Cold feet and socks

Hebrews 10:32-39
I’d like to continue a talk I gave last night.

Gloria and I attended an interfaith prayer service. This gathering was part of several city-wide events planned to commemorate MLK Day. It was a simple night, and a blessing to share.

I told those gathered about a question Gloria asked me yesterday morning. In Corpus Christi, it was forty degrees before I left home. That’s not the kind of cold a lot of the country experienced. But it was enough to make my hands cold. When that happens, I can’t but let Gloria know how cold they are.

No, I can’t just tell her. She has to experience it!

So, I put both my cold hands on her arms. She jumped and asked me, “Why are your hands cold if you’re wearing socks?”

Now, that may sound like a silly question to you. It’s actually a loving one. She knows me. She knows if my feet are cold my entire body will be cold for the rest of the day.

That question allowed me to offer this theme last night: if one part of the body is hurting, the rest of the body suffers.

Unfortunately, many within the body don’t recognize how other parts are suffering. I’m convinced one of the greatest sins we perpetuate is the disunity of the body of Christ. We let our agendas and ideologies cloud our vision of one another. As a result, we can’t see what many of our sisters and brothers endure.

Is that a willful choice? Is ignorance our greatest fault? Maybe we do see it, but we’ve learned to excuse away our responsibility to walk in faith with one another.

Quite often Christians talk about the will of God. They mostly mean that in personal terms. What is God’s will for me? Is it God’s will for me to take this job or make this decision? I don’t have a problem with that. Only, it can cloud our vision, if we’re not careful. 

Hebrews 10 encourages Christians who are struggling. Once, they were a lively congregation. As an example, they “had compassion for those who were in prison.” But something happened. Persecution set in and deterred them from living a full life of faith.

Part of that meant their personal faith declined. It also meant their compassion and concern for others faded, too. So, the writer admonishes them, “For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” In this light, the will of God isn’t something personal. It seems to connect to how we serve those in prison or suffering any other plight.

MLK, in his Letter From Birmingham Jail, wrote, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

What about our generation? What keeps us from acknowledging the suffering of others? What keeps us from working for their well-being? Could it be we miss how much our humanity connects us?

Stay blessed…john

Are we the idols?

1 John 5:13-21
I once read people have to hear something seven to eight times before they begin to internalize it. Well, I haven’t counted, but this has to be the millionth time I’ve emphasized this idea. Your faith is not merely your own. What you believe and profess isn’t just between you and the Lord.

I can say that with confidence because I learned everything you did. Think of all the self-sufficiency lessons we’ve heard. You can guarantee you’ve heard that more than what I’m about to say. As a result, those ideas crept into our walk with God. And we self-talked our way from our shared discipleship.

Now, of course, yes, you and I have personal responsibilities. There are personal decisions to make and individual priorities to set. But that does not take away from the communal nature God designed us for. In fact, how many personal decisions have zero potential to influence other people?

Today’s example from scripture is 1 John 5. We could use the entire letter as an example. John wanted his readers to know true and lasting fellowship with God and with the church. To appreciate the importance of both, consider what is missing when you remove one from the other.

Christians who believe their faith is no one else’s business might struggle with 1 John 5:16. John has just encouraged our faith by reminding us of the power of God we have through prayer. God hears whatever we ask that aligns with God’s will. A lot of us would stop there and “declare” our prayer requests.

Notice, though, what John asks us to consider first. “If you see your brother or sister committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one.” An obvious question to ask is, what sin is mortal and which is not mortal? One thought suggests we can connect it to idols; John says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

How much of our sense of self is idolizing who we think we are?

But I hadn’t planned for us to delve into that together. So, for now, let’s appreciate part of a larger picture John gave us. That gift of prayer God gave us is as much for us to use for one another as it is for ourselves.

There is debate about who a brother is in this passage. Some say it signifies those within the church. Others suggest it includes anyone, even non-believers. Neither limit what is most meaningful to us. That our prayers draw us closer to one another.

If I’m the brother you see in sin, your prayers help me. As self-sufficient as I think I am, I cannot save myself. None of us can. And that’s the point. Let’s say we realize we can never do for ourselves what God does for us. Then why would we neglect the obvious form God uses to share that power with us? I don’t want the church, the family of God to give up on me. 

I’ll say it again, your faith is not merely your own. That’s not how God intended for us to live. If you are in Christ, you are in the family of God.

Stay blessed…john