July 25 Esight, 2010

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. John 1:6-8This week I’d like to draw your attention to a curious Greek word used in the above verse. It’s translated into the English as “witness” and “testify.” The Greek root here is marturia, the Greek word from which we get our English word martyr. Now one of the principle definitions of a martyr is somebody who makes sacrifices or suffers greatly in order to advance a cause or principle.

At first, probably like you, I found myself scratching my head a bit. But with a little bit of thought it becomes perfectly clear. The great truth that our God has ever sought to explain and demonstrate, throughout history and the scriptures, is the principle of Love. Yet love always shines the brightest when it is tried. It’s seen in its fullness when it is tested. The greatest evidence of this reality is the Cross itself. It was part of Christ’s mission to suffer as much hatred and violence from human hands as His human nature could endure. And though, yes, many in history have suffered more physically than what Jesus suffered on the cross, the physical sufferings of God were not to appease some divinely held anger toward sinners! Rather, the physical sufferings of God, administered by our human hands, were for the purpose of revealing, testifying to us that God, having loved us, would ever love us to the end. Nothing, either demonic or human, could break His will and cause Him to let us go (Romans 8:35-39). Faced with abandoning us or all hope for Himself (Psalms 88:1-8), He would choose, with complete and utter self abandonment, to hold onto us and place us back on vantage ground. And “by His stripes, we are healed”! Notice, Isaiah’s emphasis is that Calvary would change us! God was not brought nearer to us. But rather, having us already in His heart, we would be drawn nearer to Him. Calvary was that God would dwell in our hearts, as we, from all eternity, had been in His.

Never had God’s love been seen as it was revealed at the cross. Selfless Love shines brightest when it’s tested and tried. And this is the reason, I believe, that we are all called to “martyrdom.” At some degree or another, we all are called to sacrifice to become a conduit of the self sacrificing, self abandoning, selfless love of Heaven. God is calling us, just as John was also called, to be not simply a recipient of Heaven’s kind of love, but also to be a channel through which that love can flow to this world in a tangible and measurable way. Not that any of us likes the idea of suffering anything! But love, without teeth, is simply romantic nonsense. Love, when it costs something and yet still loves, is a love with dimension—a love worthy of our heart and worthy of a life dedicated to the propagation of it’s principles, even if it should cost us to do so as well. There is something, or rather Someone, out there greater to live for than ourselves, isn’t there?

Something to ponder.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

I wish you God’s best this week.

July 13 Esight, 2010

In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:4-6).Adoption!

Almost 20 years ago, I discovered a small discipline that has proven itself extremely valuable to me over the years when I look at a specific passage. When I begin to study a certain book of the Bible, I endeavor to sit down and read it straight through, beginning to end, at least ten times, before I start tearing into it, simply to get the overall emphasis and focus of the authors themselves. I will admit this is a lot easier with books like Ephesians, and much harder with books like Isaiah, but it has been invaluable at helping me personally see not just a tree, but the whole forest too, simultaneously.

If one was to read through the majority of Paul’s letters in one sitting, you would immediately begin to see this word—adoption. Paul does not apply this word to Jewish believers, only to gentiles. In Paul’s cultural context, adoption meant something quite different than it does for us in our culture. In Paul’s day and age, adoption was a process whereby a slave became a member of the family. This was done for many reasons. One possibility could be that a couple were getting up in years and did not have children to watch after them in their old age. Thus, they would select one of the household slaves they were fond of to adopt. Adoption was usually a win/win situation. It did not come without added responsibility, but it also usually came with the rewards and privileges of being “family,” which included, but was not limited to, an inheritance.

Sociologically, adoption was not always as altruistic as it can be today. Slaves were willing to enter into this relationship out of fondness for their owners but, more importantly, for the gift of their freedom and the inheritance that would follow. The slave owner sought to adopt to ensure some perfunctory family responsibility would be taken care of, that otherwise lacked someone to oversee it. Sometimes it was a family business that needed to be looked after, or as mentioned, care of the slave owners themselves when they became older; it may also have been simply a way of carrying on a family name.

We need to qualify for one minute, though, Paul’s use of the adoption model in Ephesians. He is very careful to state God’s motives in adopting us. God was not self-seeking. His motives were altruistic. God adopted us, simply and unequivocally, only because of His great love for us. But, Paul was quick to add, that did not excuse us, as gentiles adopted into the family of God, from the added responsibilities of carrying on the family name and carrying out the business of the family into which we have been adopted. And what is the family business, what is the family name, we are being asked to carry on?

In one word, it is simple: Love.

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He did not love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that” (Ephesians 5:1, 2, The Message).

“Love to man is the earthward manifestation of the love of God. It was to implant this love, to make us children of one family, that the King of glory became one with us. And when His parting words are fulfilled, ‘Love one another, as I have loved you’ (John 15:12); when we love the world as He has loved it, then for us His mission is accomplished. We are fitted for heaven; for we have heaven in our hearts” (White, The Desire of Ages, p. 641).

Something worth pondering, for sure.

I wish you God’s best this week.