Today I’ve been reading stories about Haiti and the earthquake and everything involved. It’s tearing me apart. CNN has a heart wrenching page of first hand accounts and stories of victims, residents and families.
When looking at these things, something becomes horribly clear to me; it’s the fact that I am a desperately selfish and self-absorbed individual who really does not understand, nor obey the teachings of my Lord.
Even this morning, before I had looked at these stories, my thoughts were already heading in this direction. I had picked up my copy of the Didache. For those who don’t know, this is basically what the Apostles taught in the first century about Christian living. A lot of it was most certainly taken from the Sermon on the Mount… and rightfully so. It’s a good sermon. The rest is very insightful and practical teaching on daily living as a follower of Christ.
As I read it, with verse after verse I keep thinking, “Wow, I don’t do that…I don’t live that way.” After doing that for a while, you begin to get pretty disgusted with yourself. I think that often that’s why we keep these types of teachings at bay. We insulate ourselves from suffering because deep down we want to personally avoid the true and real face of our Lord.
I believe that if we’re honest with ourselves, many of us, myself included, do not really want to look at Him.
It’s easy to look at the cushioned and comfy Jesus that we’ve made here in America. We’ve found ways to cope and deal with Christ’s teachings that make them so much more palatable and friendly. We’ve made the Savior of the world far less threatening than he really is. The truth is, this man was and is a threat to our very lives, and we either live for and through Him, or we have nothing to do with Him.
I wanted to write out a few of the things that Jesus told us to do… and sort of examine them. Because I keep thinking, “What if we really did this or what if we were really like this?” I’m going to start with the Beatitudes, because those weren’t even commands. The Beatitudes were just statements about what and who the Kingdom is made of. (side note- I’m not writing this to be cynical, but as an exercise in honesty with myself and God. I’m writing these things to myself. If they apply to you, take a look at it with your Master. If they make you mad, maybe they should… it’s not necessarily a bad thing.)
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.
Take this in. Are you a proud and confident individual? Are you this?
2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
When was the last time that you cried and wept for our world, for the state of the Church, for your family, for your own soul?
3. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth
Jesus said it, I didn’t. The ones who will eventually possess the land are those who are gentle… It certainly turns the power structure on it’s head. Think about it in every situation, from war, nations and governments, down to your friends, enemies, spouses…
4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Many of us today will take a dose of God, maybe a 5 minute devotional, a quick prayer… then we go about our day, doing what we please, assured in our minds that we’re “Christians.” This is a very different picture than having literal hunger and thirst for right standing with God.
5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Christians are known as some of the harshest and most rigid folk on the planet… but that’s too big of a picture. Apply this to your spouse, your friends, that guy in the next cubicle, your kids, the guy cutting you off on the freeway… apply it to EVERY SINGLE PERSON TO CROSS YOUR PATH!
6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
I don’t know about you, but I really wanna see God. I want to see Him wherever I look. I hate what I see. I hate what goes through my brain. I hate it because my heart seems so often to be anything but pure. What does this mean? It’s worth hungering and thirsting after a right standing with God so that He can purify our hearts.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
We divide left and right over the most ridiculous things. Unified is far from the description of Christians today. But again, let’s not merely look at the big picture, what about in daily life. Do I write people off? Do I divide from people and look down on them? Or do I earnestly strive to bring people together… look at the history of the Bible, it’s quite obviously the deep desire of our Father.
Now let’s just scroll through some of the things Christ told us to do… With these, it’s so very easy for us to classify and categorize how we go about obeying these. We put conditions on them. But Christ didn’t. Try and put yourself and your mind in a place where the statement is the statement alone, and nothing more…unconditional. I know it’s hard for me to do.
1. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Mt 5:16
2. Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Mt 5:20
3. …therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Mt 5:23,24
4. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you… Mt 5:29,30
5. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’… Mt 5:37
6. But I say to you, do not resist an evil person: but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. Mt 5:39
7. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Mt 5:40
8. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Mt 5:41
9. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. Mt 5:42
The Didache goes so far as say do not even expect anything in return. That’s the instruction the 1st century Church received from the Apostles. Don’t even expect to ever get paid back. Just give…
10. …love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. Mt 5:44
11. Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them… Mt 6:1
12. …when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may be honored by men. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Mt 6:2,3
13. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Mt 6:19-21
This one I see being especially rampant and ignored. We/I build and invest in my little kingdom. Taking so much joy in our carnal comforts and treasures, whether food, convenience whatever…
14. No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and wealth. Mt 6:24
Don’t think that this is only talking to the rich. If your thoughts are bent on whether you’ll get by this week or if there’s enough to pay the bills, it’s all the same. Either our minds are bent on trusting the Lord of all creation, or we put our trust in money.
15. …do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?… but seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Mt:25 and 33
He meant this. He really really meant this. I can’t say that enough times. We’re not supposed to worry about these two crucial things, and yet… you know. I think about them both all the time. (though… those who know me know that I have more of a bent toward the food side of it)
And then, if you really want to take a good soul search, examine Matthew 6:15-23 and cross reference it with Galatians 5:22 and 23, where Paul states very clearly what fruit we’re to be exhibiting in our lives.
I think I’ll stop there… As you can see, those are all just the ones from Matthew 5 and 6. The list goes on. He gave us some instruction and a lot of us, whether knowingly or not have written off being a Christian to saying, “I believe in Jesus. I’m a Christian.” When Jesus gave us a whole lot of instruction on how to go about living as Christians.
We’re supposed to turn the world upside down. We’re an upside down society that revolutionizes everything from the roots up. We infect with love and mercy and lay our lives down at times when it seems to make the least sense. We leave a mark that doesn’t go away.
Let me rephrase; we’re supposed to look like Jesus.
We’re supposed to walk like him, talk like him, and LOVE LIKE HIM! This is a crazy thing. If you find you can’t do any of these things, that you don’t have any power over sin, if your life doesn’t exhibit any of the fruits of the Spirit… then… may I propose, you don’t know our Lord. That’s something that I’m having to look at.
Let me rephrase this… if you’re a kid and you love your mom and dad, you can’t just say you love them, and not do what they tell you to do. You show your love by obeying.
Should it not be the same with Christ?
I want to look at this more and more deeply and honestly. As though I’ve never heard the teachings of Christ before. I want His revolutionary and earth shaking words to mess up my life and heart and rearrange everything. And I’ll tell you, if you don’t feel like His words are all that earth shaking, or you don’t feel your flesh want to scream when you ponder obeying Him, you’re probably rationalizing them away and not hearing His real voice.
God! Help us! Help us to become real Christians! Help us to really hear you! Please Lord, we want to know and see the real you! And we want to see YOU change the world!