Posted by: Michelle Knoll | June 17, 2017

Answering the Call

Sometimes, I think we forget that Jesus’ twelve disciples were real people.1914551

I mean, think about it.  They lived in society. They worked. They had wives. They had neighbors. They had kids.

They had to deal with a government they didn’t like, one of the nastiest, most brutal governments in all of history. I’m sure the government lording over them day and night made tons of decisions they didn’t like.

Do you think they were less opinionated than we are about our government?

They had to deal with the cost of living, and pay taxes, just like we do today. They had to abide by the rules and norms of society, or face the consequences, just like we do today. They had bosses, and coworkers that they didn’t always get along with. Just like us. They dealt with impatient customers, hateful competitors, long days at work, and probably didn’t get vacations. At least, not like we can today.

So do you think they complained much?

The disciples, at least some of them, had wives. They probably had children, too. They had brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents. They knew the meaning of “family squabble.” They had dwellings to keep up, animals to feed, preparations to make for bad weather during certain seasons. They dealt with dirt and sweat every day, and weren’t afforded the luxury of taking a bath every evening before they went to bed.

They had neighbors.

I mean, that’s enough right there, right? Neighbors. Neighbors can be a very good thing, but they can also be a pain. Neighbors can be all up in your business, or they can be weird and watch you (translated, stare at you) from a distance. They can be the best neighbors in the world, or the most horrible in the world. And you don’t know how they’re going to be, until you’ve already moved in next door to them!

Close-up view of fishing rope and netsSome of you might think it’s silly to bring this up, but it’s not. Most of us today have this very simplistic view of what life was like in the Israel of New Testament times.  We think that everyone in Israel thought the same things, felt the same way, lived the same way. Not hardly.  The disciples lived in an area where people from many different nations passed through, all the time. Not only did they have to live with the mindset of the Romans (and all who were secretly working for the Romans, looking for a way to find favor with Rome), but they also had to live alongside others who didn’t believe the same things they believed, didn’t worship the same way they worshiped. There were Greeks in the area. There were Samaritans. There were Phoenicians, Aramaeans, Itureans, just to name a few. Lots of different belief systems, lots of different mindsets about life and what was most important. The disciples had to live peacefully among all that.

And to beat it all, even though the disciples were Israelites, they were looked down upon by the Judean Israelites, who thought the Galileans were very uneducated and beneath their dignity. (Sort of like how Democrats look down on Republicans, and Republicans look down on Democrats. But I’ll leave that for you to pause and calmly think about.)

So, in the midst of their very normal, daily lives that aren’t that different from our own, they encounter a Man like no other, a Man who has a completely different perspective on life, who isn’t ruffled by the government’s ugliness, who isn’t offended at the loud and unruly neighbors, who isn’t worried about the rising cost of living, the taxes, or the workplace.

A Man who isn’t stressed about the future.

And this Man says, “Follow Me.”

Seriously? Follow him? With all the fear we place in our kids nowadays (and ourselves) about “stranger danger,” I’m not sure I would have done what the disciples did, had I been in their shoes. Er, sandals.

The Bible says that they “dropped their nets and followed him.” There wasn’t any discussion. There wasn’t any “meeting of the minds” between them and their families, between them and their bosses, their coworkers, their kids.

There wasn’t any hesitation. They just… went.

 

Honestly, I’m not sure everything suddenly changed for them, though there were some drastic changes that happened immediately. If they had any position in society, that no longer mattered. If they were of a certain mindset about how society was supposed to work, they put that aside. Did their opinions rear an ugly head? Oh sure, from time to time. But following Jesus was the only thing that mattered to them. Their wives and children had to come into agreement with that, because that’s what happened.  And they didn’t abandon their families; somehow they honored those commitments.  But they did that under the all-encompassing commitment to Jesus. He was their master.

“Love your neighbor.”

Yes, the unruly neighbor, the loud neighbor, the neighbor that steals from you, that stares at you, that stands aloof and won’t talk to you. The neighbor that believes differently from you.

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

Romans, too? Yes, Romans, too. Just because the government isn’t acting the way you want, you still bless them, and don’t curse them. Judean Jews? Yes, even them. Pharisees and all the others. Bless them!

“Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

Jesus didn’t allow the attitude that it was okay to keep from the government what rightfully belonged to the government. He didn’t agree with complaining about the government that was in charge at the time.

Hmm.

Jesus didn’t demand anything of them, but to love one another. Past one another’s faults, past one another’s strange personalities, past one another’s pasts and mistakes and failures and goofy bad habits. He asked them to love the people around them that weren’t part of their group. He asked them to stand up for what was right, but in a loving way. He asked them to be patient with one another, and with others outside their group.

What Jesus asked of them, they did. They answered the call.

One of my most favorite songs of all is Steven Curtis Chapman’s “For the Sake of the Call.” I’m adding a link here, for your enjoyment.

Let’s answer the call, okay? The world needs us to do this right now, more than ever.

 

 

Posted by: Michelle Knoll | June 15, 2017

When We All Want to React

There’s been a post going around on Facebook about something supposedly from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, in which Uncle Screwtape tells Wormwood that he should make sure “the patient remains completely fixated on politics.” It’s getting shared because so many people are so frustrated with the insane amount of fixation on politics that’s swallowing up everyone’s time.

Well, the problem is, this post isn’t accurate. It’s close, but it’s not accurate at all. After doing a little research, I found that this “fixation on politics” post really needs to stop traveling through social media.

There’s a great article on a blog called “The Wardrobe Door” that explains what C.S. Lewis really did say in his writings concerning politics. You can read it here. Make sure you take the time to read it all. I found it extremely enlightening.

Now, let’s talk for just a minute about the reacting that’s going on. I’m addressing my Christian readers/friends for the moment, but the rest of you can follow along.

I understand. The world drives you crazy. Sometimes you just want to SCREAM because of all the insanity going on. Sometimes you feel as if the world went to sleep and then suddenly woke up in another galaxy, where things are backward from what they are supposed to be, and green is red and yellow is black and no one means what they say and night and day have been swapped. I get it. I understand. The world is acting stupid, and you’re getting tired of it. Totally get that. It’s frustrated you to the point of anger, and you just can’t hold it in.

Or, can you?

Ask yourself one question: do you really have to react?

What if you didn’t say anything? What if you didn’t make a comment on someone’s Facebook political post? What if you didn’t like someone’s emotionally charged partisan post? Or like someone’s tweet? What if you didn’t share?

What would happen if you just… walked away?

If you just walked away from the computer, or figuratively walked away by closing Facebook and doing something else with your computer, what would happen then? Would the world stop turning? Would the room suddenly explode? I mean, seriously! Would your life come to a screeching halt if you just didn’t react to something you read or heard or saw?

Or — oh my gosh, hold on to your seats — what if you PRAYED when you saw something politically charged!? What if you turned to the Lord of Hosts and talked to HIM about what you just read/heard/saw instead of joining in the ranting/posting/opinion sharing?

And I’m not talking about praying with a “Oh God, get ’em! Give ’em what for!” attitude. But heartfelt prayer, prayer that comes from a humble heart, a heart that knows it’s not better than anyone else, a heart that realizes God is bigger than all these insane problems in the world, a heart that realizes that IT’S NOT GOD, and it doesn’t have ALL the answers.

What if we all prayed instead of reacting?

Okay, Christian readers/friends, I’m opening up this post for conversation. I really want to know what you think. Does prayer help? Can we affect change in this world with prayer? Please leave your comments below. I would love to hear what you think.

 

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