Passage: Matthew 11:20-30
11:20 Then Jesus began to criticize openly the cities in which he had done many of his miracles, because they did not repent. 11:21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 11:22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you! 11:23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be thrown down to Hades! For if the miracles done among you had been done in Sodom, it would have continued to this day. 11:24 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you!”
11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to little children. 11:26 Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will. 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son decides to reveal him. 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 11:29 Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 11:30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”
Soul Search Essay
As noted in the prior essay, The verses 11:20-24 speak that Capernum’s, Bethsaida’s and Chorazin’s time has passed. Jesus has left and these cities closed their windows of opportunity. Fundamental and deep consideration was not given to the love gift Christ offered. The gift was left in the dirt, because it was radically different than the audience’s presuppositions. The gift was seen as either inconvieniant, angering, confusing, or subject to use for selfish agendas. None of these emotions or beliefs can keep the window open, the radar up and us responsive to Christ.
Learning to move past inconvienence, anger, confusion, or selfish agendas as reactions to the demands our kingdom citizenship brings to us is an inherent part of discipleship. We can leave challenges in the dirt as believers just like the non-believers of the three cities left salvation in the dirt. Why? We reject that discipleship is difficult. We like the rewards of salvation, but we reject that hard discipleship is in and of itself very, very rewarding.
In your life, God acts. Grace occurs every day around you as a Christian (or a non-Christian). Being a Christian does not automatically keep God imposed opportunities from being misread or ignored. Sometimes the voice is quiet. Other times?
Other times, the message is in a fast moving 2X4 impacting your face. Grace at times is hard to endure. A 2×4 to the face hurts. It leaves a communally visible m ark. It is in hard grace that you become a deep souled disciple.
Christians choose to be disciples or they are fire-insurance-Christians. Fire-insurance-Christians accept Christ as savior and never act as citizens of the kingdom. Disciples see God acting and participate. They participate in the Kingdom. Often – in belief, thought, choices and behaviors – fire-insurance-Christians are indistinguishable from non-Christians, This especially obvious in business. (This assertion goes back to earlier Soul Searching where we talked about the spiritual influence of business concepts.)
Disciples grow in Christ-likeness in all venues of their life, including their work. Fire-insurance-Christians float with the tides that swirl around them. They are tied to the non-Christian culture around them; indistinguishable from the non-believer; immune to kingdom business just a few feet away. The latest cultural tides carry them along. Many people see this and decry TV, movies, music, the definition of a family as symptomatic of cultural infections. Why are business and work ignored? For the same reason Ba’al and Asteroth were ignored by most Old Testament Israelites. Rain and crops affected survival. So, can business.
With no income, literal hunger becomes real. To risk the loss of all your income by resisting, or even more boldly, refusing the business culture that you are in? That seems like madness. Why would I anger those who sign my paycheck?
Consider this – Can you be convicted of being an active disciple of Christ in your business life? Convictions in a court are based on observable facts (in theory in human courts ). In the past 5 years, 10 years, 20 years are there sufficient observable facts (not your intentions, but facts) to convict you of kingdom citizenship?
If the answer is “No,” thank you for your honesty. Now, consider how to change this.
If the answer is “Sometimes,” how can you expand these times. You have a positive track record, extend it. Do what has worked before, then add new things.
If your answer is “Yes,” I am ecstatic or deeply fearful.
You are either that rare person (such as Job) who sees God’s actions around you in business and participates in those Kingdom actions that Christ calls you to or you are deluded.
An answer of “No” or “Sometimes” can keep a window of God’s imposed love open. These answers recognize a need at least. Need can trigger consideration, but consideration must be maintained. I call this maintenance “Grace Radar.”
Grace Radar is a deliberate set of repeated choices to look for God’s Kingdom activity in all of life. This means Grace Radar is a discipline that must be developed through consistent use. At its simplest, it is a short prayer about anything that grabs your attention, something like, “Lord, what are you doing in this situation and what part do you have for me.” He may have no part for you other than being a witness. He may, however, have a pivotal part for you to play. Pivotal to you. Pivotal to others.
Much like radar, if you sweep 360 degrees, you will get lots of targets. Learning to distinguish targets you are assigned to attend to takes time and practice.
If you choose to not turn on Grace Radar, then the default Christian (and non-Christian) radar remains on – threat radar and/or appetite radar. Threat radar looks for any challenge (even God actions) and seeks to neutralize it. Appetite radar views others and situations as sources solace, nourishment or value. Perceiving God’s impositions as threats leads to one thing – closing windows on challenging grace opportunities. Perceiving God’s impositions with appetite radar simply feeds the appetites, which easily become idols.
Sometimes God accepts our closing this window. Often that acceptance does not have the type of public declaration found in this passage in Matthew. If we close a window with God, his acceptance is often silent.
Does Jesus disrupt your life? At their most basic level, these soul search essays are an intentional attempt to disrupt you. They are intended to cause you to / consider what is in Scripture and how you respond to it unconsciously. The hope is that making the unconscious conscious helps you become mindful of what you actually do and think. The hope is to bring mindfulness to the inherent war that God’s Love started. Salvation parachutes you into an externall and internal war. With that mindfulness you can choose, rather than react within these wars.
Of course, you may already be mindful and thereby willfully opposing God. Christians do that.