God Challenges Us

…and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. …Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?’ Luke 6:1-11

Throughout culture and society, laws were meant to establish order and unify a people, not to separate and divide. I think without question today, the laws of the Ten Commandments are said to be cross-cultural in that they are adhered to in both Jewish and Christian faiths. The first part (1-4) emphasizes our relationship with God and the second part (6-10) emphasizes our relationship with one another. But early on and as society shifts and changes, human precepts have been integrated into God’s Laws. At times human precepts have rendered a simple yet poignant message of love God and love neighbor as self to become a burdensome process. Some say there are times when one must override the process in order to take action and ask for forgiveness later, because not to do so would be harmful, destructive or both. Of course this isn’t done without risk, but through Christ we know today that to love is to risk. The whole and undivided truth about God’s law is that people are more important than the process, which is why forgiveness is so important. When the Pharisees confront Jesus as to the disciples actions under the Law, Jesus challenges their precepts, assuring us that God’s law leaves room for us to do what is good, what is right and what is holy. As society continues to change, that challenge will continue to be ours, remembering that as Christians our goal is to help bring others to salvation and not to destroy. Further, when we respond to that challenge with what is good, right and holy, through Christ, God has already taken on the risk.

After looking around at all of them, he said to him, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was restored. Luke 6:1-11

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A Herod Dilemma

We all know the story (Mark 6:14-29). John had been speaking the truth about Herod and John being who he was just couldn’t keep quiet about it. This of course today is not always the most popular thing to do (publicly airing other peoples’ dirty laundry) but John’s charge was a message of repentance and Herod claiming himself to be Jewish (by his family conversion) had blatantly defied Jewish law. John could have ignored this ruthless Edomite “Jewish” leader of Galilee and Perea and simply stayed focused on the ever popular “brood of vipers” living as Pharisees (Matthew 12:34). However, it seems clear that was simply not God’s plan, and not John’s destiny and he intended to follow his destiny. The message of repentance was for any one who had ears to “hear”, regardless of the polity in which they happen to align themselves. Everyone has fallen short and the time of preparation for God’s grace and mercy has come. It would cost John his life, but not before it cost Herod his integrity. This I believe is at the heart of finding our selves in a Herod’s dilemma. We all claim to be something but when the integrity of the something we claim to be is challenged, it doesn’t matter what we say or how loud we speak, our actions will speak louder. If you’ve ever been to the edge of your own integrity and fallen, you know it is a very difficult place to be, but it’s not necessarily the end, for a sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart God will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

Matthew 12:37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.’ 

Mark 6:20, 24-26 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.

She (Herodias) went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the baptizer.’ Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 

Did I Say That?

Perhaps we should take some responsibility for what was about to happen. We’ve always tried to emphasize the importance of telling the truth. While the policeman is taking the accident report, my son faithfully offers; “I didn’t look both ways”. What! You just admitted to fault!  I suppose we could chalk it up to inexperience on his part, but the number one unwritten rule in an auto accident is never admit to fault particularly, if you believe you’ve broken a written rule (in his case, at the stop sign, after making a full and complete stop, look both ways!) Let the insurance company figure it all out.

We’ve all been there. Sometimes we say things which we later wish we hadn’t said because the consequence or the price to be paid is too high or worse, we find our selves in a position of having to make a decision that challenges our integrity. Having to separate  our feelings (who we believe our selves to be) from our image (how others perceive us) in order to “save face” can be very painful and sometimes damaging to the self. Soon enough we find that there is little room for falsehoods or grandiose facades. There will always be a time when we have to “put up or shut up.” King Herod, found himself in such a situation, desperately needing to be more important (perhaps than he really was) and in control of everything, everybody and every situation. However, when your integrity is on the line (that’s all the time) we should be more careful about making promises we don’t really want to keep (this is different from promises you make every effort to keep). At any rate, what’s a King with a foot in his mouth suppose to do?

Mark 6:23 …and he (King Herod) solemnly swore to her, “Whatever of ask me, I will give you, even half my kingdom.”