When pride cannibalizes awe, it prevents us from seeing true greatness. Jesus’s childhood friends, neighbors, and even his family missed his greatness. Why? They couldn’t see past themselves.
While Jesus at the Transfiguration is described as sparkly as Edward Cullen, the Gospels do not describe the shape of his nose, the glossiness of his hair, or the firmness of his midsection.
In fact, the traditional Hollywood portrayal of Jesus stands in stark contrast to Isaiah 53:2′s description of the coming Messiah:
He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
- Ephesians 4:11-16
When Paul says we’re not to be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, he’s pretty obviously talking about holding to Christ’s truth in our worship, in our ministry, and in our lives. Sometimes, though, we’re tossed to and fro with perfectly good intentions. We think we’re fighting the good fight. We think we’re standing for the truth, but, in doing so, we lose our focus. We allow ourselves to be tossed from cause to cause, reacting to one one hot-button issue to another, and we end up letting a bunch of passing events define our ministry.
Celebrities, sports stars, politicians, corporate executives — we are quick to jump onto any battle where a public figure or company is embattled for some policy or stance that overlaps our faith. And I have to ask why? What is our end goal, and does it align with Christ’s mission?
When Christ walked on Earth, He demonstrated a laser-sharp focus in His ministry. He was concerned for souls. He was concerned about seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10). He came to do His Father’s will (John 6:38). He did not come to become embroiled in political arguments, petitions, or any other secular struggles. He did not allow Himself to be pulled into worldly distractions posing as spiritual (see Matthew 22:15-22). His eyes were set on something higher, and He lived, died, and ascended fulfilling that purpose.
God’s kingdom is not defined by corporations and fast-food chains. Our great commission isn’t to vindicate television or political personalities, and time I spend caught up in such contentions is time I am not working to bring others to Christ. So before jumping into an online battle next time one of these issues pop up, ask yourself these questions:
- What’s my motivation? If my motivation is not love — if it is disgust, fear, anger, etc. — then I need to immediately stop.
- What is the tone? Am I sharing something that someone in disagreement would read as level-headed and well-reasoned, or am I sharing something that’s emotionally charged and potentially alienating to those who don’t already share my viewpoint?
- Is this spiritually productive? This one can be difficult to answer. I may think I’m raising awareness by sharing an opinion piece or otherwise harshly worded article, but I may instead be putting Christians, Christ, and His message into a bad light by doing so.
- Who/What am I supporting? We Christians sometimes heap all kinds of positive attention on otherwise unscrupulous or immoral people and companies because they come under fire for one thing we agree with.
Colossians 3:2 reminds us to set our minds on things above, and Jesus tells us to always seek God’s kingdom first in Matthew 6:33. Proverbs 4:25 says, “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.” God wants us to be focused on Him and His word. Our adversary sets distractions all around us all of the time, hoping to get us off course, hoping to draw us away from the ministry we should be living. Let’s see these worldly distractions for what they are and refuse to let them sidetrack us. Christ came to bring salvation to the lost. Let’s keep that our focus, and nothing will be able to toss us to and fro.
Nonresistance should never be confused with cowardice or fleeing from danger. Jesus does not say that when slapped on one cheek, we are to run away. We are called to stand and actively offer the other cheek—a brave deed no doubt! When a disciple is sued for his tunic (inner shirt), he is not to cry, fall to the ground, or shrink away. Jesus asks His disciple to offer his cloak (outer coat), leaving him with effectively nothing. To walk with a person an extra mile is the very opposite of cowardice or fleeing from danger. These three examples involve a wrong to the body (slapping the cheek), wrong to one’s property (lawsuit for a tunic), and wrong to one’s liberty (being compelled to walk). Nonresistance is a bold, daring position. “Our Peacemaking Command is the command to be a Surprising Person.”
Family devotions are a good thing. They can be a means of grace to your entire family, but often we turn them into an idol. We get some idea in our head about how devotions are supposed to look, and we won’t budge an inch from getting that picture exactly right.
As for our family, we don’t have scheduled devotions, but we try to find opportunities to work devotions into our daily activities.
The spiritual life is not principally about the avoidance of difficulty. It’s about going toward God, despite the difficulties that obstruct us. For now, our greatest prayer is not for peace, but for progress toward the Promised Land. The peace will come in due season. This was John Bradford’s thought when he prayed, “Life is a pilgrimage. I came from the Lord and I will return to the Lord. I may pass through dangerous places. O Christ, be my guide.”