Posts Tagged kingdom of god

Planks and splinters

I got a question from someone who read one of my recent posts called “I’m going AWOL.” I thought his question was a good one, it made me think a little and pray a lot about my answer. And I think it’s an important enough issue to answer his question publicly and give all the readers of this blog a chance to be in on the conversation. (By the way, he actually agrees with me, so I’m not “calling him out” publicly or anything.)

Here’s his question:

In the epistle to the Ephesians is written: “and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of the darkness, but rather reprove them.” (Ephesians 5:11 KJV) That “reprove them” could mean that we as God’s children are entitled and exhorted to confront the ungodly in his/her unrighteousness? 

I gave him my short answer on the blog post, but here is the more complete answer. As always, I’d love to hear from anyone on your thoughts as well.

It’s the sin, not the sinner

The first thing that strikes me about this scripture in Ephesians is that it refers to the “unfruitful works of darkness,” not the “unfruitful workers of darkness.” The focus is on the sinful acts, not those who commit them. It seems to me, our focus these days is more on the sinners around us than the grace of God that has freed us from the bondage to sin.  This idea of “taking a stand for God” has consumed us, and has only served to erect a wall between God and those who need Him most.

It’s me that has to change

The next thing about this scripture is that word “fellowship.” My study shows it would probably be better translated as “participate in.”  This is an encouragement to believers not to participate in the works of darkness that are practiced by those in the world around them. “Don’t live like them, don’t behave like them. You have been redeemed by Christ, everything should have changed. Desires, focus, passions should be directed toward Christ and not pleasing yourself.”

This is not a fight

Then there’s that word “reprove.” Again, I think a better translation would be “expose.” I don’t think this is an invitation to do what we’ve done many times. It’s not permission for us to fight and picket and protest those with whom we disagree. It’s not an encouragement for us to point our bony fingers of judgment at others. Rather, I think it is a challenge for us to live our lives in such a way that, by contrast, the works of darkness around us will be exposed for the evil they are.  By doing so, we earn the right to speak into the lives of others.  When we live lives ruled by love, not judgment, those around us become much more receptive to what we have to say.

The bottom line

Look, I know we are called to “come out from among them and do not touch the unclean thing.”  But that command has nothing to do with “them”, it has everything to do with me.  I do not have to shake my fist at the world.  I just stop acting like them.  I don’t have to point out the sin in those around me, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job.

The weapons of our warfare are not of this earth.  Our enemy is not of this earth.  Our battle is not with the sinners, the gays, the atheists or anyone else.  We belong to the Kingdom of Heaven.  That’s a Kingdom that has no end.  And it’s a Kingdom that aims to change me first.  It’s a Kingdom that requires me to lay down my life, my dreams, and my hopes before its King.  It requires me to start with my own planks, not their splinters.

The path of love is a slower, more deliberate pace.  It’s a journey, not a sprint.  It’s a lifestyle, not a marketing ploy.  It takes commitment, patience, and…well…love.

If it is a battle, and we’re going to fight against the sin around us, I think love and mercy are much more effective weapons anyway.

Maybe that’s why Jesus used them.

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Counterfeit Conquering

I have a theory as to why video games like “Call of Duty” are so popular these days.  I believe all of us, especially men, are created with a desire to conquer.  It is an innate desire to overcome evil, to defeat enemies, to be the hero.

Video games offer a chance to get the satisfaction of conquering, the feeling of accomplishment, without any real risk.  I can defeat the enemy without having to really fear for my life.  I can become the hero without having to chance anything real.  The greatest real danger I face in a video game is carpal tunnel syndrome.

I think the same can be said for social media.  We were created with a need for community.  In the Garden of Eden God said of man, “It is not good for him to be alone.”  We are wired for connection, for fellowship, for intimacy.  Social media provides the chance for me to find community, again without any real risk.  I don’t have to make myself vulnerable on Facebook.  I don’t have to uncover anything about myself I wish to keep hidden.  I don’t have to look someone in the face and reveal who I really am.  I can have lots of friends, yet lack a single friendship.

Entertainment, pornography, shopping: all are counterfeits meant to give us a certain feeling without responsibility.  I get a temporary emotional high, yet I haven’t had to open myself to inspection by another human being, or by God.

I think our modern model of “church” has created this same isolation and lack of vulnerability.

We go to a building with several hundred (or thousand) other lonely souls, sit in a pew, listen to a sermon.  The whole time, no one has to know I’m suffering.  No one has to know that I’m depressed, or that my marriage is falling apart.  We get the spiritual satisfaction without the real vulnerability to which Christ has called us.  We can hide in a big church, we can’t hide in a small group of real community.

There is a real world out there, with real problems.  It is in need of real people with real solutions. The world doesn’t need counterfeit conquerers, it needs real warriors.  The poor don’t need fake help, they need real people who are willing to lay down their lives on their behalf.  The broken and wounded all around us don’t need institutional church, they need real people, serving a real God with real answers.

When we truly experience the gospel in our lives, it frees us from the need for the counterfeit.  

God intimately knows everything about me, and has redeemed me anyway.  He is my Father, He is my protector, He is my power.  I no longer need to fear enemies.  I no longer need to hide behind a false face.  I can be real, because I serve a real God who is on my side no matter what.

Let’s put down the fake.  We’ve settled for second best for far too long.  Let’s quit seeking those false emotional highs.  Let’s allow God to ground our feet in reality, becoming His ambassadors to the world around us.

Let’s start building a real kingdom.

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