It ain’t Baptist!

 

Before the Passover Feast, Jesus, knowing that He had but a few hours left in the world, got up from the super table. He took off His robes and dressed himself as a servant. He approached the disciples with a basin of water and began washing Peter’s feet.

Peter was taken aback, and a little indignant, saying to Jesus, “Lord, Dude, what are you doing? You don’t wash my feet! You’re the Lord!”

 Jesus replied, “Look, man, you don’t get it right now, but eventually you’ll figure it out.”

Peter got even more heated, and said to Him, “No way, no how, nuh-UH, I am gonna let the Son of God wash my feet. Ain’t happenin’.”

“Pete, dude, settle down,” said the Lord. “If I don’t wash your feet, you have nothing to do with me.” Jesus let that sink in for a minute. Peter looked thoughtful as he mulled it over. Peter spent a lot of time looking thoughtful.

And then, suddenly, it was as though he’d had an epiphany. He jumped to his feet (which were still in the basin—water splashed all over the place), held his arms out (an irony which was not lost on Jesus, who kept His thoughts to Himself) saying, “If that’s the case, how about we take care of my head and hands, too!” Flippin’ Peter.

 

Jesus shook His head and looked around at the other disciples as if to ask, “Do you see what I have to deal with?” A snicker went around the table, except for Judas Iscariot, who was fiddling with something on his belt. Jesus looked up at Peter. Peter looked down at Jesus. Water dripped from Jesus’s beard, back into the basin. Jesus said, “He who has bathed only needs to wash his feet to be completely clean, and you are clean.”

 

Peter looked thoughtful again. Then he lowered his arms and said, “You were speaking symbolically again, weren’t you?” Jesus nodded. “Oh. Sorry. Carry on, Lord. I’m gonna shut up now.” Peter sat back down as the other disciples giggled.

 

~John 13:1-10 (totally unauthorized paraphrase mine)

So: it definitely wasn’t Baptist.

 

Right now, a lot of readers are asking themselves, “What is BlogDude on about this time? And what’s with that paraphrase?” Patience! I’m getting there!

Last night I had an opportunity to attend the Monday-night service at another local church, on the invitation of a friend. I knew going in that the church had a slightly different perspective on worship, but I wanted to hear the Word, and not for nuthin’, but my friend isn’t unpleasant company, either. I wasn’t quite prepared for it—the pastor was preaching barefoot (and as someone with neuropathy in both feet, I can tell you—I was envious of the pastor), but the message was very good.

The message was actually taken from Isaiah 47:1, but it related to what I paraphrased, above. The message was about being a servant to the Lord, but it was also—mainly, I think—about recognizing the Lord when He comes into our lives, and how the Israelites didn’t get it because they had laid their own expectations on God and forgotten God’s word on the subject. (That’s it, roughly—not the subject of this blog, though, so I’m glossing over a lot.)

What this got me thinking about, though, was service, specifically servanthood. Being a servant. Now all of us have known for a long time that the Lord expects us to do His will on earth as an outward sign of our inward faith (James 2:14-26). But until last night, I had never really given thought to how this works; now that I am giving it thought, it’s making me a little bit mind-bendy. Because in the past when I read those lines from John, I just went with the idea that Jesus expected us to be of service to others in keeping with his teachings from the Sermon on the Mount, namely, “Do unto others as you would have others do to you.” (Matthew 7:12) I was missing the most important part of this whole thing, though!

God led by example. I know. I just heard someone in the back of the room say, duhhhh. Hush, you. I’m a bear of very little brain; Peter and I will probably have a good time together in the afterlife. But to my point, and this is the part that hurts my head: God—sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all that is or ever will be, Lord of the universe, its contents, and the architect of all human existence, came to earth not to conquer, but to serve. (I just heard that “duh,” again. Stop it.) Here’s a Guy (and I use the term “guy” in the most general sense possible since God is, you know, incorporeal) that basically left the nicest house in Hollywood Hills, where He paid no rent, no utilities, had glowing folks serving His every need and keeping the room cool with the beat of their wings, in order to move into a Warsaw ghetto and serve the Nazis. I mean, that’s really what we’re looking at. Jesus came to earth, served the thankless people that would eventually kill Him, and then— in the act of dying—saved all of them from the noose.

“That’s it. I’m done. I’m gonna wipe these jokers out and start over.” (Numbers 14:12… sorta.) That’s what I woulda done. But God is a lot more merciful than I am (that whole “perfection” thing that He does, remember) and He not only didn’t smite us like we deserve, He gave us a way to become unsmite-able! There’s a bad joke about Christmas in there, but the literal parallels make it more of a bad pun, and I try not to punish you guys too much…

So: if God can come to us as a servant, how much more that we should serve each other? We can’t pay God back—what are we gonna do, “Hey, God, here’s, uh, eleventy dollars, and I have some change, and the title to my Yugo, and lessee, OH! I baked brownies!” Really? GOD MADE THE BROWNIES. I’m not sure He wants credit for the Yugo, but the rest of that stuff is ALREADY HIS. We got nothin’, and He proved it to even the most foolish of us by coming back and serving even those that were the least deserving of His love. Heck, most of us can’t even bring ourselves to tithe, for cryin’ out loud, and that’s the one demand God makes from allllllll the way back in the Old Testament. Even the cheapskates get into heaven as long as they accept that “gift of salvation” thing. He gives, and He gives and He gives, and what do we do? Waste the salt.

Seriously. This baffles me. This actually hurts more than trying to contemplate eternity. I don’t get it, so I’m trying to share the headache. Not that He did it. We know that He did it. Why did He do it? Why? He didn’t have to. Love? Okay, great: now (answer honestly) do you think you can even comprehend that kind of love? What do you do with a dog that tries to tear your baby’s throat out? You don’t give it a bowl full of kibble and bacon treats! But that’s what God has done for us. (Oh, and by the way: continues to do for us daily, in the form of answered prayer.)

I need some Excedrin. Talk to ya’ll later.

 

~BlogDude

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Love Your Enemies”

 

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those that persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous… Therefore you are to be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-45, 48

If ever I had trouble keeping a commandment of the Lord, this one may take the prize. How do we “love our enemies?” When someone goes out of their way to do us harm, how are we to summon up the patience and compassion to love that person, anyway? In the words of the song, “…to love even when we don’t feel it?”

Well, first we need to define what we mean by, “love.” This isn’t “romantic love,” that we’re talking about. For our purposes, I will define this type of love as an unprejudiced desire for the personal welfare and wellbeing of all people individually. Not much help, is it? Now we can just hate one person at a time!

Um, no. We still have to summon up this “unprejudiced love.” The answer, of course, is that we choose to love someone. The world we live in forwards the idea that “love” is something that just happens—we have no control over it. We “fall in love;” we “fall out of love.” We are never told that we “choose to love.” In modern terms, love is a passive emotion; it comes and goes, regardless of our inclinations. But this isn’t true at all; love is something that can be triggered, but we make a decision to love someone. This applies in romantic love, but it is especially true when we are asked to love our enemies.

Consider this: in romantic love, we have a compulsion to love another person based on what that person’s love will mean to us in return. There is an element of physical desire, of kinship, and of intellectual attraction that prompts us to decide to give this person love, in the hope that he/she will return the affection. But the initial compulsion comes from a personal want; you want, and expect, something in return for your attentions.

But when we love our enemies, we have no such motivation. In fact, we can reasonably expect that our love will be returned with acrimony. The only “return on investment” we can expect is more trouble! But God tells us to love them, anyway.

A while back, I wrote about forgiveness. This idea of “loving your enemies” goes hand-in-glove with what Jesus said to Peter about forgiveness:

I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22)

Jesus was speaking in hyperbole, here; He obviously doesn’t mean, “Okay, give the dude 490 chances, and then, if he doesn’t come around, stomp a mud-puddle in his backside.” No, what he means to imply here is that we should never put a limit on our capacity to forgive. Forgiveness comes out of love.

Now, saying that love is a choice doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be a pleasant choice; sometimes, it’s going to make us very unhappy to make ourselves love someone (or, in the case of the federal government, a lot of someones). But God never promised us a rose garden. You never see God say, “Be ye happy, because I your God am happy, and since I’m a happy Dude, it’s alllll good!” Nope. What God says is,

…You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. (Lev. 19:2)

You’ll notice that God doesn’t say “should be holy.” He says, “shall be holy.” It isn’t a suggestion. He isn’t giving us options. So consider this: Despite all the ways that we abuse God, every day, He chooses deliberately to love us, anyway. He would be perfectly justified (by our standards) not to love us; in fact, by our standards, the best we could probably hope for from Him would be a sort of lukewarm antipathy. Instead, He loves us so much that He came to be among us, in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and to be humiliated and to experience death at the hands of His own chosen people and the gentiles. He gave us the way to avoid the torment of an eternal Hell, but that isn’t all; He loves us so much that He allows those who reject His gifts to experience the consequences of their own conscious decisions! That last bit, well, it stretches my brain a little bit. I know it’s a love-thing, but I can’t really get my head around it.

I once worked with a guy whose mantra was, “Always be nice to people—even when you’re hurting them.” His point was that anger is self-destructive; sometimes it is necessary for us to hurt or allow hurt to happen to other people—just as God sometimes has to hurt us in order to make us more holy. But it isn’t necessary to feel anger when we are doing what is necessary. Anger is self-destructive (the only real exception to this is the righteous anger that we experience when we defend the Gospel against heresies and false teachers; Jude talks about this quite a bit). God’s wish is not that we destroy ourselves, but that we have life, and have it abundantly. But we don’t have to hate. We can choose not to hate. Even more, we can choose to love, and in doing so, we disarm our enemies. A Christian being tortured by Communists was told by a Communist officer, “I am almighty, as you suppose your God to be. I can kill you.”

The Christian replied, “The power is all on my side. I can love you even while you torture me to death.”