I don’t know what your childhood was like, but Christmas Eve night and Christmas mornings were always magical times in my life.  Connected with those moments are magical memories.  My parents were never made of money but they always saw to it that our Christmas’ were special.  We never got super expensive gifts, although I do remember that year I got a Sega Genesis with Sonic the Hedgehog or X-Men.  Yet we seemed to usually get a lot of gifts.  Even to this day, when I think there certainly couldn’t be anymore gifts, my mother dismisses herself and says, “I think I have something else downstairs that I didn’t get a chance to wrap.”  Sure enough, she always comes upstairs to the living room with another sweater, socks, underwear, or game.  One year I specifically remember getting a Transformers punching bag.  Do you remember those things from the late 80’s early 90’s?  They were filled with air and if you punched them they would fall back and pop back up again.

So here’s the question: Did you ever peak?  I only peaked once and I regret it to this day.  All I wanted this one year was a Nintendo.  The summer before we had visited my uncle’s cottage in Canada and one evening he hooked up a Nintendo.  On the screen appeared a squatty man with a thick mustache and  red overalls…I would later learn it was Mario.  He would move acrossed the screen from left to right banging his head on bricks while squashing fat diamond-shaped bird heads and would transform if he ate mushrooms or flowers.  WHAT A CONCEPT!  Why didn’t I think of that?!?  Instead of fishing being the highlight that summer, it was shooting ducks on an electronic screen with a dog who would mockingly laugh at you if you missed and battling giant lizards with a short italian plumber.  It was a glorious vacation but one our grandparents wouldn’t understand.

So that Christmas I couldn’t take it anymore…was I getting a Nintendo or not?  I snuck into my parents room, my mother was never very good at hiding things, opened the closet door, shuffled some bags…when all of a sudden a beam of light exploded into the closet, while soft angelic voices hummed the theme melody of Mario Brothers.  Dun dun dun da dun da dunt da da dun da dunt da da dunt.  There it was in all of its splendor…a Nintendo.  Sure I felt joy and unexplainable awe at my discovery, but I also realized I had selfishly experienced that moment alone and no longer had anything to wonder about. 

I experience Christmas differently now that I am an adult with a four-year old daughter and a two-year old son.  Now it is about them and the joy I receive in watching the experiences they now have.  I understand Christmas in a different way now as well.  I realize that what I have enjoyed most over all of these years is–family.  I remember laying in bed Christmas Eve night hearing my parents laying the presents out under the tree or waking up the next morning and hearing them at work.  I remember getting up with my siblings and going out into the living room to see an array of presents scattered under the tree, some wrapped some not.  I remember everyone smelling like morning because we had all stormed out of bed without changing or brushing our teeth:)  I remember mom giving instructions on what to open first and in what order.  I remember dad putting on the Macy’s Day Parade and telling us to look up and see the Snoopy, Big Bird, or Gummy Bears floats.  I remember him holding a cup of coffee with a big grin on his face because he has always LOVED Christmas.  I remember mom in the kitchen filling the air with breakfast aromas and dad putting together our toys or “just trying out” our video games to make sure they worked.  As I recall these memories I feel warmth and am holding back joyful tears.  Why?  Because more than being able to remember the gifts (which I have forgotten most of them) I remember those moments I shared in relationships with loved ones.

As I get older I realize more and more that life is mostly about one thing…PEOPLE.  If you haven’t figured this out yet you have a lot to learn and many disappointments ahead.  THINGS will never bring true joy…even though I have a Nintendo that still brings me joy to this day.  Oh yeah folks…it works like a Nintendo was meant to work.  You know, it never actually works the first time until you have developed the art of Nintendo.  This art is highly skilled and developed and only the experienced know the ancient Japanese secrets.  You pound the top of the system, you take out the cartridge and swiftly blow into the trench at the bottom, also blowing into the system itself as though you are giving it CPR.  Those who are truly the Masters practice the Game Genie Method.  This is where you connect the game to a golden attachment cartridge that was meant to enhance your gaming experience with codes and passwords…

Okay, sorry I got sidetracked.  They say, “when you die you can’t take anything with you.”  This is true but what will be waiting for you and will eventually come with you is people.  What am I suggesting?  People are forever and so are those relationships we have with loved ones.  This is our hope as Christians isn’t it?  Our hope is that when we die we will actually live in Christ and in some way we will all be together for all time.  So this Christmas season, stop to notice the details and take in the moments.  But most important of all, stop and watch the people, your loved ones, and let those moments create memories in your mind.  Dad holding his cup of coffee with a big grin on his face, mom crying as she opens the gifts the kids made for her, brother or sister, son or daughter jumping up and down with joy as they say “it’s what I’ve always wanted!”

Enjoy the conversations, the hugs and kisses, the smells of comfort food coming from the kitchen, the feel of cold winter air on your face as you walk toward a warm dwelling where you will celebrate.  The smell of pine, the feel of wrapping paper, the sounds of laughter, the taste of candy canes, and the sight of lights.  And in the midst of all of this…think of Christ.  The giver of all good gifts who is preparing a place for us that will one-up Christmas morning a million times over for an eternity.  May this message be more than just cliché for you this year, let it be reality.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!

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At the beginning of Thomas á Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ he speaks of the most important thing a Christian can do in their life time is to study Christ.  Yet it is not enough to merely study him but to imitate him in our everyday lives.  The very practice of doing or saying what  Jesus said or did is to experience a bit of life through the mind of Jesus Christ.  Think about it, when Jesus didn’t ignore those who were often invisible in his culture (like children) but embraced them.  Such an act changes a person from the inside out.  One learns to see the disenfranchised with compassion and love.  Or when Jesus said to turn the other cheek or walk the extra mile for an enemy.  This sort of sacrificial living teaches that life is not all about us and that even the hearts of our enemies can be softened.

We can also examine the lifestyle of Christ, how he spent significant amount of time away in prayer.  We all need this time of prayer and fellowship with God.  We can often fall into the trap of feeding our rational/intellectual side of being human and neglect the other basic need of being a social being as well.  We need that time to simply have relationship with God.  This is vital for becoming like Christ.  Paul encourages us in Romans to have the mind of Christ, to renew our minds.  A very big element of this is spending time, getting to know Jesus.  What does this do?  It helps us to truly think, act, and speak like Jesus.  I believe that this is the reason for so much nonsense in the world and even among so-called Christians who appeal to a gospel, that Paul says in Galatians 1, REALLY ISN”T A GOSPEL AT ALL.  Why?  Because they have perverted the faith of Christ, the apostles, the early Church fathers and mothers, and great men and women of God down through the ages for a lie.  How?  Because they do not truly know Christ or have not spent significant time in his presence getting to know him.  Instead they follow their passions, imaginations, feelings, emotions, lusts…to create something that though it sounds biblical because they use scripture, it is not biblical at all because they twist scripture.

In Jeremiah God speaks of false prophets crying out, “Peace, Peace” but the message and warning from God was that “there is no peace” but judgment.  Why is this important to recall?  Because we need to be in tune with God the Father and be aware of what is coming down the pike.  We need to be able to heed his warnings.  We need to be able to know the truth when we hear it and know what is false.  There is a lot of false teaching out there as we speak.  We live in a very pluralistic society where people are making up beliefs as they go along.  While studying philosophy in my undergrad, one thing that drove me nuts was that there was a philosopher for every crazy belief you could think of.  One day my professor said, “Philosophy is a dangerous thing, with the right charisma and eloquent rhetoric, a philosopher or orator could prove that a toothpick is God.”  Sounds ridiculous huh?  Well there are people that teach that god is in everything, in all matter and that that matter possesses the essence of God.  Therefore if God is in a tree and that toothpick came from the tree that housed God…the toothpick is God too.

So what is the safeguard to all of this.  Praying, and sticking to the faith you have received.  Pay attention to that check in your spirit that says, “You know…that sounds all nice and stuff but something isn’t right here, something is off.”  St. Irenaeus was a bishop in the ancient Roman province of Gaul in the second century AD.  He was very close to the time of the apostles and had received the faith that had been handed down to him by very trusted and faithful men.  In turn he taught the “barbarians” in Gaul, the simple folks who could not read or write.  Yet he says in Against Heresies if someone came and began to teach them a different Gospel than what the apostles had handed down to them they would recognize it immediately as a lie and would turn and run the other way.  It is a faith that many have suffered for, died for, and guarded, not only with their words but with their hearts, minds and lives.  We need to honor them by taking our faith as seriously as they did.

The moral of that story is that it is better for most Christians to not even listen to deception and to flee from it instead.  Now God has called many throughout the Church ages to practice what is known as “apologetics” or the defense of the faith.  Yet these individuals are usually deeply grounded in the teachings of Christianity and are very familiar with why we believe what we believe and most of the details behind our faith.  But the truth of the matter is that most Christians do not have the time, the resources, the interest or the calling to engage in this.  We are all part of the same body with different gifts, passions, and callings that are equally as vital and useful to our community as the next.  I have no ability in leading worship because I sing like a sick duck.  Yet I am thankful for those who are called into this ministry who can lead us into the presence of God through worship.

I say all this because it is necessary in our day to stay anchored in the faith and know what that faith is.  There are a lot of false gospels as Paul says in Galatians, but they are no gospels at all.  In fact, he says “If anyone teaches you another gospel than the one we have given, even if I or angels come doing so, let him be cursed.”  Pretty strong language that wouldn’t go over big in our day.  But his language emphasizes the urgency of his warning.  This is why Jesus was so sturn with those who departed from the true faith, same as the apostles, same as the early Church fathers and mothers.  Thomas Oden says in his three volume work Systematic Theology that “the vital question for Christians is not rather it is palatable but rather it is true.”  We are not interested in only the things we like about scripture but what is true…what is scripture and the teachings of Jesus and the apostles claiming is true.  That’s what we want to know.  That’s what we need.  That’s what God expects of us.

Life is busy!  Right?  I know I am not the only one experiencing this.  Fall always seems to be a busy time of year and just when I feel like I am starting to get a routine going and settling into the semester a bit…WHAAM!!! The Holidays Hit!  That’s right folks…Thanksgiving in the U.S. of A. is almost a week away.  Insane isn’t it?  Well that has nothing to do with my post but I thought I would just reach out for some support here:) Misery loves company.

Anyhow, what I really want to think about  is how the world sees us Christians.  I feel like I have this issue on my heart a lot.

The other night I was sitting on the couch and my wife had one of those “girly” flicks on.  You know, those movies that are oozing with sappiness.  They have more sap than a Maple tree in February.  But here’s my confession–the other night as I was sitting on the couch reading, my man-eyes found themselves watching the ooey gooeyness.  I found myself being entertained.  I know…AHHHH!

The movie was based on a novel where this young Christian couple move out west in the 1870’s to settle a ranch.  They hire some farm-hands to help them keep up with the work.  This couple is unlike most ranch owners in that they genuinely care about the farm-hands.  They invite them for dinner in their home, give them gifts, and even have them in their home for a Sunday morning gathering in which they read scripture and pray.

What caught my attention most was how one of the farm hands turns to another worker and says, “If what they believe makes them the way that they are, then I want to know what it is that they believe.”  I thought immediately, “Well that’s Jesus’ vision of true evangelism in a nut-shell.”  Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Sounds pretty close huh?

If the world could see the love of Christ in the Church in how we act towards and treat each other they will know that we are the disciples of Christ.  A few chapters later in John 17:23 Jesus states that if we are one in relationship the world will believe in the reality of Christ and God’s love.  Sounds a lot different than what Ghandi said about Christians, “I would be a Christian if it wasn’t for the Christians.”  You know, I don’t blame him.  I listen and watch what the Church is often up to today and I see so much division and self-righteousness that I know that it is the reason why the spirit of Ghandi lives in many unbelievers.

Want proof?  Turn on Christian radio and listen to the right-wing conservative Christains demonizing and bashing so called “liberal Christians.”  The term that usually get’s thrown around is “Pharisees” and “heretics.”  I hear a lot more “Rushian” (that’s my word for followers of Rush Limbaugh) and “Beckian” then Christian coming out of many of their mouths.  Their rhetoric is twenty-first century, capitalistic, republican jargon that often high-jacks verses of scripture to support their preconceived ideology.  They make Christ look like…well Rush Limbaugh.  If other Christians do not conform to this type of Christianity then they question the “other’s” committment to Christ and wonder if they are really saved.

In addition, I am in seminary and I hear plenty of moderate to liberal voices that dismiss the right.  They call them “fundalmentalist lunatics” who would burn everyone else at the stake if they got the chance.  They often view the right as uneducated and uninformed cavemen.  They feel that the right interprets the Bible way to literally and at times are offended if they actually accept scripture at face value.  Oh my gosh how horrible, wouldn’t want that!  Oh yeah…they call the people on the right “Pharisees” too.

Yet I can hear the voices of those Christians on the fringes of the Church bashing everything that is orthodox, doctrinal, dogma, creedal, patristic, traditional, ritualistic, theological, ecumenical etc. as nothing but traps put in place by mean authoritarian monsters who just want to control the nice and good-intentioned masses.  These people feel that they have been specially ordained by God to set the record straight and teach us all what Jesus REALLY meant that the Church has gotten completely wrong over the last two-thousand years.  Oh and by the way…they call the two groups above “Pharisees.”  Yet the two groups above call these people “heretics” and even “Pharisees” at times.

So will the real Pharisees please stand up???  I’m confused.  Yet I know that all of us usually fit into one of these categories and I probably just upset most everyone who read those descriptions.  I think I offended myself too actually:)

I wonder however, if there is a golden mean…that is, is there something in common we all have?  UHHMMM YEAHHH!  Probably 85 to 90% of what we believe if not more.  Yet we major in the minors and demonize each other.  We allow our differences to become divisive.  WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?  My guess: because we all think Jesus favors our point of view over everyone else’s and would be on our team in the arguments.  But I think we are getting it wrong.  I think scripture teaches that God is aware of the differences and that often times they are gifts and not reasons for division.  Scripture teaches unity and “one-ness” in the midst of differences.  Relationship in the face of disagreements.  Disagreements and differences are good.  The challenge is not letting them become divisive.

Paul in Galatians 5 says that in this new kingdom, there is neither Jew nor Greek, male or female, slave or free.  He is not saying that ethnicity ceases or cultural heritage is obsolete.  He is not saying that women stop being women and men stop being men.  That is mere foolishness.  What he is saying is that those things are no longer reasons for division and that we all look upon each other as equals…”one in Christ.”  The love of Christ is all-embracing and requires us to “love one another.”  NO EXCEPTIONS.

I admit, I am guilty of my own prejudice against a certain group of believers that I find rude and abrasive.  It may be okay for me to address this concern with my brothers and sisters but it is not okay for me to get on the radio and attack them in front of the whole world.  It is not right to name drop and attack like vicious wolves.  Whatever happened to correcting your brother in secret and in love?  I think we think it makes us seem more right  when  we boldly and abrasively demean each other.  If this is how we continue to act I am sure the world is not going to witness the reality of Christ and God’s love among us.  We are being a disobedient Church.  Ghandi said, “You Christians don’t act like your Christ.” (paraphrase).  He is usually right.  Not because we can’t but because we choose to ignore his command.  Yet Christ says in John, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Loving Relationship in the midst of differences is what I am encouraging here.  As the world becomes more pluralistic and more violent toward Christianity we need to recoginize those precious things we have in common and embrace each other as family.  This is what our Christ commands.  We would do well to heed his words.  Let’s look past the differences and see Christ in us all.

Now don’t run off on me!:) I am aware that terms like “morality”, “virtues” and “ethics” seem quite dry and archaic.  But I think that some of my readers that would initially tune me out here will find this post very encouraging and invigorating.

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is a classical historical work by Edward Gibbon that was been a foundational authority on the Roman Empire for the past few centuries.  It is certainly not an easy read, but it is full of priceless information about the long period of time that the Empire existed.  This work is important to Christians because it is during the reign of this empire that Christ lived, died and rose again.  It was during this empire that the early church grew rapidly and thrived.  It was eventually this empire that would adopt Christianity as the state religion under Constatine.  And when this empire collapsed in the West, it was Christainity that remained as the leader of the West in its institutionalized form as well as in its pastoral role.

In one part of this great work, Gibbon addresses the phenomenon of how the Church grew so rapidly in the first several centuries.  Gibbon gives five solid reasons.  For the sake of this post we will examine one, and address the others in later posts.  The one I want to focus on in this post is that the Church grew rapidly because of “The pure and austere morals of the Church” or as he puts it later on “The virtues of the first Christians.”

Gibbon points out that the early Christians “demonstrated their faith by his virtues.”  That is to say, someone outside the Church could pick out a Christian based upon their virtues, moral and ethical behavior.  Imagine that.  In a contemporary society when pastors are divorcing their husbands or wives; ministers are having adulterous affairs or skimming off the top of ministries to buy a Rolls Royce or expensive clothing; Christians are suing Christians at the drop of a hat and so on.  Yet, these early Christians put strong emphasis on the transforming power of God to cause a change in their behavior that they committed to maintaining.

When they repented, they expected a “reformation of manners.”  Good ethical and moral behavior was expected of them.  We see this taking place even in Paul’s letters to the church of Corinth.  In the words of one of my professors, Paul was basically saying in those letters, “Stop acting like that…true Christians don’t behave that way!”  A life of vice was not acceptable.  So much so, that when the “most abandoned sinners” observed this lifestyle, many were attracted to the faith and the possibility that they too could be changed into the image of Christ.  They observed that the “driving passion” of these Christians was a “perfect life”, that is a virtuous lifestyle free from malice and vice.  In fact, they were so concerned with living holy lives, that if they were guilty of anything they were “guilty of an excess of virtue.”  Some of those early Christians would read scripture and take things very literally and at times perhaps legalistically.

The pagan world looked at that early Church and although they might not understand why there was a change in their ethical behavior, they were amazed by it and often drawn to it.  This is recognized by historians like Gibbons, who often states that he as a historian is not interested in establishing theological truths but understanding and stating history.  Yet it is also recognized by external evidence by secular officials of Rome like Pliny the Younger.  While emperor Trajan was in power, Pliny wrote to him asking how he should deal with the people known as Christians in the mid to late second century.  It is a priceless document because in it Pliny states that besides the fact that the Christians refuse to worship Caeser as a god, they are law abiding, loving, and good citizens.  He attests to their moral fortitude.  In fact, the early Christians thought it very important to be blameless citizens, unless the laws interfered with the laws of God.

Further on in the Roman Empire, Justin the Apostate came to power.  Under his reign he attempted to reestablish paganism as the state religion.  However, he admitted that he had an enormous struggle.  The struggle was that even though he had estabished a pretty efficient system of bishops and officials to oversee the practices of this pagan religion, the Christians’ moral and ethical behaviors, as well as their endless acts of charity far outweighed anything the pagans could do.

Gibbon and many other scholars point to this as one of the main reasons why Christianity grew so quickly in the Roman Empire and throughout the world.  There is no doubt in my mind that the Church today needs to return to this.  The Church needs a moral, ethical, love revival.  The Church needs to stop apologizing for its high moral standards found in scripture and tradition and begin to live it out.  Part of why we do and don’t do the things we do is because God expects us to be holy and different than the world.  There should be a contrast that is markedly different about us.  So that when it comes to issues like pre-marital sex, drunkeness, violence, gossiping, bickering, oppressing, ridiculing etc–the Church should be pure and blameless.

Many unbelievers argue that they can be moral and ethical too without Christianity.  I argue that they do not have the longevity, pure motives, and complete ability to do so.  I argue that all you have to do is walk into a mall and see just how well they live out those so called morals by the way they treat each other.  I also argue that the morals and ethics they have are not solely intrinsic but they are running on the fumes of morality taught to our culture by Judeo-Christian inheritance.  Lastly, I argue that any ability they have to give the appearance of morality is based upon what the patristic fathers saw as a mere imprint of the image of God that they were originally created in.  That is to say, that their morality is based upon an inward conviction that God has installed to warn them of what is wrong and right.

The problem today is that the world looks at the Church and doesn’t see much of a difference.  People are not dumb, they know when we talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.  I argue that Christians through the power of the Holy Spirit have the ability to live moral and ethically pleasing lives before the Lord.  However, most Christians don’t even try.  We join churches (which are basically social clubs for many) take on the title of Christians, carry our Bibles, act special on Sundays and then lead worldly lives the rest of the week.  This is not good enough.  Paul would say, “That is not how Christians behave.”

 

Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind, and a clean consience inspires great trust in God. – Thomas à Kempis

In the human heart and soul there is much restlessness.  We are always seeking for something to satisfy that craving in us.  In our culture we attempt to do this by acquiring material possessions.  We are under a false assumption that that new_______ (you fill in the blank) will make us feel more fulfilled.  For me, that temptation comes in the form of books.  I have this inward sense that the next book I get through amazon.com in the mail will be the book that has all the answers and satisfies me.  But you know, when I am done reading that book, it goes up on the book shelf and I forget close to 80% of the contents I read within.  In fact, there are but a select group of books that I find myself returning to for answers or resources in sermons or papers.

I have begun a process therefore of going through my books over the past few years to remove those books that are not much use to me.  They are clutter and take up space.  Thomas à Kempis in another place says something along the lines of: we will not be judged upon how many books we have read in this life.  The question is: have we lived a good and holy life before God in all purity.  Now books are indeed tremendous tools and I am a strong advocate for them…I LOVE BOOKS!  However, they are tools to merely help us maintain that life that is pleasing before the Lord.

But this post is not about books, it is about the fact that like à Kempis said in the quote above, the soul will not be satisfied by many words. It will not be satisfied by all the words I read in books, hear in sermons, get in counseling sessions, admonishment from a friend, or from the TV evangelist.  These things may help, but they will not satisfy.  So stop depending on them to.  This blog will not satisfy you.  The goal however is how Paul Reese once put it, “The goal of a sermon is to bring the congregants as close to the heart of God as possible, and leave them there.”  Why?  Because the preacher, book, CD, tape, counselor, and teacher can not do the work that only God can; namely satisfy our souls.

When we come in contact with God he does what Paul describes as “from glory to glory he changes me.”  That is to say, he does a work within us that makes us more like Christ so that we may acheive what à Kempis calls “a good life [that] eases the mind, a clean conscience.”  This is truly a great gift from God.  There have been times in my life when I have had everything going for me.  I was getting a great education, making decent money, people loved me, great family, and I had all the latest books.  Yet there was inner turmoil and want.  I was hungry for more and I felt shame inside me.  But as à Kempis put it in another place “a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars.”

I find great wisdom in à Kempis’ quote that I first mentioned above.  It is when I have closeness with God, strive to live a pure and good life, with a clean conscience that my soul is truly satisfied.  It is in that state that I find peace in the storms, calm in times of stress, joy in moments of sadness, clarity of thoughts and guidance when the journey is foggy and perilous, and wisdom in all of lives circumstances.

But note that he goes on to say that such “a clean conscience inspires  great trust in God.”  Why?  Because we see from experience that it works.  We learn that is what satisfies the soul.  This is why over and over again the apostles spend most of their letters admonishing the churches and the saints therein to live moral and ethical lives.  Behavior that is unbecoming of Christians, leads to failure and dissatisfaction in the Christian life.  Such a person is unfruitful and wish-washy.

Strive to live a holy life and your soul will be satisfied.  God can work and mold such a humble person.  To put it simply…there is less crap that has to be shoveled out of the way before he can get to us.  I pray that you and I will yield ourselves before the Holy Spirit so he can purify our hearts and minds so we can live our lives with a clean conscience and a mind at ease.  As we do we will live a good life.  To such a person Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8 RSV).”

**The picture above of the stained glass window is an image of St. John resting his head on Jesus.  The beauty of this image is imagining John being able to hear the beating heart Jesus.  Can you imagine such an experience?  I believe that God invites us all to draw near to him, so that we are so close that we may hear his beating heart.

So here’s my chance to hear from you again.  Sometimes we get good conversations going and other times I get emails.  Either way, these “Chime Ins” are ways to think about pressing questions that Christians since the beginning up until today have wrestled with.

Why this question?  Because a buddy and I got into a pretty heated debate about this question.  I hope to write an article on this issue shortly after I have this question up for a couple of days.  So stay tuned and be bold with your beliefs and opinions.  So what do you think?  Should Christians ever be violent?

Then Jesus* told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.2He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.3In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.”4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” ’*6And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says.7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ (Luke 18:1-8 NRSV).

As I read this passage today for my devotion, I was prompted to reflected upon some of the thoughts my readers and myself shared in the last article.  I was thinking of how we think of God in terms of our humanity.  For instance, when we think of God’s love for his children, we think of it in terms of our love of our children.  In this passage of scripture from Luke, this is what Jesus is doing in his parable.  Jesus calls the judge in this parable an “unrighteous judge.”  It is clear therefore that when Jesus reflects on the actions of this judge that he is not saying, “God is like this judge.”  Instead, what he is doing is giving an example in human terms.  As Leon Morris points out, it is an example of “degrees.”  That is to say, God acts in much MORE just ways and with more ethical and compassionate motives than this “unrighteous judge.”

You see, this earthly judge responds to this helpless widow because  he finds her quite annoying with her persistence in seeking his help against her enemies.  This judge just wants to get rid of her.  He doesn’t feel compassion for her, benevolence, or mercy.  He doesn’t think it is the ethical thing to do.  He isn’t even concerned what God or men may think if he helps or doesn’t help at all.  His motives are completely selfish.  He helps this widow to help himself.  It is as though she is an annoying fly that he just can’t swat away so he appeases her merely to do away with her.  One gets the sense that if he could  have pushed her off of a cliff, it would have sufficed, just as long as she was removed.  However, the law did not allow him to do so so he takes the only avenue he has…using justice to silence her annoyance.

Jesus is not saying that God gets annoyed with our persistence, on the contrary.  What Jesus is saying is that God is NOTHING like this judge.  He is saying that if an earthly judge like this piece of work would defend a helpless widow merely out of a necessity to relieve himself of her harassment, then how much more would our God who is nothing like this judge come to our aid?  The answer is: MUCH MORE!

This parable offers hope for those in need of justice, defense, provision, and companionship (to name but a few).  No matter what we are experiencing, God is near to vindicate us and do it “speedily.”  God is the good judge.

Now some commentators point to this passage to say that we need to be persistent in seeking God for help.  I on the other hand do not believe that is what this passage is getting at.  I do however believe that there are other parables that teach us to be persistent, but not this one.  I think the main focus is on God as the true and good judge.  If this passage is saying anything, it is saying that we don’t need to be as persistent as this widow was because we are not dealing with an earthly and unrighteous judge like she was.  Our judge is quick to her us and quick to come to our aid without our nagging.

Think on that today, that our God is the good judge who is quick to aid us.  Praise be to God!