Rick and Monique

Monday, April 6, 2009

Put Away Your Sword!

Drawing the sword - Photo by Peter Fesler, Szombathely, Hungary


Snow fell yesterday...a chill hangs in the air today, much like the night Jesus was taken into custody.

Ok, there are a few things I truly love to talk about--my wife, my family, motorcycles and religion, particularly Christianity. Even those who don't have a religion think in some way about their existence. And those who don't ponder existence, want a point of view from time to time. Maybe you're all bored by bible lessons, but it's too close to Easter not to point something out. Those of you who don't know Christian thought, read up a little...really can't hurt much except you've used buggered up about 8-10 minutes of your day. I'd encourage you to read.

Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. I can't imagine. Jesus asked Judas, "you would betray me with a kiss? (Luke 22:48)."

Romans 16 says “Greet each other with a Holy Kiss.” Kissing girls as a teenager--well, I wasn't casanova, but I knew how to kiss a girl. The social kiss, however … awkward. My wife's family grew up in Europe. Her parents spent more than thirty years in Europe. Monique's Uncle's, Aunts and Cousins live in the Netherlands. The first time I visited Europe, Aunt Tineke gave me the traditional European kiss--a kiss on both sides of the cheek. I felt awkward--but I felt the integrity, the sincerity of the greeting. American social kissing techniques differ widely. My favorite is when women draw their faces closely together, careful not to touch, then they both say in unison,“muu–waaaA!” and slowly back away so no one gets hurt. A greeting that is a Holy Kiss implies intimacy, grace and sincerity. Scripture says this kind of thing was an early Christian ritual. Paul consistently reprimands people to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”(Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; and 1 Thessalonians 5:26). I'm led to this question: how often does cultural “religion” interfere with the body of Christ...a body that was never intended to act independently of itself?

Judas kissed Jesus--According to Paul, the act that tied Holiness to friendship, instead essentially killed Jesus Christ. How severely did Christ suffer? Peter understood. He drew his sword and engaged the enemy, severing the ear from one guard. Immediately Jesus rebuked the impulsive Peter by saying "Peter put your sword away!" Jesus would not gain victory by drawing swords. It had to happen. Jesus had to be arrested. Inevitably those men killed Jesus, but without his death and shed blood, my sin would be sealed against me and without his resurrection I would die with them. Put away your swords!

The ultimate betrayal happened not when Peter denied knowing Christ, but when a holy kiss was used to kill him. Put away your swords. Historically, Christians have defended themselves, have gone to war, have defended the weak and tired and poor. Jesus said, "Put away your Sword!" He said the world would not be conquered, but changed.

He said the world would be saved.

Put away your swords. We are not affected by one who would try to legislate morality, or enforce it, but to walk with it. We are not affected by one who would say great things, but who lives great things. One who writes laws, does not write for law’s sake, but for something that resides within him before the law existed. A man who would write moral legislation, or legislation regarding morality, does not live because of a legislation, but before it became, he was an example to it. Christians ought to know this. The new testament makes it clear that we are no longer born of the law. But because of Christ, we are born before the law was written, so that through Christ we may live out the example, not of was written, but before it was written. Put away your swords.

I recently read a response to the idea of discipline, sin and particular kinds of sin, and the church. This person feared for instance that if Christians accept Homosexuals as members of a denomination and, more importantly the congregation, that it’s akin to a jettison of the Word of God. This gentleman said that he and we can’t call ourselves “Christian” and accept homosexuals as Christians. He said that those who do not repent and then stop their egregious sins can not be allowed membership into a church congregation. He wrote his disclaimer saying homosexuals are free to attend church, but not allowed membership.

His point of view mirrors many who feel that "membership" in a church is made up of people who deserve to be there, those who they feel in their eyes have truly repented from their sin…those who have graduated into a true and mature relationship with God.

Membership to some gives the right to communion—gives them full rights in the official responsibilities of the church.  But I thought that all those who know Christ were called to remember and believe…even those new believers who are not a member of any church, or those who have not yet been given full access by their own congregation to all activities enjoyed and mandated to members only.  Do they have to remember?

Truthfully, I'm not a club member who could afford the rates. I sin. Membership is a signed document proving one’s worthiness, productivity and true repentance, Grace is a gift. By each criteria, I deserve neither. Please—put away your swords.

I believe we all learn more and more over time what it is we must repent from. I know one Christian friend for instance who's always seeking to make more money, he's never satisfied. He's been talked to and advised etc. but he won't see the issue in any other way but his. The question of excommunication has to fit somewhere in that discussion too right? So, he doesn’t have to repent from homosexuality, but he has not yet repented from a love of money…excommunication!

Put away your swords.

I believe that many Christians oft put aside two tenets of Christianity in response to sin. First, our salvation does not depend on "getting it right" nor does salvation depend on my own accounting for what I've done--God will judge me, I will not defend myself against God. Neither will I restore myself against what I have done. By God’s grace I am restored. Oddly Christians seem to forget. Second, my life doesn't happen in one day...I learn change and live over a lifetime. I believe I see men like trees. I am partially blind, but God looks fervently upon me and sanctifies me until the day I am called to the other side of eternal life (Mark 8:20-25).

I sin, therefore I need a Savior. I am a hypocrite because I am human in need of a Savior. We all justify our actions. We all try to interpret the Bible in certain ways (That's why denominations exist). Our own doctrinal statements carry some controversy. We need a paradigm shift. Put away your swords.

It’s important that we give sinful Christians time (that means all of us). We allow them and us time. The bible isn't a hammer as if the law saves. The Christian Reformed Church, for instance, says "Always Reforming" but why do we act as if we're already fully reformed?

I espouse Godliness. I want to be Holy and I will encourage holiness in you. But when someone’s behavior disturbs me I will not shove them around with Pharisaical fervor. I won’t. Certain denominations believe that I am living in sin because I drink wine and beer. Others have issues with the fact that I wear jeans and tennis shoes to church. Some Christians debate vehemently whether the earth is young or old. We’re obviously not a perfect church. Thus, my paradigm shift says that since God loved me and from His love I can love others, giving them hope and building their faith (Colossians 1:1-12), my form of discipling will look much different than shoving sinners around in “Christian Love”. All believers who sin rest on the same hand, a hand that the Gospel of John says in the 10th chapter we can’t be snatched from. Christians, put away your sword!

The church as a whole makes a mantra of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Fine. However, many millions of us have a difficult time moving beyond our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Christians use their own personal relationship to ward other Christians off with a simple “This is between me and God.” I don’t mean to suggest that our experience with God isn’t very personal to us. But, I believe that living in the Holiness of God is a very communal activity. Even though we are different parts of the body (for instance I am the hand, you are the foot, someone else is the neck), each body part exists in community with the rest of the body. The heart, the brain, the kidney, the hand and the ear work in tandem with the rest of the body – period. No one part exists above another. I can’t lop my finger from my hand and expect it to act as a finger. The body of Christ should do the same, and yet Christians are more likely to lop people off of the body of Christ, to cut their own branches from the tree so that it doesn’t have to deal with them or their particular vices, issues, debates and thoughts. How arrogant! Consider someone else’s sin in relation to your own.  A Christian might secretly be addicted to porn or alcohol and, while I don't like those addictions, and believe them to be sinful, that person or those persons is and are most welcome to my pew, in my church building and part of my congregation. The world doesn’t change under a hail of stones and swords.

Do you really think we're "catering" to sinful people because I claim that some don't yet see or acknowledge their error and yet are still Christians? Maybe these people never will...maybe one particular sin will forever be their companion.  And yet some of these same people do acknowledge a need for a savior as I do. They do believe that Christ died on the cross for them and that they are joined to him with the body of Christ. I believe that they believe. What do I think about that?

I won't lie to them about the Christian life.  I don't want them to lie to me either.  However, I am also not always above reproach and thus they, like me, are most welcome in my church and my home. I hope we’ll disciple and love each other. I need graceful discipline as much as they do. Besides, Jeremiah 18:5-6 says that God, not I, change and mold lives.

Christianity does not happen in a single day. I do not have to achieve God's pleasure...God is already happy with His body, His bride. We’re forever trying ourselves to find favor with God, and trying to get others to find that same favor through piety and right living. We don’t seem to realize that we have found favor with God…AND we’re sinners. And if that is the truth, the true truth doesn’t fit our model, a model that gives the impression that Christians must strive to deserve the table of the Lord. So we must change our model. I will not take vengeance on people to make God happy--He'll talk to them in the throne room one day. I will not shoot the wounded. And yet nowhere in this writing have I catered to sinful behavior. Simply be reminded that every time you lust after a nice bum walking down the street, you'll remember to start working on the plank in your own eye. Put away your sword.

Ironically, we all practice our own sin while claiming to love and follow Christ, right? The biblical teachings tell us that God found us in our sin and pardoned us in spite of it. I swore a half hour ago and yet I am a Christian man. Another man or woman who lives a homosexual lifestyle can also be, be converted to, want to be a Christian and still lean towards his/her homosexuality. We don't expect perfection out of the rest of us divorced, over-weight, foul-mouthed, angry, unmerciful, petulant Christians, but homosexuals, ‘they have to cut their ties immediately.’ Put away your sword, please. Instead we all should come to the communion table together as sinners acknowledging the need for a Savior. Sinners of every kind are welcome to that table according to our God.

My Pastor once said that the church is one of the places that’s willing to shoot its wounded. Homosexuals? Not welcome here. Dirty people? Not welcome here. People who swear? Not welcome here. People who are addicted to porn? Alcoholics? Not welcome here. Compulsive liars? Not welcome. Even grudges against our own stand in the way of blessing. Often grudges are remembered even when the issue is forgotten. I know from experience, because I held a grudge against someone and it cost me 5 years of friendship with them…5 years...and I'm a Christian. We need to instead be the embodiment of grace. The wounded need tending.  Choose to live the blessing. How often do we talk about going to the Throne of Grace from which the decree came that we would not have to save ourselves, and at the same throne defy Christ's humility by shooting the wounded? In our own piety we expect immediate perfection from particular sinners, such as the gay individual. But, miracles are not rendered by human power, born of human intuition. Miracles are of God. A miracle happened the day the homosexual said "I believe." And yet still more “mature” Christians go spiritually nuts on them instead of bearing spiritual fruit with them. Do our actions toward each other show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control?  Put away your sword.

Fact—the church view certain behaviors such as taking the Lord’s name in vain, lying, cheating, homosexuality, murder and physical abuse as anything but sinful. God is explicit. The church can’t see buddha, or the sun and moon as gods. We can’t accept a New Age pantheism. God says, "I am the only God."  Any agreement to the bending of these rules causes the church to be inconsequent, illogical and inconsistent. However, the church does need to love as Christ loved His Church, His body. In love, we realize that while we weren’t looking we became sinners ourselves! In love, we prove graceful—we can say that “Grace Happens” instead of that other more unsavory bumper sticker. In love, we are able to see each other as we are and invite each other to be together, to begin to shape each other, to begin to disciple each other. In love, we realize that behaviors and Christianity are a life-long battle, and that behaviors are shaped, molded and honed over a lifetime. In love, we realize that on this side of eternal life sin is always a part of us, even though in God’s eyes our slate has been wiped clean. In love we realize that forgiveness is much more powerful than ferocity. When we love in holiness we realize that while we were inviting the “ungodly” to a pure life, when we were shaping them, discipling them, neighboring them, that the same thing was happening to us. Maybe that's why the CRC says "Always Reforming."

Truth is what it is and we can’t compromise on truth. But truth doesn’t begin in ourselves. Our presupposition says that God the eternal, holy, righteous, powerful, loving, Father is the beginning of truth…IS the truth. God says My ways are not your ways, not in the way that I go left and he goes right but because he is the creator the I AM. And if this is true and it is, then it is also true that God’s ways are wholly righteous and that without Him no one is righteous not even one. And if this is true and it is then none of us has a 50/50 chance at getting it right, no instead we are lead by a Holy and Loving and perfect God to believe. And if it is true that we were lead to believe and it is then it is also true that our belief is not of ourselves but of God. And if this is true and it is then it is also true that the Holy Spirit, not I, is the one who searches and understands the deep things of God. And if this is true and it is then it is also true that the Holy, Just, Righteous, God who is not prefer persons over another united Holiness with love and didn’t meet us halfway but reach down 100 percent of the way, and by the blood of His son reached down and set us on the palm of His hand, not in a precarious place, but held tight, forever safe and forever loved. And if this is true and it is then it is also true, that All scripture is God breathed and is trustworthy and is useful for rebuke, encouragement, teaching and the like. And if this is true and I believe it is, then it is also true that nothing in Scripture has gone out of style, is passé, is irrelevant to today, inconsequent, irrational, or untrue for today’s world. And if this is true and I believe it is then there should be no reason why we should be taking proof texts from their original context and place them in new contexts as we so often do today so that we have a reason to act differently and judge for Christ. And if this is true and I believe it is, then it is also true that we are not saving the world for Christ, but Christ is saving the world for Himself. And if this is true and I believe it is then it is also true that sinners like all of us are welcome to this congregation. Yes we all practice our sin. And if this is true and it is then it is also true that no one’s story is finished here, that all sinners deserve loving and graceful discipleship based on the Love of Christ for us. And if this is true and I believe it is then we are by no means absolutely Holy unto ourselves and by every means in need of love, grace, mercy, molding and fixing. And if this is true and I believe it is then it is also true that all that is left for us is to respond with grateful obedience toward God and by extension toward each other…amen?

Jesus looked up at Peter, who had just defended his friend, his Christ, by engaging Christ's captors in battle. Jesus healed the injured man who suffered the brunt of Peter's sword.  Jesus firmly instructed Peter, "Peter, put away your sword!"  I think Jesus instructed me and the rest of His body when he gave a rebuke and instruction to Peter, a man who Christ told would be the rock of His church.  I think as Christ fervently gazed upon Peter, He was also intently gazing upon me.

Put away my sword Jesus? Put it away?

2 comments:

Joh said...

"In our own piety we expect immediate perfection from the gay individual. A miracle happened the day the homosexual said "I believe." And still more “mature” Christians go spiritually nuts on them instead of bearing spiritual fruit with them. Do our actions toward each other show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control? Put away your sword."

If the “mature” Christian cannot see the miracle, “he” is not very mature ...

"Fact—the church can’t accept certain behaviors such as taking the Lord’s name in vain, lying, cheating, homosexuality, murder and physical abuse. The church can’t see buddha, or the sun and moon as gods. We can’t accept a New Age pantheism. Any agreement to the bending of these rules causes the church to be inconsequent, illogical and inconsistent... ...no one’s story is finished here, that all deserve loving and graceful discipleship based on the Love of Christ for us, and that includes the divorced, the porn addict, the homosexual, the thief, the murderer and so on. And if this is true and I believe it is then we are by no means absolutely Holy unto ourselves and by every means in need of love, grace, mercy, molding and fixing."

Consider 1 John 2: 1-6 ¶ My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense— Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 ¶ We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.


(Ephesians 6:11-18) Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.

So: I shall pick up my sword.

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

To note--I've watched many movies filled with armored men--all of them need help putting on and fitting their armor. I am a mature Christian who's failed miserably--I need help with my armor--the body is good for that. Define maturity within the body of Christ and you'll still find a large group of people in different places in regard to their relationship with Christ.

Therefore I'll put down one sword made of dissension and divisiveness, and pick up the Sword of truth...with your help of course.