Today we are continuing with the Risky Living series. Last week we heard from Nick talking about “Business and Boats” – the two stories of Jesus in the Boat (Lk 8:22 – 25) and outside the Boat (Matt 14:22-32) – and their challenges making decisions. Five pictures each representing a risk: riding a bicycle on one wheel on a cliff, trying to escape a bull’s horns, lady fighting a bear with bare hands, cat walking in front of dogs and crossing a cliff on a tight rope! Which pictures represent some of the challenges in your life at the moment? Think small not too big: a relationship that seems like fighting a big bear with bare hands and small chance of winning, work relationships that seem like all these dogs are about to pounce on me, a family situation that seems like the only way out is a tight rope and I can’t afford to make a mistake, a new exciting challenge where the relationships seem like riding your mountain bike on one wheel on a cliff! Reflect one or two relationships in your life that are calling you to take some risk by faith and get out of your comfort zones to love someone.
Read the scriptures
Read the scriptures
Better than the other – more worthy. Our church is better than that. I am holier than thou art. See how good I am/we are. Indicative of neediness – yearning for affirmation Criteria: (i) can easily go into this mindset, (ii) danger of ending up with socially acceptable sins, and those that many don’t agree to! Growing up in Zimbabwe, during the eight years in Japan, and five years at the ANU I had read and heard really a little about the gay and lesbian community. Moving into the public service, one of the elements of diversity I had to learn to work with and accept colleagues who associate with the LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex) community. I get reminded of this every year doing one of the mandatory workplace training courses. Illustration: 5 years ago a team member who reported to me and I went to an offsite meeting. After the meeting he offered me a lift home, and I accepted. However, he said we had to wait for someone else who was in the same building and we would drive to Belconnen together. The gentleman arrived and we jumped into my colleague’s car and took off. In the car I greeted the gentleman as I was meeting him for the first time and introduced myself, he did too and we talked a bit about the work he did, as he also worked in our organisation. Then my colleague told me that actually that gentleman was his partner! To say the list I didn’t know how to handle the situation within myself in that car. This was my first time meeting someone who was gay. After getting home I told Rumi and we prayed together for the Lord to show me how I was to manage the relationship with this colleague who reported to me at work, and sat in the desk next to mine. The Holy Spirit told me love my colleague, and never to judge him and his partner. It took several weeks if not a few months of struggling internally, asking the Holy Spirit to help me overcome thoughts of judgment. Despite the struggles I chose to trust the Holy Spirit and ask Him for help to love my colleague. I didn’t know this during the first few weeks of him introducing his partner to me, but apparently he had some fear in telling me because he knew that I was a Christian. However, after about a year of working together he started opening up and told me that he had felt accepted by me. He told me of how that as he was growing up and going through his education as a teenager at some boarding Catholic school in NSW he had been abused by nuns there. He kept being that he was naught and that one day god would come down and destroy him. I apologised to him on behalf of the church, and told him that he can be assured that that is not the nature of God – who, on the contrary loves him. To date, in his 60’s he doesn’t want to hear the name God, which I accepted as part of accepting him. However, he is alright with me talking about Jesus. Our relationship continues to date. During my second year in that workplace I got to know that the other lady who sat a desks away from us was in a lesbian marriage. I was grateful that I was already enrolled in the Holy Spirit’s school of loving outside my comfort zones, and so that was a few percent easier for me to accept and love that co-worker as well. Since last year I have been seeing some gentleman who is currently undergoing some Transgender process into a lady at work. The message from the Holy Spirit remains, no judgment but just love. The scales we use to look at people/measure people can be defective. Human nature tends to compare things. Who said that being stealing from the supermarket is a worse sin that lying, or being lesbian or gay is a worse sin than materialism or pride for example? Who said that we are better than anyone else? We are not called to compare ourselves with others but to love all and desire their redemption.
Jesus ought to be our measure = definition of holiness = redemptive love. How can I help/support this brother/sister to be a step closer to Jesus? Illustration: what would be your reaction if you saw a brother/sister stealing something from the supermarket, caught in adultery, drugs, etc.? Judgment. We constantly need to watch that we do not live out of a judgment mindset but out of a redemptive one. Jesus wants us to think redemption in every situation. That’s what brings the kingdom of God to someone’s life. Our response to a brother/sister sinning should be how can I help that brother/sister so that they can be redeemed out of what’s causing them to sin? How can I journey with them?
We tend to label people according to: (a) politics – what politician or which political party to they support, (b) appearance – whether they are appealing according to our scales (c) education – what level of education they, and maybe whether they went to that school/university or not (d) wealth – whether they own this or that (e) sexuality – whether they hold our own sexual beliefs or not (f) cultural and ethnic background – whether they come from this or that background (2) Need to repent and start loving. Ask ourselves: who am I keeping out of the Kingdom of God by not loving them? (3) We have a choice and decision to make – but one that has consequencies. A key health check would be to ask ourselves: is there someone I would rather not meet? Inside the church? Outside the church? (4) Start even with deciding to just say a greeting/hello. Make a 0 -> 0.5 step. That’s a good beginning. A greeting first, before you think about inviting them to yours or your child/grandchild’s wedding!! (5) We ought to be willing to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, and be able to lead others to meet Jesus for the same transformation. Otherwise we really need to stop and reflect on why we exist as a church: a museum for displaying good Christians or a place of transformation?
During the time the Bible was written, children in the Jewish culture had no social status and no rights. In this context children are characterized by humility and total dependence on parents and trusted adults. No room for boasting and pride. This is a challenge to our thinking – especially in the western world. This challenges our very identity: intentional humility that chooses to value and esteem someone better than yourself; accepting that I am incomplete in my faith journey without every brother and sister; allowing myself to be vulnerable to others; adopting the life attitude that says I am only a custodian of everything I have – received from Jesus for His Kingdom use; I can’t do anything except through Jesus who enables me – and sometimes wants to use the least regarded brother or sister to bless me; assuming the attitude that says I can’t do anything except Jesus enables – which may mean waiting for Him sometimes Jesus says that we need to be converted/changed/transformed in our thinking: Rom 12 vs 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (KJV)) Remember: we were aliens and had no rights to the Kingdom of God (Eph 2:12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (RSV)) and only given the right to be children of God by His grace (John 1:12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God)
There are some Red Flags we need to be conscious of all the time. Every time we notice these in our lives then we need to repent and take action so that someone may experience the Kingdom of God due through us. Worth asking yourself these basic questions: (i) who am I keeping out of the Kingdom of God through my actions/by not loving them/by judging them/etc.; (ii) Is there someone I’d rather not meet? Remember Steve Watts’ story last year or earlier this year when he shared of a relationship at YWAM – where he had occasions of having to choose whether to change direction when walking in a narrow corridor towards someone he struggled relating to. Start small: aim for a 0 -> 0.5 step. Aim to say Hello before you think about inviting them to yours/your family wedding! (iii) who in my world is vulnerable/excluded/overlooked/bullied? (iv) Have I labeled someone due to their political/appearance/wealth/sexuality/ education/ethnic and racial background/etc.? We have a choice about all these things I have said. However, there are also consequences to our choices – the biggest being that someone can miss the opportunity of entering the Kingdom of God because of us!
Risky Living Session Eight
1At that time the disciples came to
Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the
greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2He called a little child to him, and
placed the child among them. 3And he
said: “Truly I tell you, unless you
change and become like little
children, you will never enter the
kingdom of heaven.
4Therefore, whoever takes the lowly
position of this child is the greatest in
the kingdom of heaven. 5And whoever
welcomes one such child in my name
welcomes me. 6“If anyone causes one
of these little ones - those who believe
in me - to stumble, it would be better for
them to have a large millstone hung
around their neck and to be drowned in
the depths of the sea.
Who is the greatest?
Better than the other
= holier than thou art
Criteria: what do we use
So what ….??
Red flags: identify and start action
o Who am I keeping out of the
o Is there someone I’d rather not meet?
Start small: aim for 0 -> 0.5 step
o Who in my world is vulnerable/
o Labels: labeled someone?
Have a choice but consequences too