Dear friends of my Good Morning messages. I will be taking a break from writing for a brief time, except for occasional notes. I have the opportunity to visit friends and churches in Africa. These are brothers and sisters in a very different culture from ours, but they prove the truth of Paul’s statement that we are of One Lord, One faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of us all. I will have e-mail, and will check in with my wife and friends regularly, and will try to keep you updated. I look forward to being back with you shortly. These messages have been important to me and I hope useful to you. Mizpah. (Look it up – Genesis 31:49)
Sacrifice, a word not held in high favor today, but one very necessary to consider. We certainly know the value of sacrifice in the Scriptures. Old Testament sacrifices, while seeming to be a bloody mess, were an act of obedience and faith for the people. They were also an important lesson pointing forward to the New Testament ultimate sacrifice in Jesus Christ. The sacrifice of Christ is the means of life for us all. We share in that sacrificial death and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead through our baptism.(Romans 6) Now the life of that great sacrificial love becomes our model. We sacrifice when we willingly put another’s interest ahead of our own, when we hold our tongue instead of biting back, when we suffer some injustice instead of demanding our rights. Good relationships are built on sacrifice. The central question is what I can give, not what I can get. Maybe, if we are willing to think further in the context of our society, we sacrifice some portion of our government entitlements, or set aside political considerations in favor of the common good, we will find a better life together. We have been given the greatest life possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Young and old alike need to seriously think what sacrifice means for daily life.
We are currently taking a few days vacation on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. This is the historic area where the colony of Maryland was founded in the mid-1600s. There are historic markers along many of the roads declaring “religious freedom”. The area was settled by Catholics who were coming out from religious persecution in England. On these shores they declared that there would be no animosity between Protestants and Catholics, and that “toleration was to be extended to all settlers believing in the Trinity”. In our day even that would be considered far too narrow of a standard, but it does show how deeply Christian faith was rooted in our founding. The issue of religion freedom has never left our consciousness. Neither has religious persecution which is alive and well today. Both Christians and Jews find themselves under attack for trying to hold to the tenants of their biblical faith. There was then, and there is now, a need for tolerance, understanding, and a willingness to listen to one another’s beliefs – if not agreeing and accepting at least honoring the other person as one whom God created and loves, and granting the other the religion freedom to live out their faith as their conscience dictates.
There was a body of Christian believers in the city of Corinth. Now Corinth was a cosmopolitan city and an important trading center in the Roman world. It was known throughout the empire as an immoral city. The new Christians had a difficult time giving up some of their old habits and practices. At the end of chapter four of Paul’s first letter to these believers he had to ask, “What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?”(vs.21) Obviously they wanted the love and gentleness, but for some they also wanted to continue their old practices as well. Sound very contemporary to me. However, Paul went on to say that they couldn’t have it both ways. He had to rebuke them harshly for a number of their practices. There is a verse repeated twice in the book of Proverbs that tells us “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” God came to give us life, but as Paul was trying to show the Corinthians, that life is found in a way that brings honor to our God. God has given us forgiveness and new life in Jesus Christ. This is a grace gift beyond measure. Paul calls us to rejoice in the new that has been so graciously given.
[categoryt Good Morning]