Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Tough, But Liberating Word

Today's installment of Our Daily Bread is based on James 4:1-10:
Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says,
 “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?
But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.   
"Adulterers," I take to be addressed not only to those engaged in adultery, but in all activities that put the world, the self, and other pursuits or relationships ahead of God. Through the prophets in Old Testament times, God described Himself as husband to Israel, condemning His people's penchant for playing the adulteress by worshiping other gods.

The New Testament describes the Church as the bride of Christ. So, any time we Christians allow other things to take God's place of absolute ruler over our lives, we are engaging in idolatry--idol worship, or as the Old Testament puts it, adultery.

The passage from James ends with a tremendous promise: "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." This is nothing other than a call to wake up and acknowledge reality:
  • God is bigger than you are. 
  • Only God can give you life. 
  • And unlike all the other things you might submit to in life, God will help you and love you even when you fall or fail. 
In Philippians 2:5-11, the apostle Paul gets at much the same message when he cites what most scholars agree must have been a hymn of the early church that reminds us that in calling us to submit to the will of God the Father, we're not being asked to do anything more than Christ did.

God "opposes the proud," not because God is an egotist, but because God wants us to live. As I mentioned in another post recently, if the only way for a drowning man to get to shore is to hold onto the lifeguard, you would hardly call the lifeguard arrogant for saying so to the thrashing victim. The God we know in Jesus Christ is that lifeguard. Take it from one willful thrasher to another: Submit to the Lifeguard and you will have real life!

Read the Our Daily Bread piece by Anne Cetas.

No comments: