Sabbath Prayer

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101By Stephen W. Hiemstra

 

Lord of the Sabbath,

We praise you for creating us and placing us in a beautiful world, for enabling us work to support our families, and for allowing us time to rest.

In this weary world, teach us to rest and to offer hospitality to those around us.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to be humble like salt, that flavors, preserves, and graces every table and to radiate your light when darkness threatens to overwhelm.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Sabbath Prayer

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2020  

Continue Reading

Be Humble, Be Salt and Light

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101You are the salt of the earth, 

but if salt has lost its taste, 

how shall its saltiness be restored? 

It is no longer good for anything 

except to be thrown out 

and trampled under people’s feet. 

(Matt 5:13)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Beatitudes introduce the Sermon on the Mount, where themes in the Beatitudes get expanded and anticipate Jesus’ life and ministry. Some of these same themes are highlighted, for example, on the night of Jesus’ arrest. From the Beatitudes to the sermon to the cross, Jesus’ primary theme is humble witness.

Context of the Sermon

The centrality of Christian witness in Jesus’ teaching is immediate and obvious, starting in the verse after the Ninth Beatitude where Jesus teaches about salt. Salt is a gregarious because its usefulness comes only in combination with food—no one eats salt by itself. Salt is used to enhance the flavor of foods and to preserve them. Metaphorically, “the disciple is to the people of the earth what salt is to food.” The disciple, who refuses to be salt, is useless and stands under judgment—”good only to be thrown out and trampled” (Guelich 1982, 126–127).

The centrality of witness is reinforced with a second metaphor about light (Matt 5:14-16). Clearly for Matthew the tension between the disciple and the world is real, ongoing, and at the core of the mission. At the same point Luke’s account is a discussion of enemy-love (Luke 6:27–28), because without enemy-love no one can witness.

Witness is also a key to Isaiah 61:1:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound . . . (Isa 61:1)

The Messiah is anointed to “to bring good news to the poor” (‎לְבַשֵּׂר עֲנָוִים; “lebaser anavim”), a clear reference to witness. Notice that the Hebrew expression is only two words: the word for poor (“anavim”) which can mean “poor, afflicted, humble, meek” (BDB 7238)  and the word for “bring good news” (“lebaser”). If humble witness describes the Messiah and his job description, then the expression is unambiguous and applies to  Jesus (Schnabel 2004, 3).

Context of the Final Hours

On the night when Jesus knows that he will be arrested and his last minutes are precious, he undertakes two conspicuous acts of humility: he washes the disciples feet at the Last Super (John 13:4-5) and he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:39).

The Gospel of John records that Jesus knew that he would soon be betrayed and die (John 13:1–3) and, while a condemned man is normally withdrawn, paralyzed with fear, and bitter, Jesus calmly begins an object-lesson about humility:

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him . . . If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. (John 13:3, 4, 14)

Slaves washed most feet in the first century because most people walked barefoot (or wore only sandals) and shared the roads with work animals (who often fouled them), which made dirty, stinky feet the norm. As far as we know, none of the disciples were slaves or owned slaves, but accepting a task reserved for slaves would not have been a popular object-lesson. Peter objected at first, but when he later understood the message about humility, he let Jesus wash his feet (John 13:8–9).

Foot washing is not recorded in Luke, but Luke records Jesus’ teaching about humility:

And He said to them, The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called Benefactors. But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. (Luke 22:25-26)

The importance of humility in Christian leadership and service is clear in Luke without mentioning foot washing. While foot washing demonstrated humility before his disciples, humility before God was demonstrated in the Garden of Gethsemane where he prayed: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt 26:39) Jesus repeats this prayer three times in Matthew, underscoring the importance of this prayer (Matt 26:42–44).

Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane displays piety, courage, and humility. It also highlights the importance of pain and suffering in sanctification. In suffering, do we turn to God like Jesus or turn into our pain? When we turn to God in spite of pain, we demonstrate our faith and our identity draws more closely to Christ.

REFERENCES

Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius (BDB). 1905. Hebrew-English Lexicon, unabridged.

Guelich, Robert. 1982. The Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for Understanding. Dallas: Word Publishing.

Schnabel, Eckhard J. 2004. Early Christian Mission. Vol 1: Jesus and the Twelve. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press

Be Humble, Be Salt and Light

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2020  

Continue Reading

Fulfillment Prayer

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Father God, Beloved Son, Holy Spirit,

We praise you for your example in life.

In you, the Law and the Prophets are fulfilled, not in words, but in actions.

We are no longer without hope—good news is preached; broken hearts are healed; and liberty is proclaimed to the captives.

In you, there is jubilee; in you, there is comfort; in you, death is forever banished so that we may never mourn again.

Amen and amen

Fulfillment Prayer

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2020  

Continue Reading

Mission Statement

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101Do not think that I have come to 

abolish the Law or the Prophets; 

I have not come to abolish them 

but to fulfill them. 

(Matt 5:17) 

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In Matthew 5:17, Jesus offers an interpretative key that explains how to understand both his ministry on earth and his words in the Beatitudes. When Jesus said that he came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, he means that he came to fulfill all of Old Testament scripture. In Jewish thinking, the term “law” brings to mind the first five books in the Old Testament—the Books of the Law (or the Pentateuch): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The term “prophets” loosely refers to the remainder of the Old Testament. The implication is that Jesus’ own words have meaning in the context of scripture because they extend it.

The Books of the Law

The Hebrew word for poor in spirit (לְבַשֵּׂר עֲנָוִים; “lebaser anavim”) also translates as: poor, afflicted, humble, or meek (BDB, 7237). In the singular   (“ana”) appears in the Books of the Law only in Numbers 12:3 which reads: “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” (Num 12:3). Only Moses is described as meek and Moses’ relationship with God is described as exceeding that of a typical Old Testament prophet (Num 12:6-8).

“Ana” invites two important observations. First, being poor in spirit draws us closer to God—Moses close. God spoke to Moses directly, face to face, not in riddles or dreams (Num 12:6–8) which is intimacy with God rarely seen scripture since Abraham, who was described as a friend of God (Jas 2:23).

Second, if Jesus spoke Hebrew in delivering the Sermon on the Mount, then the first three Beatitudes could have been expressed in the same word, “ana”, which would be an emphatic statement of humility. The blessing associated with poor in spirit was to receive the kingdom of heaven while the blessing for meek was to inherit the earth. Taken together, being poor in spirit (or meek) in God’s eye gets you both heaven and earth, reminding us of creation (Gen 1:1) and meaning: everything.

The Books of the Prophet

“Ana” also appears in Isaiah 61:1–3, cited earlier. While the Books of the Prophet make many references to the poor, Isaiah 61 is quoted almost verbatim in Jesus’ call sermon in Luke 4:18–19 and stands out for at least two other reasons. The first reason is that the word, anointed, marks this passage as a messianic prophecy. While priests, prophets, and kings were all anointed as messiahs in the Old Testament, God himself does the anointing here. The second reason is that the phrase, “broken-hearted” (Isa 61:1), is a better analogy to “poor in spirit” than “poor” and it provides another reason to prefer “poor in spirit” over simply “poor” in interpreting this Beatitude.

Fulfillment

Jesus’ interpretative key is the verb, fulfill (πληρόω; “plero”), which generally translates as:

to bring to a designed end, fulfill a prophecy, an obligation, a promise, a law, a request, a purpose, a desire, a hope, a duty, a fate, a destiny (BDAG 5981, 4b).

In Matthew 5:17, fulfill is set in opposition to the verb, “destroy”, which is usually rendered as abolish. This verbal opposition is helpful because it underscores the dynamic element in fulfill—one abolishes something static simply by replacing it with a new item. Fulfilment clearly has an expectational element (or forward drift—τέλος in Greek). To fulfill the law is, not to replace it, but to extend it.

This idea of extending the law was new which is perhaps why Matthew offered more explanation and uses the word, fulfill, more than the other Gospel writers. In Jesus’ day, for example, Rabbi’s preached from the Law using the Prophets to interpret its meaning. This tradition might lead someone to say, perhaps, that the law had been “fulfilled” by correctly complying with it. However, the Gospel of Matthew sees prophecy fulfilled in the sense of living it out or taking the next  step rather than the merely honoring the boundaries of existing law (Guelich 1982, 163).

In the Law and the Prophets, we find Jesus anchored in God’s creation and promises. In the word, fulfill, we find Jesus focused on the future giving Jesus’ mission both continuity and purpose.

REFERENCES

BibleWorks. 2011. Norfolk, VA: BibleWorks, LLC. <BibleWorks v.9>. Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius (BDB). 1905. Hebrew-English Lexicon, unabridged. Guelich, Robert. 1982. The Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for Understanding. Dallas: Word Publishing.

Mission Statement

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2020  

Continue Reading

Prayer for the Poor in Spirit

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Oh dear Lord,

I give thanks that you are ever near to me—not too proud to linger with your servant and call me friend.

Bless me with your spirit of humility and generosity—generous in time, generous in friendship, and generous in sharing yourself.

Keep me safe from bad company; keep me safe from pious arrogance; keep me safe from my own sinful heart.

Let me always be ever near to you, now and always, through the power of your Holy Spirit.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer for the Poor in Spirit

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Corner_2020  

Continue Reading

Honored are the Poor in Spirit

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101Honored are the poor in spirit, 

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

(Matt 5:3)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Jesus chose words carefully. If he spoke Hebrew (the language of the Old Testament) rather than Greek (the language of the first century church), then the First Beatitude could be stated in only seven (Matt 5:3 HNT) which aided memorization, a common first century practice because of the high cost of the written word. Because the disciples memorized his words, Jesus could speak playing word games with them, starting sentences and letting them finish them, much like a good preacher will pause to let his audience catch up (Crawford and Troeger 1995, 17).

Interpreting the Beatitudes

 Jesus also used this technique—common in repressive cultures—in disputing with the Pharisees, as in Matthew 21:16 where he cites the first half Psalm 8:2 and, by inference, slams them with the second half (Spangler and Tverberg 2009, 38). Jesus’ careful choice of words and use of word associations helps us interpret the Beatitudes. For example, the first word in the phrase in Matthew 5:3—“Honored are the poor in spirit”—brings to mind the first Psalm:

Honored is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Ps 1:1–2)

The phrase, poor in spirit, brings to mind Isaiah 61:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.” (Isa 61:1–3)

The first text, Psalm 1, plainly references the Law of Moses and the second text, Isaiah 61, references a messianic prophecy that Jesus himself cites in his call sermon in Luke 4. Together, by using the word—μακάριος, Jesus associates with both the Law and the Prophets which for a first century Jewish audience added gravitas.

Poor?

Today’s commentators normally highlight the expression, “poor in spirit” (οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι), that is not used elsewhere in the Bible. Luke’s version of the Beatitude refers only to poor (πτωχοὶ), as in: “honored are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20) Poor here refers not just to low income, but to begging destitution—someone utterly dependent on God (Neyrey 1998, 170–171). Matthew, unlike Luke, was one of Jesus’ disciples, which makes it likely that his phrase, poor in spirit, is more accurate.

Hyperbole?

Taken as a whole, the First Beatitude appears hyperbolic for two reasons. The first reason is that Jesus uses a form borrowed from case law, if X, then Y. Using a legal form suggests something like the reading of a will. Second, Jesus associates things not normally associated. Unlike princes, poor do not normally inherit kingdoms; kings (those with kingdoms) are not normally humble. Thus, the First Beatitude suggests by its form and content that Jesus is using hyperbole to warm up his audience for what is obviously a serious  discussion (Isa 42:1–3).

Kingdom of Heaven

The seriousness arises because the phrase, “kingdom of heaven,” was previously associated with judgment, as in: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2, 4:17). Judgment may be implied in the converse of this Beatitude—do those who refuse to be poor in spirit (the proud) stand in opposition to the “kingdom of heaven”? Potentially, yes. Two candidates for judgment are almost immediately given:

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments [in the Law and the Prophets] and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:19–20)

Those least in the kingdom of heaven are those who teach against the law and those not to be admitted are those less righteous than the scribes and the Pharisees, according to Jesus’ own words (Matt 5:20).

Jesus chose words carefully.

References

Crawford, Evans E. and Thomas H. Troeger. 1995. The Hum: Call and Response in African American Preaching. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Neyrey, Jerome H. 1998. Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Spangler, Ann and Lois Tverberg. 2009. Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Honored are the Poor in Spirit

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Corner_2020  

Continue Reading

Prayer and Blessing

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace, Spirit of Holiness,

We praise you for blessing us with life, a vision of how to live it, and a family to share it with.

We praise you for your faithful presence on good days and not so good days.

Forgive our pride and willfulness.

Forgive us for sins against you and sins against those around us.

Plant in us the seeds of forgiveness and the patience to watch them grow.

Plant in us the desire to follow you and to prosper your kingdom.

Let us use our blessings to bless others (Gen 12:2–3)—blessing not only those easy to love but also those who need our love.

Grant us strength for the day, grace for those we meet, and peace in all things.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer and Blessing

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Corner_2020

Continue Reading

The Beatitudes

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, 

for his wrath is quickly kindled. 

Blessed are all who take refuge in him. 

(Ps 2:11-12)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Beatitudes poetically introduce Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5–7), which sets priorities, redefines honor among disciples, and commissions his disciples. The sermon offers the lengthiest statement of Jesus’ teaching and the early church cited it more frequently than any other passage in scripture (Guelich (1982, 14). As an introduction, the Beatitudes interpret the Old Testament in ways that surprised his disciples then and continue to surprise us now, suggesting that the Beatitudes deserve careful study.

Gospel Context

In both Matthew and Luke, the Beatitudes appear immediately after Jesus calls his disciples and addresses the disciples, serving as a preamble for the sermon that follows.

The sermon addresses the disciples personally, much like Jesus’ earlier call to ministry—“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt 4:19). This is not a passive call to be spectators, but an active call for disciples who will share in his suffering, at a time when the arrest and beheading of John (who baptized Jesus) was still fresh in their minds (Matt 4:12; 14:10).

Suffering—extreme tension—is an obvious theme in the sermon both because of John’s recent death and because of the ongoing threats to Jesus’ life that began even before his birth (Matt 1:18-25; 2:1-13). Suffering, we learn in the Beatitudes, is part of being a faithful disciple and we know that the disciples got the message because ten out of the eleven faithful disciples died a martyr’s death (Fox and Chadwick, 2001, 10).

Literary Context

The Beatitudes take their name from the Latin translation (beati) of the Greek word for honor (μακάριος) which means “humans privileged recipients of divine favor” or “favored, blessed, fortunate, happy,  privileged“ (BDAG 4675, 2, 2a). Jesus repeats μακάριος nine times.

The Bible uses repetition for emphasis—twice is emphasis; three times is highly emphatic; and nine times is unprecedented. This emphatic repetition reinforces the sermon’s content. The sermon in Matthew pictures Jesus as the new Moses issuing a new law of grace on a mountain (like Mount Sinai), while in Luke the sermon presents both blessings and curses (woes), a pattern associated with covenantal law (Deut 28). In other words, the literary style and content of the text are both attention-grabbers for a Jewish audience.

Old Testament Context

Jesus’ repeated use of μακάριος in the sermon alludes to Psalm 1 in the  Greek translation (most familiar to first century readers), where it says:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Ps 1:1-2)

Psalm 1 pictures God’s shalom, a call to holiness, and integration (the opposite of tension) within ourselves, with God (through obedience to the law), and with others with an amazing economy of words. Other references to μακάριος speak, not of integration, but of tension, such as political tension (Psalm 2) and affliction (Isaiah 30). In Isaiah 30, for example, God makes an interesting promise to those that wait for him:

And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. (Isa 30:20)

The teacher here is the Messiah who blesses those who suffer “the bread of adversity and the water of affliction”—a poetic phrase meaning persecution, while the word for teacher (‎מוֹרֶ֔יךָ) also means early rain, a form of blessing in a desert region like Israel.

Commissioning Purpose

In his sermon, Jesus redefines the meaning of honor, an important, but neglected, translation of μακάριος (Neyrey 1998, 164). If Jesus had wanted to convey the idea of blessed—the usual translation of μακάριος, then the more conventional word in Greek would eulogetos (France 2007, 161). Honored is a more appropriate translation  because the ancient world had an honor-shame culture where even a small insult requires an immediate and sometimes deadly response—Jesus forbids such responses. When Jesus taught forgiveness, enemy love, and turning the other cheek, he radically confronted the honor-shame culture, where masters had honor and slaves had mostly shame.

Dishonor in the ancient world Jesus redefined as honor among his disciples. Jesus said:

Honored are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:11–12)

In other words, heavenly rewards follow from earthly persecution. In a culture obsessed with glory and honor—especially family honor, the preferred translation for μακάριος here is honor, not blessing. It is more consistent with the rest of Jesus’ sermon and less consistent with the law of Moses with blessings and curses as in Psalm 1.

The Beatitude

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Corner_2020  

Continue Reading

Prayer for Others

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father, Beloved Son, Holy Spirit,

We praise you for being willfully present in our lives—teach us to be willfully present in the lives of those around us.

We confess our need for holiness—may your example shine through us.

We confess that we are often attracted more to culture and less to you—teach use how to live faithfully in tension with the world around us.

We confess the need to be reconciled with those that pain us and those we pain—teach us how to live sacrificially in your name.

We thank you for the life and sacrifice of your son, Jesus Christ, and for many spiritual gifts showered on us by your Holy Spirit.

Grant us strength for the day, grace for those we meet, and peace.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer for Other

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Corner_2020  

Continue Reading

Tension with Others

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101You have heard that it was said, 

You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 

But I say to you, Love your enemies and 

pray for those who persecute you, 

so that you may be sons of your Father 

who is in heaven. (Matt 5:43-45)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

When we become Christians, tension with others can arise in two ways. First, when we draw closer to God, the gap between the biblical values we are growing into and the cultural values we are leaving behind widens, and people notice. After I started seminary, for example, I noticed that some of my saltier friends stopped using profanity in my presence. Second, because God loves people, when we draw closer to God and become more like Jesus, we cannot help but love people too (John 13:34–35). Although sanctification creates a gap between us and others, God’s love flowing through us works to bridge this gap (Jas 2:15–16).

Abraham and Lot

Consider the story of Abraham and his nephew, Lot. God blessed Abraham and then revealed plans to destroy two sinful cities, Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:17–20). Set apart from the world, Abraham then prayed to God to spare the cities for the sake of the righteous living there (Gen 18:23–32), presumably including his nephew, Lot.

Sodom and Gomorrah

Lot showed no problem living in Sodom or compassion for his neighbors. Quite the contrary, Lot displayed bad judgment in choosing to live in Sodom (Gen 13:10) and only left Sodom on the urging of angels sent to retrieve him (Gen 19:16). Lot’s wife found it even harder to leave Sodom and disobeyed the angels by looking back at the flaming city (Gen 19:26).

Reflecting on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the church can position itself relative to culture in three ways: working to redeem the culture like Abraham, inattentive to the culture like Lot, or beguiled by the culture like Lot’s wife. Jesus commends Abraham’s approach (Luke 9:52–56), but the grace extended has limits, as Jesus instructs his disciples:

And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. (Matt 10:11–15)

The disciples are to offer peace (that is, to preach the Gospel) to everyone for the sake of others willing to listen, but those unwilling to listen should have their wishes respected (Matt 10:14).

The Gap

The gap between others and ourselves is the focus of the last three Beatitudes:

Honored are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Honored are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Honored are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (Matt 5:9-11)

In these Beatitudes, Jesus neither denies, nor excuses, nor runs away from persecution. Instead, he treats persecution as a ministry opportunity—“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44)—and he offers consolation for those suffering it. The implication is that tension with others is the norm, not the exception, for Christian disciples

Tension with Other

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Corner_2020  

Continue Reading