This is part two of a great three-part sermon on family. My notes are below.
The divorce rate in 1967% was 16%. In 1980, it was at 52%. What is not normally discussed re the low divorce rates in the 1960’s is that in fidelity in marriage was statistically high. In order to divorce on grounds of unfaithfulness, the infidelity had to be proven.
Also, rarely considered with the low divorce rates mid-century was the state of Women’s Rights. There were few opportunities for women to provide for themselves.
Due to economics and societal structure, women were essentially stuck in marriages with no way to exit.
Has there ever been an ideal Biblical family?
The First Family: Adam and Eve raised a murderer
God eventually had a do-over with humanity
The Second First Family: Noah’s son, Ham, raped his mother while his father was passed out drunk next to her
Abraham took side women and divided his household with bitterness
Isaac fathered and blessed his devious deceitful son over his rightful heir at the urging of his wife
Jacob’s jealous sons sold his favorite son into slavery
Family has always been difficult, shameful and painful.
Take Three Opportunities
Take the opportunity to be present.
This requires action. It’s not passive. It’s a choice that requires a willful step.
Luke 10:38 Mary & Martha: Martha insists that Jesus make Mary help her. Mary chooses to sit at Jesus’s feet.
Jesus was an itinerant rabbi. He had no home. He traveled and stayed with people who offered hospitality. Sometimes he invited himself into people’s homes. He also traveled with a posse.
Martha was busy and overwhelmed.
But Mary chose the good portion. She chose to spend time with Jesus in proximity and conversation.
Are you Mary or Martha?
Truth: We are all both Mary and Martha.
We all feel the pull and tension to choose between what matters most and what the moment seems to require.
“Busy for just a season” becomes a life habit. There’s always going to be a season. There’s always another moment. That’s life. Therefore we have to make choices.
Take the opportunity to define what family means to you.
Mark 3:19-35 Jesus went home, a crowd gathered and accused Him of being possessed. His family was sent for. They believed the crowd and tried to shut Him down. When told by the crowd that His mother, brothers and sisters were outside trying to get Him, Jesus responded: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:33-35)
Family has a diversity of meaning:
Depends on what you grew up with
Becomes what you’re used to
Is how you structure your life
Could be people who choose to be together no matter what
Or simply people who know each other very well and share their joys and struggles
Have you thought about what family means to you?
What do you value from family most?
What do you expect from family?
What is it about you definition that is different from definitions your family members have?
Go share your thoughts on family with your family. Hear what they have to share in return.
What do you want to do about what you learn?
Take the opportunity to recognize the gift of complexity.
We navigate life in compartments. It is exhausting holding our full beings back, keeping ourselves in check. Family is where the “real” is. Family gets the good and bad you – your worries, frustrations, joys, highs, lows, etc. Family is the place you don’t have to hide. You can be your true self. This is a gift.
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire.You have laid up treasure in the last days.Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
Patience in Suffering
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
The Prayer of Faith
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another,that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back,let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
Have mercy on me,[a] O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right[b] spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.Do you suppose, O man — you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself— that you will escape the judgment of God?Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;but for those who are self-seeking[a] and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.For God shows no partiality.
God’s Judgment and the Law
For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse themon that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in Godand know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law;and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth —you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?You whoboast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded[b] as circumcision?Then he who is physically[c] uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code[d] and circumcision but break the law.For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.But a Jew is one inwardly, andcircumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.
Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai.And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.”So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai,and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.
Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads.And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan!O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies!For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”
The Sin of Achan
The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face?Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings.Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction.[a] I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you.Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.”In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households. And the household that the Lord takes shall come near man by man.And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of theLord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’”
So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken.And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken.And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise[b] to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did:when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels,[c] then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath.And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord.And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor.And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones.And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.[d]
Joshua 7:12That is, set apart (devoted) as an offering to the Lord (for destruction)
Perhaps what’s so difficult about loving a person who is exposed in a sin you hate, is the hate part. I think people get caught up in the hate. Once hate is part of your thought process, it becomes the emotion that filters your responses and reactions. So even though your mind is telling you to love someone who has become vulnerable to sin, when you agressively hate their lifestyle, you are also actively hating the person.
The New Living Translation of Romans 12:9 says, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.
Christ followers who sprout on about “loving sinners” while “hating their sin” are viewing “sinners” as something other than themselves (the lovers and haters), other than people that God loves as He loves those who attempt to obey His Word faithfully. Members of the Body of Christ who label other people in judgement are saying to those people that they are less deserving of God’s grace and mercy than those whose sins are not as visible.
Romans 12:9 does not focus on what is evil or wrong. It focuses on love and what is good. The phrase, “hate what is wrong/evil” is introduced and followed with phrases of love and acceptance. If we, Christ followers, are to truly obey the Word of God, then we focus on the person – not the sin in the person. And we hold on to the person that God created in love just as He created us in love.
I watched the below video and read Jim McGreevy’s Note to Self. I immediately wanted to speak in defense of “the church” he mentions or leave a comment asking him to rephrase the line stating “how crushed [he was] because it was the church [he] so dearly loved, who hated [him] so deeply. But a quick check of myself and my own experiences with “church folk” left me with no defense of people who claim Christ as their Lord and Savior while mistreating other people Jesus also died for. I am saddened that Jim McGreevy’s early experiences with members of Christ’s body were such that he resorted to hiding himself and living a lie for as long as he did.
I encourage you to listen to Jim McGreevy’s Note to Self and ask yourself: How are you representing the Christ in you when you come face to face with a sin you abhor? Paul may have wrote to hate what is wrong, but Jesus says that such instruction belonged to the law that He came to replace. Jesus simply instructed us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. The greatest commandments he gave us are: “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) A heart that loves God completely has no room for hate of any kind. Jesus instructs us to love everyone as we love ourself. We are to love people (patiently treat them with gentleness, kindness, mercy and grace)– yes, even those consumed in their sin – and pray for them. That’s it. Don’t waste energy hating other people’s sin or trying to differentiate between the sin and the sinner. Who has time for that? Put your energy into loving the person and praying God gives them the strength and will to overcome the obstacles in their life. Chances are you need the same prayer.
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’and hate your enemy.But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. ~ Matthew 5:43-48, NLT
Questions: Are you better than a pagan? Are you perfect in love?
Today, I was confronted by a sister in Christ who had a beef with me regarding my availability a couple of weekends ago.
The first week of January, during Tuesday evening service, she invited herself to my home that coming Saturday. She wanted to hang out and watch movies. I shared with her that I was scheduled to have an outpatient surgery the second week of January (the next week) and, if it was okay with her, it would be better if she came the Saturday following my surgery as I would be on homebound and happy for company. She agreed.
Well a couple of days later, on that first Saturday, at around 2pm she text’d me that she was on her way to me with food. I didn’t see her text until after 4pm when I had dragged myself off the sofa with the intention of heading out to shop for groceries and household items. I had moved in mid-November and this was one of the first free weekends I had to myself and I was determined to get some heavy items off my “to do” list. I had set the day aside for Costco and Target.
She had txt’d several times between 2pm and 4pm stating that she was on her way and asking why I wasn’t responding.
Quite honestly, I wasn’t in the mood for company and I felt affronted also, because I thought she was taking advantage of my hospitality in a very manipulative way by attempting to assure her entry with the gift of food, while disregarding my expressed need for downtime. Even feeling all that, I attempted to compromise.
ME: Hi, just seeing your txts. Was watching movie in living room. Didn’t have phone near me. Running errands now. May go to movie latr. Not sure. But want to se Les Mis. Interested?
HER: U want to see Jack reacher by. Tom cruise. Heard it was very good. I’m in queens now.
[I live in Harlem in Manhattan; and that’s where I was shopping. Depending on where she was, a Queens to Harlem commute by subway could take up to two hours.]
ME: Its on my list, but I’m in the mood for something else.
HER: I m going to see Jack R later
U still want the food I bought for u?
ME: Thanks for thinking of me – is the food able to hold till tomorrow? I’m not sure how we’ll meet up tonight as I’m running errands.
She checked a couple more times over the next couple of hours to see if I had made it back home. My replies shrunk to one word: “no”.
Even as I reread this exchange, I think I was rather gracious because even in my irritation, I was willing to meet up with her after I completed my errands.
The following weekend, I text’d her on Saturday morning – the day we had agreed upon. She didn’t respond until Sunday evening asking if I had gone to church and stating that she “hope all is well.”
Now, even if I give myself a bit of credit for graciousness early in this exchange, by the time I received her text Sunday evening, any graciousness in my disposition towards her had evaporated. I ignored her text. She text’d me again this afternoon shortly following the first service. I was still not in the mood for her, so I didn’t bother reading her text.
I was sitting in the restaurant next to the church in between morning and afternoon services, writing a blog post when I looked up to see her standing next to me. In that moment, I was a bit preoccupied, so my greeting was extra distant and distracted. She was standoffish as well.
She asked if I had gotten her text. I picked up my phone to start reading it, read the first line and answered her there. She sat at my table and started talking about the Saturday she had wanted to come by my home and I wasn’t available. She told me how she had gone shopping for foods I had expressed an interest in and how she had given them instead to a stranger on the train because she didn’t feel like taking the food back home with her. She was “nice” enough to show me a photo of the groceries she had brought for me.
I thanked her again and told her it sounded as if everything worked out. Someone else was able to benefit from her gift and it wasn’t wasted.
Then she said, “I just don’t want you to think that I was imposing on you. I didn’t intend to be an imposition. I had told you I would come by on Saturday and I was attempting to keep my word.”
“This isn’t even about me thinking you were imposing,” I replied. “We had agreed on the following Saturday.. the Saturday after my surgery. The Saturday you were trying to come over was the weekend before my surgery and I was intent on resting and shopping to prepare myself for the week.”
“Well maybe it was a misunderstanding, but anyway it doesn’t matter.”
“Of course it matters. This is what you chose to talk about.”
After a few more stilted words, she got up to go to the afternoon service. “Are you coming now,” she asked.
“No, I’m going to finish typing this post. I’ll be in shortly and will look for you.”
When I got into the sanctuary, most of the seats on the lower level were taken and I didn’t see her in the crowd. I was shown to a seat and within two praise songs was convicted that I had wronged a sister in the Lord.
What was my sin? Where was my guilt?
In my flesh, with my human heart, I can reread this exchange and point out each instance that I tried to respond with loving kindness. I didn’t speak any ill words. Neither of us raised our voices. I admit to being peeved that she hadn’t even asked me about my surgery and thinking I was taking the moral high ground by not throwing it in her face. Yes, I certainly walked away from that exchange feeling as if I was the better person who had received the most offense and disregard.
That’s what my flesh told me.
Oh, my! Where did that pride come from??? Satan and his toeholds….
As I was standing in the sanctuary praising God, He spoke to me. I won’t go into the full reprimand here. His message was simple. “Where is your hospitality?”
I had withheld myself from someone who was simply seeking to spend time with me in my space. No matter what I thought of her motives or her reasoning, I was ABLE to honor her request, her time and her offer. However, I was not WILLING.
No matter my reasoning, or intentions, the bottom line is: I did not want to be hospitable. I refused to host a sister in the Lord. A sister whom I know to be young and weak in her journey. A sister whom I know to be lonely in the world, like myself.
I’m telling you, I cried and begged forgiveness in the midst of the song right there where I stood.
I agreed immediately to speak to her. To reach out to her. To apologize for the offense I had caused by making her feel unwelcome in my home and in my presence. And I did.
We are not always aware of how our response affects another person. I thank God for making me aware that I had alienated someone He CHOSE to connect me to. I had been careless in my stewardship. Irresponsible in my service. I had tarnished someone’s experience with a Woman of God (me). No, that had not been my intention, but it was the result of my behavior.
This may seem like a ridiculous post to some, but I end this day with the lesson that even by repenting for the seemingly smallest trespasses, we can reveal the roots of the deepest lessons for our lives. The lesson here for me is that even when I feel I have the right to focus only on myself and my health, as a servant in the Kingdom of God, I am always on duty. And service to my King takes precedence to serving myself – always. For true service in God’s kingdom, He requires His servants to have open and willing hearts. The condition of our heart can impede God’s work through us or magnify His presence in us.
We are not responsible for other people’s actions, reactions, behavior or even their response to us. However, we are held accountable for how we act and react towards others. Our behavior and our response to people are the fruit of what spirit is ruling our heart – the spirit of the world or the Spirit of God. When the Holy Spirit does a spot check, it behooves us to pay attention to the correction.
To God be the glory. May we honor Him in all things, in all ways, every day.