"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Paul--The Spoil Sport

What must it have been like for the church of God in Rome when—getting on just fine thank-you-very-much—a pounding erupts on their door and a loud voice intrudes on their tranquility with, "Letter from the Reverend Paul ... open the door please." Letters from the Lord's apostle Paul habitually rained on folks' parades. The following passage provides a prime example of such apostolic party-pooping.
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (9) For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (10) Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (11) Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. (12) The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. (13) Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. (14) But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:8-14 ESV
Of course, none of the church of God's sanctified-ones would engage in such despicable behavior; Paul obviously wrote such admonitions to the church "just in case." Verse 13 pretty well sums up the thou-shalt-nots of this discussion: ... not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. The apostle outlined three categories of worldly behavior in that passage: sins of excess, sexual sins, and sins of attitude. And please note: including only these three in no way excuses other categories of sinful behavior. Of those three, today's church manages to excuse two by rationalization. The first sanctified sin shows its ugly head at all-you-can-eat buffets and church potluck dinners. Somehow, stuffing oneself in such circumstances fails to qualify as gluttony. But that is only the public side of excess. Privately, uncounted brethren regularly snack and tipple in the secrecy of their own homes. Now, before the worms slither too far from their can, one must insert a minor disclaimer: Attitudes toward imbibing alcohol vary according to local customs and mores. Strictly speaking, God's Word does not condemn alcohol consumption per se, but forbids "drunkenness." (Ephesians 5:18; 1 Timothy 3:8; 5:23; Titus 2:3) And in Romans 14:21 he subjects all behavior, including food and drink consumption, to the rule of love: It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. Now, to the second sanctified sin Paul deals with in Romans 13: Attitude, Attitude, Attitude! To witness "Quarreling and jealousy," simply become part of many churches' "body life," and observe the interpersonal dynamics. Sunday Service Civility not withstanding, some of the brethren simply detest one another; always with alleged, good reason. How does this behavior align with Christ's "New Commandment" recorded in John 13:34? A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Of course, if Jesus' words don't hold enough authority, his apostle Paul had a thing-or-ten to say on the subject in his letters to the churches.
Romans 12:10 ESV Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Romans14:13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. Romans 15:2-7 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (3) For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me." (4) For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (5) May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, (6) that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (7) Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. 2Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 2Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 1John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 1John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
Hmmm ... is a theme forming here? It would seem that believers in Jesus ... ALL believers in Jesus ... will treat one another well. Why? "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." And God's love is infinite; once it begins flowing, no one or nothing ... not even sin ... can stop its flooding his children's hearts. What can be better than that? The best thing, the secret that the evil ruler of this world has jealously kept, is that sin cannot withstand God's love. So, it turns out that Paul the apostle isn't such a spoil sport after all. God's Word is just plain wonderful, full of his good news of infinite, unqualified love. Just believe and obey, and all God's infinite love is yours.

No comments: