A Very Wise and Useful Discipline
I wanted to find a similar graphic but with the map of America, thinking of what our new President must feel like as he assumes such an incredible assignment. But perhaps this is closer to reality in that the assignment he has assumed is a global one.
But this is a very special week in the Church’s calendar as well and perhaps that has largely gone unnoticed. This is the annual Week of Christian Unity celebration, January 18-25, that is observed by a large part of the universal christian family around the globe. I hope you will follow the link for RESOURCES and check out this year’s theme.
The principle of accomodation as applied to citizens of the eternal Kingdom of God while temporarily remaining citizens of this present world is a very helpful and necessary one to learn. I can’t help but sense that evangelical christians especially living in the United States could benefit greatly from becoming more adept at practicing it in this present day of opportunity.
I leave you with a few wise words regarding accomodation in the above context by a master-teacher addressing ministers-to-be 100 years ago.
- “If we accomodate ourselves to the world in one way we must be exigent in another. Our demands must never be submerged by our sympathies. The more kind we are, the more lofty we must be with our kindness. The goodness of God must never diminish the severity of God. His gifts of love must never obscure the prior claim of holiness. His grace must never abolish His judgment.
- Fatherhood is not the fatherhood of Christ’s God if it erase from our faith the necessity of an Atonement offered not to man alone but to God. The love by which God’s offspring are called sons of God is not His kindness to His creatures, but it is a special manner of love bestowed upon us with the gift of Christ and not with the gift of existence, by a Redeemer and not a Creator (I John 3).“
P.T.Forsyth, Positive Preaching and The Modern Mind, p.84
An Important Crossroads in the Narrative
Israel was in exile and captivity far from their land of inheritance. Both the message and the model of one of Israel’s most loved prophets was God’s way of preserving their confidence and trust that they would indeed, according to His Word, see better days. If you are not familiar with this particular stage of the Biblical narrative and the pilgrimage of God’s people on earth, you really owe it to yourself to make an effort this year to get to know it. Chapter 2-
20 Daniel answered and said:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”
The Open Secret of The GOSPEL
It could easily be argued on the basis of the content of the New Testament writings which became the basis of Christianity that these two Apostles contribute a major part of that faith-tradition. In addition to the fact that both were Orthodox Jews and began their lives in the bosom of that faith-tradition, what was their relationship to Jesus of Nazareth?
One American churchman who understood both men and their contributions more clearly than most in the Twentieth Century, gave them a prominent place in his 1950 exposition of the New Testament Gospel in a classic called, “The Kingdom and The Power“. (reprinted in 2004, Westminster John Knox Press)
He began that exposition by considering these two men as ‘prisoners of the Lord’, late in life writing to their respective Christian congregations for the purpose of strengthening their fragil faith for the battle they saw just ahead. The Apostles themselves were very aware they were passing beyond this present age into the age to come and out of the context of their beloved churches. The two letters are known to us today as The Revelation and The Epistle To The Ephesians.
I can not do justice to Minear’s full thesis here, but see if you can catch the sense of the strategic contribution they were intended to have in their original context as messengers of the Head of The Church himself to his faithful, tempted followers.
Whatever may be the reactions of the reader to the visions in Revelation and the beattitudes in Ephesians, he should remember that these are messages from prisoners who are risking life itself for these convictions. In their minds, they are words whose truth measures the distance between irretrievable ruin and indestructible hope.
Even their adversaries must admit that there has never been a claim more colossal in its audacity than such claims by the prisoners of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of these claims may hold little meaning for many readers, whether ancient or modern. Some may appear entirely unjustifed. For one reason or another, men have hesitated to accept their truth on the basis of these ancient documents alone. But these hesitations should not conceal the fact that these are the claims and that they are expressed with complete confidence not only by these two prisoners but by the New Testament as a whole. Whether it be trusted or not, their proclamation is as astounding as any that has ever been uttered.
If this seems an exageration, consider again the facts. Each of these prisoners was powerless, despised, and alone. Yet each announced that God had committed to him a secret hidden from the beginning of time. He insisted that others might grasp this secret only on the terms that God had laid down. He declared that the character of this secret had been unveiled in the crucifixion and resurrection of an obscure Galilean. He asserted, with unwavering conviction, that all future developments and all human situations lie within the span of this one mystery.
What daring! What madness! How unprecedented! How offensive! Each prisoner knew that the Lamb had been slain by the powerful and the wise. He knew that the Lamb’s followers received little but ridicule and resistance. (His imprisonment kept him from forgetting that.) He knew how intolerant it sounded to exclude unbelievers from this saving knowledge of the eternal purpose of God. He knew that others viewed the glorious dreams of the Church as pathetic megalomania. Nor was he himself immune to the arrows of doubt and the torment of aloneness. The stronger his faithfulness, the more it was tested by the tensions in the midst of which he lived. Yet he was qualified by the testing of his faith to write to other disciples who were caught in the same dilemmas.
Those who first read the letters of John or Paul stood on the same battle line between Christ’s Kingdom and the world. They had accepted the fact that the Lamb had suffered for them, but they had not yet fully understood that the disciple of this Messiah must suffer with him. They did not relish the way in which the cross continued to tear them loose from the world. They were unnerved by a gospel that made them the object of derision and ostracism. Their hearts needed a daily ration of iron because what happened to their leaders might quickly happen to them.
The author of Ephesians is therefore impelled to urge his readers “not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory”(ch.3:13). Realizing that such courage can be nourished only by a power not their own, he prays that God- “may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
This correspondance between the two prisoners and their friends serves to define the frontier that separated them from their contemporaries. On the one side was a tiny group of men united by loyalty to the Lamb. Their tangible resources were quite inadequate for carrying on a global conflict. But their intangible resources were known to be adequate: God’s Spirit in the inner man, Christ’s presence in the heart, a love that surpasses knowledge, a power to comprehend the heights and depths. Over against them as enemies stood everyone else, supported by tangible resources and made confident by the wisdom of the world. – Paul S. Minear, The Kingdom and The Power, pp.34-36
I highly recommend to everyone who loves the Gospel and the Lamb, these two New Testament letters, and this book which comes as close as any I know to capturing the original sense of their divinely inspired intended purpose among the churches.
See my tribute to Paul Minear in The Saints’ Gallery,Part 2
In The Shadow of History- A Time To Break Silence (again)
Dr. King gave this speech at Riverside Church, New York City, 4 April 1967
I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. . .(continue reading/listening)
A name from the Virtual Wall- Viet Nam War Memorial