specifically how we think and act as followers of Jesus.

There's a list of all the contributions at the bottom of this article. Here's the opening statement from the Synchroblog website...

Like many hot political topics, the issue of gun control is a big one for Christians. People are all over the place on the issue–from passionate pacifists to dedicated NRA members.

Well, I don't know about that. You see I live in the United Kingdom where we have very strict gun control. Except in Northern Ireland, even the police are not allowed to carry arms, never mind the general public. Yes, the police do have stocks of arms and ammunition but they cannot take them onto the streets except in cases of an emergency such as an armed siege, a shooting incident, or a terrorist attack.

Opinion in the UK - Gun laws are not hotly debated here. Public opinion is strongly against the possession of firearms. The annual rate of death by shooting is 0.07 per 100 000 of the population, about forty times lower than in the USA. Police deaths by gunshot are also extremely rare.

So if I'm asked whether gun control works I'd have to say, 'Yes, it does'. At any rate it does for us in Britain. I'm simply not qualified to enter the US debate, but I do enjoy posting on the synchroblog. So in amongst all your serious discussions on gun control I have decided to have a little fun. I hope you'll forgive me because it is a serious matter, I realise that (and I will read the other synchroblog contributions). But hey, it's good to lighten up a little sometimes.

Even if I felt it was acceptable to give an uninvited foreign opinion (and I don't), what could I add to the debate? Nothing, really. You guys will have to work it out for yourselves, I'm not going to comment. Of course, if the presidential system doesn't work out for you there's always the possibility of inviting the Queen to take you back as her subjects. Then you'd have to hand in your weapons.

The full armour - But, I had a thought. How would it be if we looked at the full armour of Elohim and added a gun - just experimentally? What would that look like?

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the vestplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of the Almighty, and the gun of self defence. (Ephesians 6:14-17, NSDV)

NSDV? Oh, sorry, that's the New Self Defence Version of the Holy Bible. It's not widely available so I quoted from it for you. It's mostly quite similar to the NIV (UK) version.

So let's do a Bible study.

Useful and defensive - Note that the belt and the footwear are purely for practical purposes. The belt represents truth and just as truth supports useful arguments, so the belt also supports useful devices. It's a veritable military tool-belt for holding all sorts of special equipment - night sight goggles, radio, ammo for the gun of self defence, that sort of thing.

The vestplate and the helmet are defensive and fixed. In other words they are worn and don't need to be held. Naturally it will be a bulletproof vestplate, that is very important.

The shield is also defensive but is strapped to the forearm so that it can be readily positioned between you and any incoming flaming arrows. It doesn't need to be bulletproof, just flaming arrowproof.

That just leaves us with the sword and the gun. They are offensive in nature and therefore fundamentally different from the defensive items we've considered so far.

Offensive? - The sword is the sword of the Spirit. That is to say it is the sword of the Spirit of Christ. Notice that it is only good for close work. You need to be close enough to the enemy to love them. The Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit) provides an extraordinary advantage in close combat. He is capable of disarming the opposition by cutting them down with love, joy and peace, also patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control and self defence. No. Hang on. Let me check my notes...

Oh yes, that's it. Self control is from the Spirit, but not self defence. Sorry, slight slip on my part. I was a little ahead of myself.

And so we come to the gun of self defence. Notice that all of the other parts of the armour, including the sword, are provided by the kingdom for your personal use. As soldiers of Christ you may (and should) take advantage of all of them, they are free of charge, part of the standard kit, and guaranteed to work when needed. Using these you will be kept safe and enabled to advance ever further against the enemy - even if he uses flaming arrows.

But the gun of self defence you must provide yourself. It wasn't available two thousand years ago when the armour was designed and issued. But now many believers have found that defending themselves with this long distance weapon enables them to make a lot of noise, and never need to bring the sword of the Spirit into play.

Some problems - There do seem to be some disadvantages, however. For a start, it's incredibly easy to shoot yourself in the foot. (A safety catch is provided. Use it!) And some have said that self defence is wrong, that instead we should let Papa defend us. Another common issue is getting a flaming arrow in the chest while busy reloading the gun of self defence. The bulletproof vestplate can't stop those, you need to hold the shield of faith in the right place to be safe from flaming arrows. It's tricky to manouvre the shield while rummaging for ammo and loading the gun.

Some kingdom soldiers are beginning to abandon the gun of self defence again and they do actually seem to be doing better that way. Some have even taken to going the extra mile when asked. Some have been experimenting with blessing the people that oppose them. And a few have been seen offering their shirt when only their cloak had been demanded. It's a bit odd. Could it be said to be a cloak and dagger form of warfare? No, I suppose it can't really, can it? It's more cloak and shirt warfare.

See the questions below for some thoughts on self defence and the church.

Questions:

  • Forget the gun, what about self defence? Has there been too much self and too much defence in church life?
  • How might less of me and more vulnerability to others transform church?
  • And how might less of me and more vulnerability transform sharing the good news?
  • Are there things you could do in your own life that would be like putting down the gun of self defence and depending only on the other items of armour?

See also:


Synchroblog links:

21 December 2012

Law or grace?

On the one hand is law and on the other grace. Can I base my daily living on either of these? Is there any other way to live my life? We look at obedience in the life of the believer, based on Christ's love within and the actions that stem from this.


Tetrahedron
Sometimes things are not as clear as they seem.

Some followers of the Way are bound by rules and regulations; in other words they are
convinced there are standards we must meet in our lives.

Others may say they are free in Christ to do all things since he dealt with sin once and for all. Perhaps the former are in the majority although it's hard to tell.

At the absolute extremes we would be so law-focussed that we might rely on our own purity, or so grace-focussed that we might treat continuous forgiveness as our right.

It's unlikely that anyone could be found at either extreme, but some might come close. The rest of us are spread out in a continuum between law and grace. So who is right? How should we live our lives?

It doesn't often occur to us that both might be far from the simple truth.

Law - If I depend on the Law I'm like the Pharisees who criticised Jesus for allowing his followers to harvest and thresh grain on the Sabbath. As they were walking through the fields they took ears of grain and rubbed them between their hands to extract the seeds to eat (Mark 2:23-24). It was hardly an industrial-scale process! The Pharisees also prided themselves on meticulously tithing even the smallest quantities of herbs and spices like cumin (Matthew 23:23).

Meanwhile, for all their complaining about others and pride in their tithing they failed to help the poor or take pity on those in difficulty. Adherence to the law is not sufficient. Or more correctly, it would be sufficient if I had never sinned and could continue to lead a sinless life. But I haven't and I can't.

It's already far too late for me to depend upon observing the Law.

Law is a gift from the Father.

Grace - But if I look to grace am I any better off? Perhaps that depends on how I understand grace. If I see it as a precious gift it is all I need. If I treat is as a licence to sin without further consideration then I lose its true value.

Grace came at great cost, it is a precious, precious thing. It enables us to stand confident in the presence of the Most High, to see him as a loving Dad, to recognise we are forgiven, special, precious, loved, honoured and glorified by the Creator of the universe.

I dare not abuse it, I am called to receive grace as a gift but also to offer it freely, to forgive as I have been forgiven, to love as I have been loved, to honour as I have been honoured.

Grace is a gift from the Son.

Obedience - Law is too rigid. It's not the right place to look, I can never earn forgiveness and justification by obeying the Law. Yet grace (if I mistreat it) is too flexible.

But there's a third alternative, rarely considered, and it transforms everything.

Obedience is good, but obedience to the Law is impossibly hard. It is unachievable. It is already lost. However, grace opens the way, not only to forgiveness, but also to life in the presence of the King.

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit precisely so that I could hear what the Father is saying to me moment by moment as I live out my life on this Earth. So rather than a vain attempt to live by obeying the Law, I can now begin to live by obeying his voice, just as Jesus did. This is truly revolutionary!

There is nothing I am not allowed to do - as long as I'm told to do it. It's hard to see the freedom and opportunity wrapped up in this statement. Paul writes that even eating food sacrificed to an idol is OK, providing I don't cause others to sin by eating  (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). In other words my care for others trumps the law and is made possible by grace. Love wins. It's no accident that Paul judged love to be the greatest thing (1 Corinthians 13).

It's not that there are no longer any rules, but in Jesus those rules have been fulfilled and now I'm free to look away from them and focus my attention on Jesus instead. And he'll guide me by the power of the Spirit. It's just as written by Isaiah, 'This is the way, walk in it!' (Isaiah 30:19-21) and by Jeremiah to a disobedient people, 'Where the good way is, ... walk in it' (Jeremiah 6:16).

Obedience is a gift from the Spirit.

Conclusion - Everything comes from the Father, Son and Spirit. Just as they are inseparable, so too are law, grace and obedience. We cannot pick them apart, we need all three. But the amazing truth is that Jesus ministers all three to us. He is the way, the truth and the life; do you see that those three concepts have the aroma of the Father, Son and Spirit? We can lay them out here.

  • The Father provides law and has the aroma of the truth.
  • The Son provides grace and has the aroma of life.
  • The Spirit provides obedience and has the aroma of the way.

But because they are one, you can mix and match and every statement you make remains correct. The Father, Son and Spirit are all about law, grace and obedience and all have the aroma of way, truth and life. There is a wonderful symmetry about the great Creator King, a multidimensional knot that holds the universe together and cannot be unpicked.

As an aside, the tetrahedron is an interesting geometric shape in three dimensions. There is a base (think of it as the universe or the world). High above is an apex, think of this as the Almighty. There are three faces (Father, Son, Spirit), three edges connecting the apex and the base (law, grace and obedience) and the base has three sides (way, truth and life).

The law had to be fulfilled and Jesus does that. Grace is sufficient for me and Jesus provides it. Life needs to be lived and Jesus shines a spiritual light onto my path. He is all in all. Jesus says, 'If you have seen me you have seen the Father'.

Jesus came to set me free. And I am free indeed! But he set me free to obey him in everything.

Questions:

  • How large a part should traditions have in church life?
  • What does it mean to be 'free indeed'? (John 8:36)
  • Is Jesus the way, the truth and the life for you, personally and daily? (John 14:6)

See also:

26 October 2012

Loving more fully and widely

This is a second contribution to a chain blog on the topic 'one another'. We look at a verse from Romans in which Paul writes of debt, love and the law. It's amazing how much we can draw from just one verse.

British currency
So far in this chain blog we have, between us, looked at the phrase 'one another' from many different angles. The posts have been marvellously complementary.

But in this post I have felt the Spirit nudging me to do something entirely different.

We're going to see how much we can draw from a single occurrence of the phrase 'one another'. I think Romans 13:8 is the particular example I should take.

Here it is in context, verse eight is in italics...

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.

There's a wider context too, that we need to bear in mind. Paul first writes about civil government, making it clear that goverments are there because the One who is Authority puts them there. They have a function and a purpose, we must submit to them.

Then come the verses above.

And finally Paul writes that time is short, we need to act now while we still can. Jesus is returning - soon! We need to be found ready and obedient and already covered by him. Romans 13 is relevant in its entirety. We should read this chapter often and let it sink deep into our hearts and minds!

But in verse eight, Paul makes three statements.

  • Don't let any debt remain.
  • Continue to love one another
  • This fulfils the Law

What does he mean? He is not simply saying that I should pay off any debts I owe. He is saying that I should allow no debt to stand. He is saying I should pay my own debts but I should also, if necessary, pay yours. The important thing about debt is that it is paid, the effect is the same no matter who pays.

Jesus paid my debt so if I want to be like him I will pay yours. And Paul is not writing merely about money, he has just explicitly used the words respect and honour as well. These things apply to one another as much as (or more than) they do to governments.

There are to be no debts amongst us, not only because we pay them off but because we forgive them. When I lack the means to pay I become dependent on your willingness to forgive. Jesus is our example in this. He is the ultimate debt payer and forgiver. We are called to be like him in our dealings with one another.

Will I pay my monetary debt to you? Will I forgive your debt of money to me? But also (and often harder) will I pay the respect and honour I owe to you? And will I forgive you if you disrespect and dishonour me? This is the nitty-gritty of not allowing any debt to remain.

If I continue to love you I will indeed pay and forgive in all situations where debt might remain. Love will cause me, compel me to cover every kind of debt. If not, do I have love at all?

And it goes further yet! Paul writes that there is one debt that should stand, the 'continuing debt to love one another'.  Love is not just for today but also for tomorrow and for tomorrow's tomorrow. I owe you love and that is a debt I cannot pay off. Love goes forward without ceasing. 'Faith, hope and love remain', writes Paul, 'And the greatest of these is love'. Love remains, even in the kingdom of heaven, especially in the kingdom of heaven.

So, just as love is the fulfilment of Torah, so love is the fulfilment of civil law and indeed every kind of law. If I truly love I will not be able to commit any sin at all. The fact that sin remains is just a clear sign that love is not yet complete in me.

Let's go forward in our lives understanding that love remains and is greater than anything else. And let's remember who 'one another' means. It's not limited to the church.

Jesus made it pretty inclusive. What begins with brothers and sisters becomes all encompassing. Love the Father, love one another, love your neighbour, love your enemy. My love is to extend out and become fully inclusive, not in any way for club members only. 'One another' is just a starting point, the nursery slopes of loving.



This post is the fourteenth link in a chain blog, started by Alan Knox, on the topic 'One Another'. Please have a look back through the other links and comments to join in the topic. You can even join in the chain – read the rules below to participate.

 Links in the 'One Another' Chain Blog
  1. Chain Blog: One Another - Alan Knox
  2. Linking One Another - Swanny
  3. What Does It Mean to Love One Another? - Chuck McKnight 
  4. The treasure of 'One Another' - Jim Puntney
  5. This is how the world shall recognise you... - Kathleen Ward
  6. Accepting one another in love - Chris Jefferies
  7. One Another-ing: A meta-narrative for the church - Greg Gamble (also see part 2)
  8. Individualism and 'one another' - Pieter Pretorious
  9. All Alone with One Another - Jeremy Myers
  10. When it's OK for Christians to compete - Joshua Lawson
  11. Jesus Christ: the Corner Stone for One Another - Peter
  12. Be Superficial With One Another - Jon Hutton
  13. The Unmentionable One Anothers - Alan Knox
  14. Loving more fully and widely - Chris Jefferies
  15. The one another weapon - Dan Allen
  16. Corporate one anothering (Part 1) and (Part 2)- David Bolton
  17. The last revival - Tobie van der Westhuizen
  18. Love: a 'one another' comic - Dan Allen
  19. I can only love you if... - Rob
  20. Who will write the next link post in the chain?
Chain Blog Rules
  1. If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment on the most recent post stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.
  2. Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain.” Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog (both this post and the other link posts in the chain).
  3. When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.

29 September 2012

The case of Megan and Jeremy

The story of Megan Stammers and Jeremy Forrest is major British news, but in France the story has struggled to make the headlines. Why the difference? One French news source explains differences in law and opinion between the two countries.

French news article
France and Britain are just a sleeve apart. On a good day the two nations can see one another across the world's busiest sea lane, the 'English Channel' to the Brits, 'La Manche' to the French (literally 'The Sleeve').

But that little stretch of sea water divides two great nations who disagree on just about everything.

The latest example is the case of Megan Stammers and Jeremy Forrest. Opinion in the UK is certain that she is an abducted child and he a kidnapper. French opinion is expressed with a shrug and a smile, they are two people in love who made a foolish but understandable choice to run away together.

Compare an article in 'The Sun' with this from 'France 24' and you'll see what I mean.

So who is right? There are two ways of looking at this, according to the law on one hand and according to common sense on the other.

Legally, in the UK a fifteen-year-old is a child. Parents or legal guardians make decisions on the child's behalf, so taking a minor away from home (even down the road and back, let alone another country) requires parental permission. In France a fifteen-year-old is an adult and is therefore responsible for his or her own decisions.

And of course anyone who is professionally involved with children must follow strict standards of care and behaviour.

Common sense, however, suggests that around the ages of fifteen and sixteen there is some uncertainty about where to draw the line. That much is clear from the fact that the law differs from country to country.

There will be mixed feelings when Megan and Jeremy are safely home again. Both families will feel great relief, for sure. Megan may be less than happy, and Jeremy will be spending at least a few days in custody before possibly facing criminal proceedings. He is also certain to lose his job and will be unemployable in any work involving children.

Both of them will find family life is not the same as it was before, that's inevitable. And they will feel the pain of loss that those in love suffer when it's no longer possible for them to remain together. My heart goes out to Megan, Jeremy, and to their families and friends in what is just the beginning of a very difficult and distressing time for everyone involved.

Is this a legal issue involving distraught families and criminal behaviour by a man in a position of trust? Or is it a tragic story of young love that never stood a chance? Or is it somehow a confusing combination of the two?

Add a comment below. Let me know how you see the case of Megan and Jeremy. How do you justify your opinion?

15 December 2010

THOUGHT - The fulfilment of the law

< What is the greatest gift? | The Essay | Love and other things >

This is the second post in the series on Henry Drummond's essay on love. He has established that love has a good claim to be the greatest thing there is, now he sets out to show how it fulfils Old Testament law.

Florence Nightingale helping the woundedHe begins by quoting Paul from Romans and asking us what we think Paul meant. Then he sets out to answer his own question.

Paul makes a deeply significant remark elsewhere, “Love is the fulfilment of the law.” (Romans 13:9-10). Have you ever wondered what he meant? In those days people worked their passage to heaven by keeping the ten commandments (and the hundred and ten other commandments which they had made from them). But Christ came and said, “I will show you a simpler way. If you do one thing, you will do these hundred and ten things without ever thinking about them. If you love, you will unconsciously fulfil the entire law.” (For example, Matthew 22:37-40).

Drummond shows clearly that not only did Paul make this claim, so too did Jesus himself. The reference to the 110 other commandments is to the rules created by the teachers of the Law as fences. The idea was that because (for example) the Law says it is wrong to boil a calf in its mother's milk, to avoid all risk of a piece of meat coming in contact with a piece of cheese that might inadvertantly have been made from the mother's milk, a house must have two kitchens - one for milk products and the other for meat. In this way the risk of breaking that particular law would be greatly reduced.

Next, Henry Drummond provides some examples of how exactly love can cause the law to be fulfilled. He demonstrates its truth for the Almighty and then also for the people we meet in our lives.

It's easy to see why this is true. Take any of the commandments, for example, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3). If a person loves God you won't need to remind them of that. Love fulfils that law. “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” (Exodus 20:7). Would anyone dream of misusing his name if they loved him? “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” (Exodus 20:8). Wouldn't anyone be glad to have one day in seven to dedicate more fully to the one they love? Love fulfils all these laws regarding God.

In just the same way, if someone loves other people there would be no need to remind them to honour their parents, they could do nothing less! It would be preposterous to tell them not to kill. And suggesting they should not steal would be to insult them – how could they steal from people they love? What point would there be in persuading them not to bear false witness. That's the last thing they'd do to those they love. You'd never think to press such a person to avoid envying their neighbour's possessions. They'd prefer the neighbour to have them anyway! And that is how “love is the fulfilment of the law”. It's the one rule for fulfilling all rules, the one new command for meeting all the old commandments, Christ's one secret of the Christian life.

And finally Henry Drummond sets the scene for the rest of his essay. He shows that 1 Corinthians 13 falls into three natural parts. He lists them here before launching into a treatment of each one.

Paul understood the secret clearly and in this wonderful chapter he's given us the best existing description of the Greatest Good. It can be divided into three parts. In verses 1-3 he contrasts love with other great things, in verses 4-7 he analyses its components, and in verses 8-13 he defends love as the greatest gift.

Henry Drummond is surely right. If love was always central in my heart it would always be central in my actions too. There's a certain inevitability about that.

< What is the greatest gift? | The Essay | Love and other things >

13 December 2010

SOCIETY - The London protests

The recent riots in London are troubling. Things like this don't often happen in the UK, we think of violence on the streets as something that happens far away. We pride ourselves on the fact that British police don't need to carry handguns. So what went wrong?

Riots in LondonThe Big Picture has some clear images of the trouble. Both protesters and police suffered some injuries and there will be inquiries to clarify how these happened.

The cause of the rioting is widely supposed to be student unrest concerning a recent House of Commons vote agreeing to increases in university tuition fees. But more than 99.9% of students were not present at the rallies in London and the great majority of those that were marched and protested peacefully.

It seems certain that small, organised groups joined the student marches with the express purpose of stirring up violence. It reminds me of the violent clashes at football matches, political demonstrations, industrial disputes and more.

There is no excuse for violence. It's not a valid way to express a point of view. It contradicts the teachings of all the world's major religions, the moral convictions of most agnostics and atheists, as well as the laws of most of the world's national governments and the views of international organisations. By definition, violence is intended to harm people. And the overwhelming majority of people are opposed to it.

The difficulty we face is what to do about it. We can hardly just let the law be flouted, but meeting force with force is a last resort and is likely to lead to greater violence, at least in the short term.

As someone who wishes to follow Jesus I can only listen to what he says and do what he does. He tells me to love my enemies. He rebuked Peter for trying to protect him with a sword. He is the Prince of Peace. He came to heal and mend. He offers wholeness in place of injury and life in place of death.

Perhaps we need to begin in the places where we live. Just imagine if for every theft or burglary, and for every act of violence, a hundred people came forward to offer help, to restore broken or lost property, to act as counsellors for grieving relatives and support for the injured. Suppose we offered to help the injured policeman and the injured rioter without making judgements or distinctions. Offering help doesn't imply approval or disapproval, it's just help where help is needed, help to innocent and guilty alike.

(Related post, 'SOCIETY - Riots in the Cities')

29 October 2010

Eaton Ford (day) - Grain in the field

Paul and I met in the morning. We'd hoped to see one or two other friends but in the event this didn't work out.

Grain ripening in the fieldWe worked through CO2 together, first SASHET and then the things that Father has been telling us. Then we prayed for people that we know and for the work that he's doing in us and also through us.

And finally we read some sections of Mark together, picking up where we left off last time.

Mark 2:23-28 - We thought that this shows life is about people, not about rules. Jesus and the disciples were probably enjoying their walk through the countryside. They were probably talking and laughing together and discussing something prompted by the grain they were eating. They might have talked about the life that is in a seed, how it germinates and grows, how the life of the Father is in everything that was made.

But the Pharisees hold only the rules important, making them more important than people.

Mark 3:1-6 - This again shows the same thing, life is about people, not rules. These verses show us the anger and distress felt by Jesus faced with this attitude or rule following even if it prevents good being done for someone.

Mark 3:7-12 - Jesus was followed everywhere by the crowds. No doubt he could speak to more people by standing in the boat. They were pressing in because they knew he could heal them, this reminded Paul of the woman with the serious bleeding who just wanted to touch the edge of his cloak. The evil spirits recognised he was the Son of the Most High but he commanded them not to share what they knew.

Mark 3:13-19 - Paul wondered why Jesus gave some of them new names, could it be much like us calling a friend 'Rocky' because of his nature?

'Petros' (Peter in English) is Greek for 'rock', presumably a Greek translation of the Aramaic word for rock which is 'Kepha', the name Jesus gave Simon. 'Shimon' (Simon) is clearly an Aramaic name and means 'a man of Judah'. So Peter was originally 'A Judahite' and Jesus called him 'A Judahite Rock', more or less.

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