Think About It

thinking, please wait
Photo credit: <a href="">Karola Riegler</a>

1 John 1:1 – 2:2

We announce the origin of things to you. What we heard. What we witnessed with our own eyes. What we examined and touched with our own hands. It’s about life. Life that was revealed, that we’ve seen. We swear to it, and we tell you that life forever with the father was made known to us. And we’re telling you what we’ve seen and heard so you, too, can be together with us. Surely, we’re together with the father and with his son, Jesus. We’re writing this so our joy may be complete.

Here’s the message we got from Jesus and pass on to you:

God is light. There is nothing whatsoever dark about God.

If we say we’re with God while hiding our conduct in the dark, we’re lying. Our actions are false. But if we conduct ourselves in the light full disclosure, we’re together, and Jesus’ blood will take care of whatever’s wrong.

If we say nothing’s wrong, we’re fooling ourselves. We’re lying. If we admit to what is wrong, Jesus’ commitment to fairness will forgive us and make us right again.

If we say there’s nothing wrong, though, we make Jesus out to be a liar. We’ve missed the point.

My little children, I’m writing these things so you won’t continue to mess up. But, if anyone does mess up, we have someone to help us patch things up with God: Jesus. He’s a righteous dude, and he’s laid it all on the line to make things right with us again. And not just for us, but for absolutely everyone.

[See also, previous comments on 1:1-4 (Troubled Community), 1:5-10 (Confession), and 2:1-6 (You Can Do It).]

Anyone who is familiar with 12-step programs such as AA can tell you that the first step to getting your life back on track is admitting that you have a problem.

John’s first letter is about your first step. Life is to be had, and had in abundance and great joy, but first you have to take care of a few problems. Fortunately, says John, Jesus has offered to mentor us so that we can get through the problems and on to life.

With John, it’s a take it or leave it proposition. Here’s an offer. The decision is yours. The help is free, and it’s available for everyone, but you have to want to work the system.

Maybe you think don’t need it, John says. But you’re probably just fooling yourself if you think you can make it on your own.

So think about it.

You Have to Grow Up

Peter Pan and Wendy
Image Credit: <a href="">Casey Muir-Taylor</a>

Galatians 4:1-3

Here’s the bottom line. Even if you’re the heir to a fortune, if you’re still a minor, you have to do as you’re told. You have a guardian looking after you until you grow up. God’s promise works the same way. It doesn’t do you any good until you grow up.

By “grow up” I mean, take responsibility. Make your own decisions. Take action.

Some children I know do this better than some adults I know. (You can probably think of a few instances of this, too!)

The bottom line (and I think Paul is essentially right on this one) is that you can’t truly experience “salvation” (human life in all it’s fullness) so long as others are calling the shots for you.

For some, there really is someone who’s exercising power and control over their lives. (Exercising inappropriate power and control over someone is a classic definition of abuse.) For some, it may be co-dependency of some kind or another. For some, it may be feigned helplessness. For still others, it may be an addiction. We can hide behind an awful lot of things to keep from having to face our fears and act on our own.

In any case, as with addiction, recognition is the first step to overcoming it.

Who (or what) is your “guardian”? Are you happy with this guardianship arrangement? Or is it time to grow up?

Your call.

Decision Time

playing the violin, in-group in background
Photo credit: <a href="">Luis Hernandez</a>

John 12:20-33

Some heathens also went up to the Temple to worship during the festival. They came to Phil, who was from from Fishermans Wharf in Galilee, asking for an appointment with Jesus. Phil went and told Drew, and together they went to ask Jesus.

Jesus said, “It’s time for the authentic human to be recognized. I’m telling you, really, if a seed never falls into the earth and disintegrates, it remains just a seed. But if it disintegrates, it produces fruit. If you love your life, you’ll lose it. If you let go of your life as it is, your horizons will expand forever. If you want to serve me, you have to do what I do. You have to go where I go. If you do this, God won’t let you down.

“I’m troubled. What am I supposed to say? ‘God, keep me from my fate?’ No! I won’t deny the reason I came here in the first place! God, make yourself known!”

Just then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I’ve made myself known, and will do it again.” When people heard it, they thought it was thunder. Some said that an angel had spoken to him.

Jesus said, “The voice wasn’t for me. It was for you. It’s decision time. The world’s ruler is about to be sent into exile. I’ll be upheld, and everyone will come to me.” (This was how he hinted at the way he expected to die.)

This passage begins and ends with people coming to Jesus. All the wrong people.

It’s the gentiles – the heathen- who approach Phil, the one with the Greek name, to ask for an appointment. They’re not the ones who are supposed to be “in the know” about right religion. But somehow they know that Jesus is the one they should talk to. When Jesus talks about being raised up, it’s not the people who are already on the inside, the “right” people, who are drawn in. It’s everyone else who will come to him. In the very next verse (omitted from the lectionary) the crowds (of insiders) don’t get it. They want to know how Jesus can say he’ll be raised up. This doesn’t fit their expectations of religious protocol.

The people on the outside get it. They come. The people on the inside don’t. They go.

At the center is this saying about the seed, and the paradox of keeping your life and losing it, or losing it to keep it. This is the great truth that the religiously inside so often fail to grasp. It’s not just about Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s about being willing to follow Jesus into death and resurrection. What’s true for him is true for everyone. You can’t move by standing still. You can’t grow by remaining the same. You can’t reach your destiny by refusing to participate in the moments that are meant to define you. You can’t be great by playing it safe. You can’t stand out by staying with the in crowd.

It’s decision time! Will you stay on the inside, comfortably numb and self-assured? Or will you follow Jesus, face your fear, and forever expand your horizons?

Do Right

this way, that way street sign
Image credit: <a href="">Lori Greig</a>

1 John 3:1-6

Look here. God has given us the kind of love that makes us God’s children. The only reason nobody else recognizes that fact is that nobody recognized Jesus either. Dearest friends, we are God’s children right now. It remains to be seen what will become of us, but whatever that is we know we’ll end up like Jesus. We’ll see Jesus with undistorted vision. Anyone who puts their hope in him will be vindicated, just as he was vindicated.

But people who continue to do wrong are rebels. Wrongdoing is rebellion. If you’re with Jesus you don’t do wrong, and if you do you haven’t really gotten Jesus.

Some people spend a lot of time second-guessing their faith, fretting over whether they’re “right with God.” Most of this worry can be avoided by simply asking the question, “Am I doing right? Or not?”

This isn’t the same as asking whether you made mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone miscalculates. Everyone fails. The point with mistakes and failures is to learn from them and to not repeat them.

But the question is do we do wrong. Do we do (or fail to do) what we know we need to do. The difference between a mistake and a wrongdoing is deliberation. Whether anyone else in the world recognizes what you’re doing as being right or wrong doesn’t really matter. You know.

And by that alone, you know whether you’re “right with God.” Whether you choose to do anything about that is what remains to be seen.