Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Following the example of Jesus - step-by-step (1 Peter 2:21)

SCRIPTURE: 1 Peter 2:21 (TM) – larger reading 1 Peter 2:21-25
This is the kind of life you've been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.

One Sunday morning in 1865, a black man entered a fashionable church in Richmond, Virginia. When Communion was served, he walked down the aisle and knelt at the altar. A rustle of resentment swept the congregation. How dare he! After all, believers in that church used the common cup. Suddenly a distinguished layman stood up, stepped forward to the altar, and knelt beside the black man. With Robert E. Lee setting the example, the rest of the congregation soon followed his lead. 

Jesus set the example. The “always” question is… will we follow? It is easy to say one thing, more difficult issue is following through on what we say… living out the example.

We talk better than we live squandering our spiritual inheritance by failing to follow the biblical teachings of a moral and ethical standard. Then we wonder why all hell breaks lose in our life… in our relationships… in our calling…

Examples abound – drawn from the ministry of my colleagues, examples repeated a thousand times over, only the cast of characters change – a youth director whose marriage was starting to unravel eventually ends up divorced and in jail for grand theft; a nurse loses her privileged position at a teaching hospital because of anger issues ending up in federal prison on drug charges; a church leader’s marriage comes to an end, a new relationship begins, loses the respect of many and blames others; a couple continues their long search for a church home that will meet their spiritual needs never doing their part in the discipline of prayer and Bible study; a widow wonders out loud why her son and daughter-in-law didn’t reach out to her, even as her husband was dying, without ever acknowledging her role in slamming the door shut on the relationship… do I need to go on?

Is this the kind of life we have been called to live? Is this the kind of example Jesus left for us to follow? Our relationships are going to “hell in a hand basket” and we blame others. Want barriers broken down? Want peace? Desire tranquility? Praying that everyone just gets along? Want to the drama to end? Hoping for answers? We need not look any further than our own heart’s relationship with Christ. Oh, I can hear all of us of say … “my relationship with God is good.” Is it? Or are we simply telling ourselves what we want to hear and believe? If our relationship with God is so good, why is our life such a mess? … another “always” question.

Following the example of Christ really isn’t that hard if we would but allow ourselves to be lead by the Holy Spirit. It means stop playing spiritual games. It means stopping the charades. It means being honest with ourselves before the Lord. It means repentance. It means showing remorse for our decisions. It means stopping the blaming, fault-finding, and excuse making. It means being open to God’s reality even if we don’t like the ramifications.

Dr. Boyd K. believed that it was easier to continue in the affair with his assistant than to face the issues he had with his wife. Sitting in my office, he at one end of the couch and his wife at the other end, finally took ownership of his feelings, his anger, his reality and the horrible messed up situation with his wife and his assistant. No more hide-n-seek, no more blaming, no more fault finding, no more statements of “there is nothing wrong with me,” no more looking for the easy way out. No more running away from one marriage into the arms of someone else. After multiple marriages he made the difficult decision to fix the marriage he was in. Healing hurts. Emotional healing hurts even worse. After almost two years of soul searching counseling they stood in front of me at the altar of First Church as I had the privilege of officiating at the renewal of their marriage vows with their adult children bearing testimony to the role that Christ played in their parents healing. Truly, Jesus had set the example and they simply followed it, step-by-step.


Christ, you have set the example help us follow – step-by-step.

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