Monday, February 25, 2013

Submission Wins - Servants Rule

"Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth" 

To understand this beatitude let’s start by recognizing that it’s like the others in style (or form).  If you read over these beatitudes, you’ll see that they don’t seem to be true.  Poor, hungry, merciful and persecuted is not the life most would choose.  To put it another way, we want the second half of each beatitude, not the first half.  We choose this life because we believe Jesus when he tells us that a person isn't worse off for these things, but actually better off (blessed).  And we believe Jesus because we want to be a part of the kingdom, we want to be comforted, satisfied, and to receive mercy so badly.  You see, it’s the ending of each beatitude that explains the beginning.  In this case, it’s better to be gentle, because the gentle people will inherit the earth. 

The world: "Believe in yourself"
Gentleness isn't what the world thinks wins the day, and that’s how you can come to understand this and challenge yourself to obey.  We think the world is inherited by the ambitious, the hard-working, driven people.  We think the earth is inherited by the clever, the smart, the ruthless, and the strong.  If you don’t think that now, you haven’t been out much.  Look at this section from Jeremiah:
But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; and I didn't know that they had devised plots against me, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.”      Jeremiah 11:19
You should take a moment and read Jeremiah 11.9-23.  There is a plot against Jeremiah (a preacher), and God told Jeremiah they were plotting against him.  

What do you do when someone is plotting against you at work, church, within your family or circle of friends?  Seriously … take a moment and think about what you tend to do when you hear others are plotting against you.  

As for me, I tend to make my own strategy and plan to ‘fix’ things, or sometimes get revenge (to my shame).  But not Jeremiah – he allowed himself to be harmed.  He became “gentle as a lamb led to slaughter.”  Of course this reminds us of Jesus, too.  Jesus was the Lamb of God, led to slaughter, and “like a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53.7 & Acts 8.32). 

Can you believe Jesus would let himself get walked on like that?  It just doesn't make sense.  If you let yourself be harmed at work, or church, or in a marriage or any relationship … and you just take it with gentleness, how in the world do you expect to inherit something?  You can’t rise to the top of corporate America by being gentle.  You can’t be president, or rich, or powerful … you can’t “inherit the earth.”  For that matter, how do gentle and humble people even get a job?  How do you get past the interview, try-out or audition if you’re humble and gentle and put others first?  Shoot, you can’t even keep your job as a preacher (believe me) in a church or ministry … because the politics are such that you will be removed by people willing to lie, cheat, gossip, abuse, and do whatever it takes to remove you if you block their agenda (or what they arrogantly believe is God’s agenda).  Furthermore we’re doubly cursed, because unlike Jesus, we make mistakes.  One mistake in our ambitious, greedy, vengeful world and you’re dead.  You simply cannot afford to be gentle.  As soon as people perceive you to be weak, they’ll destroy you just as happened to Jesus and Jeremiah.  No, if you want to inherit the world, you’re better off heeding Machiavelli, Ben Franklin or James Carville than Jesus.

No, common sense tells us that 'gentleness' and 'submission' gains nothing, wins nothing, achieves nothing.  Still, if you're one of those gullible fools who want to follow Jesus instead of your own common sense, read on.... 

Jesus and Jeremiah are not unique.  A great way to learn about gentleness is to learn through stories.  Two great examples of this are from the lives of Moses and David.  Get with a friend and study them.  
  1. First, the rebellion against Moses in Numbers 16-17.  But pay special attention to Moses’ “gentle” response in Numbers 16:1-5.  
  2. Second story is one of many episodes like this from the life of David, who never sought power or held on to it, except as granted by God: 1 Samuel 24.1-13.  

This is the gentleness Jesus praises:  

It’s not weakness or fear … it’s deliberate.  It’s the strongest man in human history allowing himself to be crucified!  It’s a great leader like Moses falling down on his face or the already anointed warrior-king feeling guilty about damaging the clothes of the cursed king.  This gentleness is the ultimate act of faith, relying solely on God.  It’s obedience - only to God, and God alone – no matter the consequences; as Jesus submitted to death.  In fact, it’s the ultimate act of faith and obedience, that we all accept when we agree to “take up your cross daily and follow” Jesus. 
We BELIEVE He did ... so now we trust Him, not ourselves

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must: [1] deny himself, and [2] take up his cross daily and [3] follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?”  Luke 9:22-25

Read this again, and you’ll see that Jesus knows we are seeking to “gain the world,” or at least a part of it, but we’re exchanging our souls – our eternal life – for these temporary things.  That’s why we must be willing to die daily … it is our willingness to die that makes us strong and eternal, and it makes us different than people in the world.  Of course for most so-called Christians, this just isn't so, is it? 

We can only be gentle when we’re strong – so strong we don’t have to surrender, we choose to! Like Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego, we refuse to bow to our own egos, desires, fears and other gods of this world, even if it costs us our lives … because we know our Lord will deliver us now or later. 

Once again: this is not about being weak or mild!  This isn't like a mother cuddling her child or being nice to an old person.  This is about allowing others to take advantage of you!  The gentleness of feeding the hungry or consoling the weak or sick … that is coming in the “hunger and thirst for righteousness” beatitude.  This one is about being submissive.  

This submission, even to evil, and even when you suspect it may cost everything – is the submission of strength by choice.  It’s the sacrifice of strength for the weak, the faithful for the pitiful, it’s surrendering to the bully – not out of fear, but because you love the weak, pitiful bullies of this world who are themselves enslaved by their fears.  It’s about submitting to Pharaoh until God leads you to freedom, and not raising up your own revolt.  

One chapter in the bible explains this principle (I think) better than any other.  And it’s cool, because it’s written to a church about church politics, and how to be “gentle” within that context.  If you take time to read this, study it, and truly understand it … to talk about it with your brothers and sisters, you can understand it.  Once you understand it, you should feel very, very challenged.  Obeying this chapter is one of the most difficult things God asks you to do.  But as we learned before we began the beatitudes, it’s all about faith.  If you trust yourself and your own instincts, you will never be able to obey Jesus’ command to be gentle.  It can only be done by faith in God. 

"If there’s any encouragement in Christ,
If there’s any consolation of love,
If there’s any fellowship of the Spirit,
If any affection and compassion…
make my joy complete by:
  • Being of the same mind,
  • Maintaining the same love,
  • United in spirit,
  • Intent on one purpose

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but:
With humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
Don’t look out for your own personal interests, but for the interests of others.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, although he existed in the form of God, didn't regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.    Philippians 2:1-16

Are you gentle?  Will you be of the same mind, maintain the same love, be united in spirit and purpose with your brothers and sisters, or will you keep yourself and your interests ahead of others?  That question will be answered not by your words, but by your actions – your third column.  If you think things depend on you, then you cannot afford to be gentle.  Fear, self-will, and vengeance will push you to stand up for your rights, to fight back, to never allow yourself to be wronged. 

But – if it’s really true that “God is at work in you,” as Paul saw … then you won’t trust yourself, depend on yourself or fear for yourself, because you are entrusting yourself to God’s care rather than your own self-care. 

Taste and see that the Lord is good

No comments:

Post a Comment