March 27, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against THE AUTHORITIES, against the powers OF THIS DARK WORLD and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6.12)
“Therefore, put on the full armor of God. In so doing you will be able to stand your ground when the day of evil comes. After you have done everything you are able to in that day, you will be able to stand [before the throne of God with humble confidence.]” (Ephesians 6.13)
TODAY’S REFLECTION ON GOD’S WORD:
I have no doubt that “the authorities” Paul is speaking about that we must “respect and regard” on the one hand as Christ commanded and “battle against prayerfully” on the other hand resemble that of the local governmental officials from mayors to council members to law enforcement. Based on our own understanding, we certainly can see how these individuals are vulnerable to “dark worldliness.” They are easily overcome by the vile fruit of bitterness, prejudice, fear (not of God), self-promotion and self-preservation. We know and most easily discern a bad officer in any one of those aforementioned areas. It is most difficult to “love that enemy” but we are commanded to do so. Our focus should be to not follow their lead but to lead so they might follow. What we are unable to do for their transformation leading to salvation or for their confession of sin and profession of faith which saves them and thus leads them to a transformation, God most certainly can. It does not excuse us, however, from surrendering any effort to let God who is at work in us to be the God who is at work through us. Are we able to turn a dandelion into a fruit tree? Of course, not. We cannot because God made dandelions with a specific plan in mind. That plan is one many of us who do yard work do not understand…nor are we likely to. But, a dandelion does not have a soul and a free-thinking brain. Therefore, a human being is not like a dandelion although we have experienced some fairly “weedy” people who “go wherever the wind blows them.” Because they are not just a spawn of nature, that person can decide for themself whom they will serve. That means they most certainly can confess their sin and profess a faith in Jesus as the Christ and accept Him as their personal Lord and Savior. And that should be our aim.
Now let’s consider who are the authority figures in our lives. Whoever is on your list you are committed to pray for, pray about and pray over. Samuel had his Saul and so, too, do we. Jesus had His enemies and so, too, do we. Certainly God is familiar with a rebellious generation just as we are. But, in the longer run, we are not fighting, remember, against “flesh and blood” but the darkest force whose purpose is to consume life and not create it. And in this fight about those in “authority over us,” we must be sure that we do not become like them. Jesus warned His disciples to not become authorities like “those” Gentiles who “lord it over people.” Ever consider why Jesus alerted the disciples to the actions of Gentiles. He does not say “like ‘those’ Jews do.” But, in great part the disciples and the followers of the Way would be treated “like” Gentiles because they were a splinter away from Judaism. They may have had their first roots in Judaism in some form and fashion but their first fruits were in “The Kingdom of God which had come in Jesus as the Christ.” After all, Jesus and most of His disciples did not come from Jerusalem and Judea. The disciples’ ancestry fell into the realm of the “lost tribes of Israel.” It was easy to see “them” as the enemy from the strict Jewish perspective. The early Church had its fill of Judaizers who attempted to synthesize Judaism and The Way so it would resemble the old while presenting something new. Jesus teaching on patching old wineskins to hold new wine speaks directly to that problem and the anticipation of a future reality.
So, what do we do with those in authority “over” us whose life reflects more of the dark world than the one of light and life? Jesus suggests personal accountability as the starting point with the parable of the “Log jutting from one’s eye.” In His teaching about “judge not lest you be judged yourself by the same measure you judge others,” He mentions “Do not attempt to remove a splinter from the eye of another while you operate with a log jutting out of your own.” As Jesus learned carpentry and stonecutting from Joseph, His earthly father, splinters in one’s eye would have been a known experience. They didn’t have face masks and protective goggles in that day as we do today. It clearly makes sense that you would not want someone whose vision is severely impaired working on your own “at risk” vision. The application to “judging others without discerning your own motives, thoughts and actions” is not a stretch therefore. Very few people I have ever known do bad things for no reason at all. Discerning what is “behind” the scene gives us a better perspective on how to address what goes on on stage. Not believing we have a fault in ourselves which may be projected on others is a critical error. It speaks to the difference between sympathy and empathy. But, how we use that information to lead, guide and direct a “wrong authority” into righteousness is critical to how we refine ourselves by remaining humble before God. Now we can go back and apply that teaching from the Sermon On The Mount which says “Seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness before seeking the means of supplying your wants and needs.” Remember, Gentiles did not have a true experience with the presence of God nor of God’s presentation of being a righteous person. They would not seek God first in exercising “good” authority over the people. The disciples were warned to not be like them. It was His way of also saying, “Don’t be like the corrupt Jewish leadership you have questioned all this time and rebelled against.” Instead, seek God and seek to live in His call to righteousness. Rebuke the false teaching, the false authoritarianism and the false promises promoted by an “accommodating” spirit. Seeking first that objective viewpoint which God surely provides is not all we should do when confronting false authority but it is a step in the right direction. With that there is more to come.
A PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Father, continue to show us “the way, the truth and the life” which is the essence of our existence called into being by Your mercy, grace and love. We humble ourselves before You and strive to live better as an example to the world for their hope of salvation to be known to them as it is for our own in Jesus’ name. AMEN.