Monday, January 25, 2016

The Law of Christ

I sometimes struggle to read certain portions of scripture.  The latter part of Exodus, Leviticus, and parts of Numbers and Deuteronomy I find challenging.  I have difficulty reading these passages in part because my context is so far removed from the original readers’ context.  Some of it I simply find tedious and monotonous.  But I read on, knowing that there are treasures to be found if I look close enough. 
The Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 are probably what comes to most of our minds when we think about the Mosaic Law.  The first portion of these words are concerned with our relationship with God.  The latter portion have to do with our relationship with other people.  Together they form the foundation for the entire Old Testament Law. 

In Matthew’s gospel, when Jesus was asked which commandment was greatest, he responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  These two commandments should be the foundation of our Christian ethic.  To understand and live out God’s will, we also need to pray, study, reflect, and worship, but if these two commands form the bedrock of our actions, we’ll never go too far astray.  - Shay

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Subtle and Sure

We live in a society that more often than not values style over substance.  People in the 21st century spend an inordinate amount of time wading in the shallows of superficiality rather than delving into the depths of meaningful thought and conversation.  As a result, many lack the patience required to actually sit still and listen to a well thought out argument.  Undue credence is sometimes given to poorly formed ideas or erroneous information simply because it is presented in a dynamic or attractive manner.   
Throughout the Biblical narrative, God has often chosen people for positions of leadership who would be passed over by the rest of us.  The reason?  God values substance over style.  When Moses was called by God to deliver his people from Egypt, Moses initially tried to get out of the job, in part, because he felt he was inadequate as a speaker.  But God in his wisdom had been preparing Moses for this important task in a variety of other ways, most notably through his upbringing in Pharaoh’s household.  Paul was another, who, according to the Corinthians, lacked polish and presence.  Nevertheless, God spoke powerfully through him and our New Testament would be considerably smaller without his letters.  In a world where the bold and the brash steal the headlines, we would do well to search for the subtle and sure.  - Shay

Monday, January 11, 2016

Functional Families

Families are one of God’s greatest gifts to us.  When healthy, there’s nothing better than the relationships we share within our nuclear and extended families.  But when those relationships are dysfunctional, family life can be challenging, frustrating, and deeply hurtful. 

God created a nation from one family, the descendants of Jacob (Israel), but that family was far from perfect.  At times it was quite dysfunctional.  Jacob had two wives and two concubines and it was obvious that he loved Rachel the most.  It was also obvious that Rachel’s firstborn, Joseph, was the pride and joy of his father, while the other sons, though loved, were not shown the same kind of appreciation.  Understandably, this created tension between Joseph and his brothers.  This tension escalated until finally, nine of Joseph’s older brothers wanted to kill him.  However, through the intervention of the oldest, Reuben, who had himself muddied the family waters by sleeping with one of his father's concubines, Joseph was spared death and only sold into slavery.  Jacob's family was about as dysfunctional as a family can be.
But thankfully, years later, the family was reunited.  Joseph had the opportunity to get even, but chose instead to forgive and reconcile.  The fact that this highly dysfunctional family found grace, redemption, and transformation through God’s providential care should give us all hope that no matter how difficult our familial relationships may be, there’s always hope for reconciliation.  But it may mean that like Joseph, it’s up to us to make the first move.  If we are willing to swallow our pride, admit to the sin in our own lives which may have contributed to the tensions in our family, and forgive the hurt that our family members may have caused us, then our relationships within our nuclear and extended families can become all they were created to be.  We can't predict how our family members will react and we can't force anyone to do anything they don't want to do, but the first step always starts with us. - Shay