Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Last week we looked at the possibility of using Paul’s challenge to the Corinthian church to, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith, be men of courage, be strong.”; as part of a Christian standard of living. Some may see these attributes as aggressive, even confrontational, though Paul sought to temper them with, “Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13
Jesus described himself as “gentle and humble” ( Matthew 11:29); and characterized the meek as blessed and thus inheritors of the world. ( Matthew 5:5) So how does that jive with Matthew 11:12 where Jesus notes, “…the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”? Maybe we should consider what it means to be meek?
The best example of meekness I’ve heard was in comparing a wild stallion being “broken” to usefulness. Its spirit is left intact, its will however is adapted to another’s purpose. All the power remains, but is focused to a task other than its own instinct to run about wild, accomplishing little but its own pleasure; traded now for direction and purpose for the common good.
The tension created because of our resolve to keep on keeping on, created by our not being “…conform(ed) any longer to the pattern of this world but be(ing) transformed by the renewing of (our) mind.” Romans 12:2; is addressed by Adam Hamilton when he writes, “Most of the great leaders in scripture (and out) were criticized when they began doing what God called them to do. The greatest leaders, and the people who have a significant impact on the world, are not those who were never criticized. Instead, they are those who, when criticized, did not give up.”1
And be assured, criticism will come any time you take a strong stand for anything. Paul warning – from experience – “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ will be persecuted.” 2 Timothy 3:12 Jesus assuring his closest followers, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” John 15:20 He then challenged them to consider themselves “blessed” when “…people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,…” Matthew 5:11,12Which may at first seem counter-intuitive, but then many gospel dictates are.
Some people, trying to avoid all controversy or trouble, simply choose to approve of anyone and everyone – essentially condoning anything and everything – considering that more “loving” than promoting repentance from sin. Which would necessitate pointing out that we all are sinful and only a life lived free from it in obedience to Christ’s will redeems us to a genuine life in Him.
Jesus challenged the self-absorbed, self-righteous and materialistic approach to life by asking, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” Luke 9:25 Declaring, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life (for his own purposes) will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me (and the gospel) will save it.” Luke 9:23,24 & Matthew 8:35 That would hardly be the world’s definition of success, but we are called to be “otherworldly” after all.
Viktor Frankl deals with these ideals spot-on when he writes, “…success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds true for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on and carry it out to the best for your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run… success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”2
Essentially the same attitude Mother Teresa personified when she said, “Small things done with great love will change the world.” Likewise St. Francis of Assisi, who personified Christ’s teaching that, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” (See Acts 20:35) These ideals insure success – as God defines it – and joy in the assurance that He richly provides us with all we need for enjoyment in life and accept it on his terms. ( 1 Timothy 6:17)
The Westminster Catachism3is best known for asking: What is the chief end of man?” Or what is man’s primary purpose, that which enables him to be his most productive for God and his fellow men? The responsive answer being, “To glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”
Which can only be realized when we accept that, “Our greatest purpose in life is to be loved by God, and to love God and to reflect God’s love in tangible ways.”4 Even as those ways seem “unreasonable”5 when compared to the “worlds” standard of right and wrong. Remembering that, “…he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Mark 13:13
1Quote taken from, Unafraid – Living With Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times , Convergent Books
2From Man’s Search for Meaning . This ideal developed, in part, through his observations while in Nazi prison camps, of which he was a survivor. He then immigrated to America, writing inspirationally of what he saw and learned while practicing Psychoanalysis and counseling emotionally damaged people who had suffered their own trauma.
3Dating from the 15th century
4Adam Hamilton, Unafraid
5 From the quote of Bernard Shaw cited at the beginning of part one of this article
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Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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