Jesus said: “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!”
Jeez Leweez – what’s gotten into Jesus?
He sounds like such a … parent. And when he talks like this, I feel like such a … child.
What’s up with God today? Are we in … trouble?
Well, yes we are. We are in trouble. And Jesus is letting us have it. And we deserve it.
You see, just like they did back in Jesus’s time, many of us still wish the Lord would do what we want him to do. We still wish that God would serve our desires, and be as we would have him be.
We still try to fit God in the tiny little nice-nice box that our imaginations have created for him, while we continue to put ourselves in the great judgement seat of the cosmos, from which we dare to judge God the way we judge our fellow man.
And today, well, like a bunch of kids who did something they weren’t supposed to — we’re getting slammed for it, by the Word of God, which can be like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces.
Slammed, by the Word of God which in the 82nd Psalm rounds up all the vanities and idols of a pagan and material world and tells them – sorry, guys, you did not show mercy, you did not judge justly, you did not save the weak and the orphan, or the humble and needy, or the poor – and because of this, you will amount to nothing.
Slammed, by the Word of God which in the Gospel of Luke tells us that if we are to live after the model of Jesus Christ – we will not always have it easy. We will one day have to climb aboard the cross of Christ – which is itself a baptism of fire – and only then will we become true children of a true God.
Yeah. It’s tough when God yells at you.
But as good old Uncle Hebrews explains in his letter today, it’ll be o.k.
He says, “Look. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?” But don’t worry, it means God loves you. Jesus is telling it to you like it is because he loves you so much that he wants you to grow up right!
Yeah, good old Uncle Hebrews writes to us today, just in the knick of time, right after Jesus slams us. Good old Uncle Hebrews says, “look kiddo, discipline sure don’t tickle. But one day you’ll know it’s for the best. So pick up your droopy little self and go do what’s right. And trust me – if you really listen to the big guy – you will become so much more than you ever thought you would – no matter how big you think your dreams are now.”
[Pause. Shift gears.]
The cover of Time magazine last week asked if “Kids Today Have Too Much Power?”
There was a cartoon of a spoiled little boy, wearing a golden crown, and sporting a nasty little sneer.
Could have been a picture of me in my childhood, I suppose. I was pretty spoiled. Only child. Private school. Had my own room. My own stuff. No need to share any of it. Had my parents all to myself. I mean, their divorce meant I didn’t even have to share them with one another! They were all mine.
Of course, interestingly enough, as spoiled as I was by their love, and by my comfortable middle-class lifestyle, I never doubted who was in charge.
I knew that boundaries for behaviour did exist. But I never saw those boundaries as conditions for love.
I certainly questioned the wisdom of their decisions, and even tried to play one off the other. But I never believed – no matter what I may have screamed – that they wouldn’t love me if I broke their stupid rules.
I remember the time when my mother spelled it out loud and clear. I said something like, “that’s stupid, and unfair.” And she said, “You listen to me. I’m the mother. You’re the child. It’s a benevolent dictatorship until you grow up, and I love you no matter what.”
And you know – call me old fashioned, but I really don’t see how it could have been any other way. I needed their unconditional love – and I needed their unconditional guidance.
You know the old saying, “kids don’t come with an instruction manual?” Well, that’s not true. The instruction manual is us. Parents, grandparents, godparents, teachers, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends — we are the instruction manual.
And if we really do love our children for their legitimate needs and not for our own selfish gratification of “being loved back” – then we will try as hard as we can to teach them what it takes to live right.
You see that’s an act of godly love. Not to set conditions on love which say, “if you behave the way I want then I will love you and give you treats;” but to set the boundaries of a covenant which says, “I will be here for you no matter what you do – and I will always love you – and these are the things you should do in order to live right.”
And why do I think this? Because, the Bible and salvation history shows us that this is what God does for us. God made a covenant with our forefather Abraham, in which God said, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” And there were no conditions on it, other than human acceptance.
Later on, through Moses, God gave the Law — not as a sharp edge against which he could damn the unrighteous with glee, but as a blessing for all who sought to honor and protect their relationship with God. The Law of Moses was given as a set of guidelines intended to promote the peaceful fruit of righteousness in the hearts of those who loved and knew God.
Likewise, Jesus comes to fulfill that covenant for the whole world, saying, “I will be with you always.” And again, there is no condition upon his new covenant of eternal love other than our acceptance of it. For Jesus comes not to be a stumbling block over which the faithless might stumble, but rather to be a blessing for the World, so that all of us might come into his loving embrace, and become right not only with ourselves but with the Creator of the Universe, who is not a God far off, but a God nearby.
A God who Jesus called Daddy. And who loves us like a Mother loves her young.
For only a fool or a devil lets his child grow up without discipline – and our God is no fool, and certainly, no devil.
But God does not seek to boss his children around like a Babylonian tyrant. And nor does he seek to control our every move, like a grand puppeteer.
But, rather, God sends his only Son to equip us with his strengths of courage, integrity, honesty, humility, and an unconditional love for real people, right here in real life.
Do children have too much power these days? Probably. Our job is not to crush that power, but to channel it for what is right.
You see that’s what God does. He gives us the power of life and death. To make a wonderful world or a vile one. To choose God or to put ourselves in His place. But though he loves us no matter what we do – he does tell us what he wants.
So let us lift our drooping hands and strengthen our weakened knees, pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.