Monday, September 9, 2013

God's Hanger: Loving God, and Others Like One's Self...

There are some decisions that should be common sense, and others that our intuition tell us to move toward. But how and when is God in those decisions?  

Jeremiah 6:16 tells us
 "This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’"
There are times when only prayer can help us with our decisions. There are times when only God's sovereign will will do... but are those times few and far between, or for everything that might change our lives?

I recently came across a blog article from Ah, the Life that called this passion for making our own decisions decisionism.  Kelly writes, "Decisionism. The idolatry of decisionism. Men think they are going to heaven because they have judged the sincerity of their own decision."  I would say that decisionism is idolizing decision-making, and believing that if it was their decision, God must have ordained it. But is that what the Bible tells us to do?

At a crossroads, there are five differing decisions someone can make. In everyday life, there are at least this many.

You can go back the way you came, go back a different route, stand still and be stagnant, or go forward one of at least two differing ways. And often, the choices are either all wonderful or all awful, and it is a matter of choosing the one that seems best. So, how do we determine what is best, and not just best in our own eyes?

That's where the Christ comes in.

Some decisions are already mapped out for us in Scripture. Take the Ten Commandments, for example. Let's look at just one of them, in Exodus 20 you can find them all...

Verses 8-11, American Standard Version, reads: 
"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore Jehovah blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."
 Reading this, it shows that we are to have a day of rest each week. For many, this is either Saturday or Sunday, depending upon their faith tradition, but for those who have to work both of these days, please, don't let that be an excuse. FIND a day to rest; a day of Sabbath for yourself that you and God can both agree to. Some even do two half-days where there is no other way. But honoring God and all He has done is the reasoning behind this particular commandment. He cares enough about us to tell us, take a rest. Take a breather. Stop with striving and allow yourself to just take in My goodness and grace and rest in that.

Then, let's take the greatest commandments of loving God fully and our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus confirmed to us that all of the law and prophets hung on these two. These two commandments are like the left and right side of a hanger, and our decisions are like the clothing upon the shoulders of that hanger.

The context of Jesus' commandments is that one of the religious teachers of the law, who was attempting to trap Jesus into making a mistake that would condemn Him, came forward and asked what it would take to gain eternal life. The Amplified version says "And he replied, You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 

From The Message, let's see the story in full from Luke 10:25-37
 Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”    He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?” He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”     “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”    Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”    Jesus answered by telling a story.   “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.    “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’    “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”    “The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.   Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”
 So, going back to the analogy of the hanger, what does that mean?

If our hanger is crooked, our clothes won't sit right. If the hanger is crooked, or even missing, how will the clothing of our decision-making, and our very lives, ever be right?

The scholar had asked who his neighbor was in an attempt to lessen the number of people he would have to help, once Jesus told him that his interpretation of Scripture was indeed correct.  And so, our neighbor isn't necessarily those we would expect. Sometimes he or she is the one we least expect. But we are to seek the good of all people; not just those who are kind to us. 

Jesus tells us (Matthew 5:43-47, AMP)  
"You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy; But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, To show that you are the children of your Father Who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers [alike]. For if you love those who love you, what reward can you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that? And if you greet only your brethren, what more than others are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles (the heathen) do that?"
Similarly, in Luke 6, he tells us to not only love our enemy, but to bless them. And sometimes our neighbor is our enemy.

One way to know who is an enemy of Christ or a follower is by the fruit of their lips; and to those who are true followers, the people against Jesus the Messiah are also against them, for they are against all that the follower stands for. But we don't have the icthus anymore. Not in the way the first followers did. We have the fruit.

Luke 6: 45, ESV says "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."

Proverbs 13:2 (MSG) further says, "The good acquire a taste for helpful conversation; bullies push and shove their way through life." In the Amplified, it reads " A good man eats good from the fruit of his mouth, but the desire of the treacherous is for violence," and in the NRSV, it reads "From the fruit of their words good persons eat good things, but the desire of the treacherous is for wrongdoing."

All this to say... there are times when we must decide according to what we already know God would have us do, and times when we must seek His face. To not allow God to be part of our decision-making is to be disobedient, or at the least, self-willed, which goes back in a circle to disobedience anyway. And it's not easy. It can be a struggle. We want things our own way, don't we? At least some of the time?

But there are things we can do; there's a foundation we can lay that will help us stay on the hanger and not slide off. Putting God first; loving Him above others, then ourselves and others in equal turn. For we must, indeed, love ourselves in a way that is befitting a child of the King, and others in the same way. We are not to be partial, and we are not to do away with what we know is right. And by these few things, we go a long way toward correct decision-making, and thus believing that God will, indeed, direct our paths well, for He is trustworthy, even when we are not.