Yes, but Do You Care?

Joyful face
Photo credit: <a href="">Backpack Photography</a>

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Be joyful. Pray. Be grateful. God wants you to be grateful. Don’t be a wet blanket on the fires of enthusiasm for God, but check everything carefully, keeping the good, rejecting the evil.

May the God of peace personally make you 100% dedicated to the cause. May you remain whole, body, soul, and spirit. And may you be blameless in the end.

Indeed, God who calls you will do this.

[See also, previous comments on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28.]

Last month, writing on this chapter, I wrote, “…you can’t command respect, let alone love. You can only earn it.”

Which, I believe is true. But there is something more. You can also give it. It’s called being gracious.

And you can give it – joy, love, respect, grace – even when it’s unearned.

Mostly, you give it by not being a wet blanket on the fires of enthusiasm. Whether that enthusiasm is for God, or for anything else. Nobody likes it when you rain on their parade. So, you think it’s crazy, or stupid, or you’re not really that interested in what someone is really excited about. So what! Most of the time, it’s not going to hurt anything to be gracious about it. Be happy for them.

You can also give it by giving what you do to the world around you. Do cook? Do you write? Do you clean? Do you sculpt? Do you teach? Do you make widgets? Whatever it is the difference between joy and drudgery comes down to this one question: Do you care? Even when nobody else is looking, are you 100% dedicated to the cause?

The whole gospel as Jesus presented it can be wrapped up in one simple idea: Jesus cared. And if you were to ask Jesus what he believed about God, he likely would have said: the only God worth believing in is the God who cares.

Or, as Paul says, “The God who calls you will do this.”

The Gospel According to You

Luke 1:1-4

Photo credit: <a href="">Daniel Sandoval</a>

Already, many have tried to piece together the story of what took place among us by passing along the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ original students. So after taking a close look into the whole thing from the beginning, I’ve decided to write the whole story down so that you, the God lover, can know how everything you’ve been told about really happened.

If the New Testament gospels were ordered by date, they would be:

  1. Mark (around 70 C.E.)
  2. Luke (between 80-85 C.E.)
  3. Matthew (around 90 C.E.)
  4. John (sometime after 100 C.E.)

As such, Luke is a second generation account of Jesus. And there are already other accounts out there. Conflicting accounts. And this is the next generation’s attempt at sorting it all out.

It’s something every generation has to do for itself. It has to take the often conflicting stories it has received from the previous generation and stitch them together into something that makes sense. Something that can provide a meaningful framework to carry on with life.

Some stories are restitched, others are cast off. Still others, which haven’t been told in years, are patched back in. The order gets rearranged, and the themes change. Which makes each generation’s telling unique and somewhat mystifying (and at times vexing) for the generations immediately before and after.

This Advent, if you’re inclined, here’s a spiritual exercise: Write your gospel.

Without looking at the ones in your Bible, open up a notebook (or a new document in your word processing program) and start writing the story of Jesus in your own words. From the beginning to the end. How it really happened. For you. Here are some things you may want to include:

  • Nativity. When was Jesus born (or, like Mark, when did he show up) and how?
  • Beginning the work. How did Jesus start doing what he was doing? Why? With whom?
  • What Jesus did. Where he went, and who did he meet? Whose lives did Jesus touch and how did he do it?
  • What Jesus said. What were his teachings? Who was he talking to?
  • Who were the characters. Who were the protagonists in this story? Who were the “bad guys”? And how can you tell the difference between them?
  • Name the issues. What were the bones of contention? How do they (or don’t they) get resolved?
  • Ending. How did it all end? And what is the meaning of crucifixion and resurrection?

Perhaps by Christmas you can present it to the world (or just keep it for yourself) the gospel according to you. But if that’s too fast a pace, take your time to do some deep thinking about it.

Tell you what: If you want to present it to the world, you can send it to me and I’ll publish it on line here at the Scarlet Letter Bible in 2012. Just drop me a line via the contact page and we’ll make the arrangements.