Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Peter is quite concerned about authority, whether it’s in reaction to his own or it’s the culture in which he lives. In any case, his beloved Jesus submitted to human authority too. Do we?

I Peter 2:17
Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood [family] of believers, fear [reverence] God, honor the king [emperor].

What is the meaning of authority in our lives? What is authority? In some cultures, it’s inherited, in others, it’s traditional, and still others, it’s won through battle.

I’d say respect for authority in Western culture is at an all time low. Certainly, there is little “positional” authority – that is, respect for the position (police, politician, principal, teacher, doctor, judge, or president) and not particularly the person. If anything, people are looking for opportunities to bring down respect. There may be a grudging respect initially, but a wrong statement or misstep of judgment, and the person is dragged through the press or gossip mill.

Some people say “respect should be earned.” I understand this point of view, but I’m wondering if we, and that is cultural we, haven’t taken this doctrine too far. Can we expect others to constantly prove themselves worthy, only to make a mistake and lose all that has gone before.

On the other hand, those who are in positions of authority today seem to have lost something vital to commanding respect. Our society has become so jaded that the tenets of honesty, authenticity, trust, character, and commitment have stretched beyond our grasp.

It must be old-fashioned to want to believe in the vows of marriage, the truth of law, the honesty of leaders, and the greater good. It’s Pollyanna-ish.

Faith has a measure of authority as well and although some can embrace that easily others will not and never will without divine intervention. If God is sovereign, then God has ultimate authority over everything. Face it, that’s not always easy to swallow in a world that challenges the existence of such things: entropy is all around us as well as violence, greed, self-aggrandizement, and disloyalty.

How does one show respect in this day and age? What does it look like? Who deserves it?

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I am not very good at waiting for the fruit of anything. I am a product of my culture and generation. I want it now. But faith in the good ending of a situation is the cornerstone of hope and takes time.

Hebrews 12:11
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

It takes practice to believe in the good end despite the circumstances. It also takes experience. The more personal examples I have of God’s reliability, the easier it is to trust God the next time.

And, apparently, each instance of my faith and hope in God, lays a path for others to follow. That is a by-product of my journey, my willingness to hold my hand to the plow.

I live in northern Maryland near the Pennsylvania line and a few times a year, we take a trip up into the Lancaster area where many Amish communities have evolved. I really enjoy watching the spring planting season as the men work the ground with teams of horses or mules and plows. It’s clearly hard work but it is also a kind of dance. Like any farmer, these men are trusting that their labor will bear a plentiful harvest. Outside forces can impact their efforts, but they still carry on, believing that all will be well.

A God follower is similar to these farmers, willing to cultivate the land of human, believing the ground can be tamed, seeds can grow and new life can flourish.

But, like the farmer, this process is long and painstaking. I cannot rush through it. Just as plants grow on their own timetable, so do souls.

In the Amplified translation of this verse, righteousness is expanded to mean “conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God.” This is true human and this is the harvest we are intended to pursue here on Earth. And with this relationship comes peace within.

This is the promise, the ultimate fruit of discipline.

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Culture, culture, culture. Is there any doubt that Paul is writing out of his time and place? In these verses, Paul lays out some very specific parameters and rules in order to be on the “widow list.” What did they get for being in this list?

I Timothy 5:9-10
No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband [dead or alive], and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

According to the Amplified translation, the list or roll was for those women who would, from that day forward (assuming they could stay on the list), would receive church support. They would be cared for and loved. God forbid if a woman was 59 or 58. Would they bend the rules? What is her husband was an abusive clod? What if her children, despite her efforts, ended up in jail? Who decides what is hospitable?

If there are women out there who met all of Paul’s rules, I doubt very seriously that they would need to be on the widow list because individuals would be reaching out to them for all their good deeds, help, and foot washing [personal service]. Outside of money, the women on Paul’s list seem to be strong, healthy, and full of spiritual insight. They would be loved and appreciated already.

Sorry, but I think the women on the widow list might need to be different in today’s world: homeless, abused, neglected, lonely, shamed, lost, addicted, sick, or hungry. They need strategies for survival and recovery. They need patience and forbearance. They need unconditional love and wisdom.

The widow list is not like Santa’s list, where only the “good kids” get the stuff. Like the movie, Cider House Rules, where the list was made by people who had never walked or understood the shoes of those who lived in the Cider House, so are Paul’s Widow List Rules. I find him insensitive and downright clueless.

But perhaps the really sad thing is that we all make “Widow lists.” We judge the ones around us and compare their circumstances to the list in our heads. Is this person deserving? Should I give this homeless person a dollar or will he/she squander it away?

I wish I could remember her name, but there is an amazing British woman who has served in China for many years as a missionary. I will never forget one of her teachings that chided us well-meaning helpers saying that Jesus only asked that we give and serve the poor, not second-guess what will be done with with the gift. Such an idea goes against everything we assume: shouldn’t I be a steward for what I give? I don’t know the answer to that.

But today, I’d like to throw out my lists and see what happens.

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If love is a type of submission, as I believe it is, then that is the best place to start with this controversial passage about wifely submission. You see, if ALL are to submit to one another, why must the “wife to husband” submission be “greater” or more submissive as some people imply?

Ephesians 5:22, 24
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. . . . Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

I’m still taking baby steps when it comes to loving as Christ loved others. Here’s my theory: if I can love/submit to my husband a fraction of what Christ models for me to love/submit to everyone, we’ll have a transformed marriage.

The same habitual sins I experience with others in my daily life are magnified at home. For instance, if I judge others, even people I don’t know in the grocery line or sitting in a restaurant, is there any surprise that I judge those closest to me?

Probably, the love/submission relationship was supposed to be easier with our mates, after all, we’ve made a promise to love them, to cherish them, to stand beside them through joys and sorrows, to create families, to build a microcosm of the Church (i.e. Body of Christ). Instead, we build mini-cultures that reflect the culture in which we live. In some families, that means an environment of greed, ambition, violence, mistrust, disease, and manipulation.

I missed something along the way and forgot that my own husband is “sacred other.” He is Holy Spirit illuminated too. And that is the One to whom I am to submit within him. It is not the veiled man, but the core that is holy. And it is the core of man that is more than worthy of love and yes, even submission.

Some of his veil I caused. When two people hurt each other or become estranged in any way, the darkness covers the light within on both sides. I have been looking through two layers of sin: my own and his.

It’s a uncertain business to begin peeling the layers of “outer self” in a relationship while the other is fully clothed and protected. But I am pretty sure that “outer me” cannot love/submit to anyone in the way of Jesus.

Today, I have intention and mindfulness with love and submission for the Holy Spirit.

(FD 9)

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Of the people in my world, few are under the rigors or traditions of Jewish law. Instead, we have allowed ourselves to be directed by the laws of modernity, culture, and the man-made rules and traditions of the institutionalized church.

Galatians 4:1a, 2-3, 4a, 5
What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, . . . He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, . . . to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

When John the Baptist and Jesus shook up the Jewish people by announcing the long-awaited Messiah and the fulfillment of the ultimate promises that went back as far as Abraham, people freaked. They understood the implications of a Messiah in their world. They understood the law would be superseded by whatever He brought along. They understood there was an inheritance involved.

We don’t.

By “putting on Christ,” I am no longer just female or American or middle class. I am the seed of Abraham because Christ is the seed. [Gal 3:26-29]

It reminds me of the sad stories of wealthy men and women passing their money, their companies, their knowledge, and all their worldly goods to their descendants but it’s all destroyed or lost. The inheritance was full of promise but it was unrealized.

I feel like a modern day prodigal, wasting away the gifts of the Christ. I am a slave instead to my lifestyle, my debt, and my self-image. I am perpetuating 20th century goals and dreams to my children.

What does it really look like to wear Christ in the world?

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I used to make the mistake of thinking that networking was about figuring out what someone else could do for me. Now I understand, true networking is about the heart. Networking is just meeting people, listening to people, and caring about people. Jesus was the best “networker” ever!

II Corinthians 12:14a
Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. . . .

In years past, I have participated in a lot of mapped out “evangelism” programs that focused on getting the “client” (poor sap who answered the door in neighborhood canvassing), to YES. It was like a business transaction. It was my job to lay out the situation (sin) and what I had to offer to solve that problem. Accept Jesus and those problems will be covered by the blood and you get an all expenses paid trip to heaven at the end of the whole shebang.

It never occurred to me (back in the day) that “Evangelism Explosion” or the presentation of the “Four Spiritual Laws” or handing out bibles at the mall or tucking tracts into crevices at public places was a long way from relationship.

It takes time to reach the heart. It takes time to earn trust.

People who are in need of help do not require coercion or convincing. This is one reason people, who are poor, hungry, sick, and terrorized, respond easily to the outstretched hand of a loving God.

But our American culture is filled with “stuff.” We have bent ourselves to the lure and trappings of comfort and possessions. We are like two year olds: No! I can do it myself. I don’t need your help. Me. My. Mine. My way. More, more, more.

Who needs God when we have all the stuff? As long as someone thinks it’s about the stuff, he/she will not need to hear me.

I can only speak out of the heart for that is what makes me uniquely “me.” And in that time, I want to know that person. And if, in that exchange of selves, we discover a place of authenticity where I can offer the story of what I have experienced in Christ and how that relationship meets me daily at the point of true need, then that is a glory moment.

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I was going to review some of the current exegesis on hair & head coverings for women and/or men and how it’s applicable today. Forget that. It’s massive and contradictory. So what is my “take away” today? Where is the nugget that will have meaning and application for me?

I Corinthians 11:2, 7
Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God . . . A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

With just a little reading about these passages, it’s clear to me that a great number of the verses are grounded in the culture of the day. There are modern day examples of coverings like the burqas of the Middle East, the “caps” worn by Mennonite and Amish women, or the veils worn by women in various high church services and masses. Some of these traditions have morphed into the custom of wearing hats in church, a practice still prevalent among many African American churches or seasonally in a variety of churches, like Easter Sunday.

But here’s the truth of it: I don’t wear head coverings. I don’t wear them to church (unless I am visiting a church where this is expected) and I don’t wear them to pray, sing, or worship. About the only time I wear a hat is to shield my face from the sun at the beach.

If I weigh the controversy over head coverings with the Jesus Creed, to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul & strength and to love my neighbor as myself, could it possibly matter? Does God love me less? Do I cut myself off from the blessings of God?

Now, what about the sister verses that are slipped in between the head covering ones? That “man” is the image & glory of God while woman is the glory of man or that Christ is the head of man while man is the head of woman. Hiccup. Hiccup. I need to take a breath here.

All right, I can work through the headship scenario: since Christ is the head of man, well, then Christ is ultimately the head of woman too (If A=B and B=C, then A=C). That was easy.

But what about the glory piece? Am I the light of “man?” Do I, woman, reflect the character of “man” by who I am, what I do, and what I say? Do the men I know reflect the character of God in Christ?

If my previous post about the default of glory being both male and female believers reflecting the glory of God, then, wouldn’t we be the glory for one another, whether male or female. It’s about relationships, to God and to each other. If I am not in community with men and women, there is no reflecting going on anyway. I cannot be the glory for any person without being in relationship with him or her. I cannot sustain the light of Christ if I am not in relationship there either.

I’m sure there is plenty of room for debate about these verses and the “roles” of men and women, but I’m not going to spend more time trying to justify my stance. If I can be the light and glory of Christ in the world, then the rest will work out the way it is supposed to work out. If I love as Christ loved, then glory abounds. If I learn and practice authentic humility, then both man and woman are lifted up. This I believe.

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