“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12b)
The video, which has gone viral this week, shows a young woman verbally abusing a tall man in a winter hat on a subway. She mocks his hat, his shoes and other things as her friends and other onlookers look on and smile.
The young man does nothing for a while except stand there and take it. Having apparently had enough, he finally responds by calling her a not-so-nice name commonly used to verbally abuse females.
The woman then rolls her tongue outside of her mouth and smacks him in the head with the end of a stiletto. Reacting, he hits her with a forceful slap to her face. This action sets off a brawl on the train.
My first reaction to this episode was quite judgmental, especially toward the woman. Then I walked through a McDonald’s parking lot the other morning to grab a quick breakfast on the way to work.
This parking lot is not particularly large and is usually crowded with cars and pedestrians. Apparently some young man in a black coupe took offense at me walking in front of his car after he left the drive thru window. I knew he wasn’t happy because he let loose with some curses at me.
Of course, I responded with Christian humility. Uhhh…I wish I could say so, but the fact is I responded in kind. In fact, I was so mad that if he had come out of his car I would have been willing to duke it out with him right then and there, come what may.
Ironically, my next stop was to pick up my antidepressant. As I walked toward the pharmacy, I attributed my behavior to being off my meds for a few days. That’s probably true, but I also know there was something else at work. I just wasn’t sure what.
I have spent a good part of today reflecting on this. My musings began with the life of Josiah in the Old Testament. He was the Israelite king who created personal and national reforms after a priest discovered the long lost Scriptures (to that time) in the temple in Jerusalem. (See I Chronicles 34).
Here is what the Life Recovery Bible says about him:
When the Scriptures were discovered, Josiah initiated a recovery program for himself and his people immediately.
It is fair to say that Josiah grew up in a dysfunctional and destructive situation. Idolatry and other forms of sinful behavior were an established norm. Josiah had to begin by discovering what God’s ideals for living were.
In time, he was able to break the cycle of sin that had ensnared Israel. He had faith, commitment to God and the courage to pursue both personal and national recovery.
Josiah began his recovery program when he delved into the Scriptures. As a result, he is considered by Christians to be one of the more godly kings of Israel.
Another godly king, whose story comes a few pages in the Bible before Josiah, was Hezekiah. As was typical of ancient Israel, they were threatened by a powerful invader during his reign. Hezekiah began a large defense project he hoped would fend off the enemy. The Life Recovery Bible compares this work to that of building defenses of our own in order to live the Christian life:
Recovery involves repairing or building healthy boundaries that have become weak, defective, or torn down through abuse.
For some of us our boundaries have grown weak as we have let people walk all over us or we have let down our guard against our destructive behaviors.
Part of the recovery process involves repairing our boundaries. We can also construct a second wall of defense by developing a strong support network around us.
…..There is someone on our side who is far greater.
The lessons I learned from the Life Recovery Bible’s commentary are twofold. First, I was right to have set boundaries with that fellow in the McDonald’s parking lot. In fact, I was kind of backed up by this when my landlord told me later,”I’m proud of you.” Now, I think he was proud of my being willing to stand up for myself and fight the guy if necessary.
However, I believe that my response could have been something like this: ‘Why, my good man. Why are we upset. Don’t you see this is quite a full lot and we all have to show some common courtesy.”
The second lesson I learned from the Life Recovery Bible was that the reason I did not respond in a godly manner, other than my lack of a prescription, was due to my lack of boundaries against destructive personal behaviors. I suppose my meds are one form of boundary against them. But I lack the support network and the sort of relationship with God that would build a further line of defense against self destruction. (And yes, I could have ended up in jail–or worse.)
Saul of Tarsus was no stranger to destructive behaviors. Unfortunately for Christians, his havoc was directed at them. The Bible says he uttered threats against them (although I am sure he didn’t do it on a subway or McDonalds since those didn’t exist at the time.)
Saul had his comeuppance, however. Acts 9 describes his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus that left him blind and totally dependent on others. The Life Recovery Bible once more gives us some insight on this Scripture:
Saul was suddenly confronted with the fact that his life wasn’t as perfect as he had thought. Self righteousness had been his trademark. By letting go of his illusions of power, however, he became one of the most powerful men ever-the apostle Paul.
When we are confronted with the knowledge that our life isn’t under control, we have a choice. We can continue on in self denial and self righteousness or we can face the fact that we have been blind to some important issues. If we become willing to be led into recovery, and into a whole new way of life, we will find true power.
For me, the key word from the good people at the LRB is “willing”.
Obedience to Christ has always been an issue with me. When I was in college I went to a conference and learned that Christ wanted to be my Lord, not just my Savior. I drove home angry, feeling I had been “had”. “No one told me about this,” I thought. My concept at the time I think was that I only needed “fire insurance” and I didn’t think much about Jesus’s desire to change me.
I have had problems with obedience to Christ ever since. I have never learned to obey Him. More importantly, this comes I believe from not knowing why I should obey, other than that I am told to by Christian leaders. This hasn’t been enough of a motivation for me.
This morning during my reflections I came new a new understanding from the words of a praise song I listened to. It told me why Jesus is worthy of my obedience. It opens with these lines:
“Worthy is the,
Lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy, is He
Sing a new song, to Him who sits on
Heaven’s Mercy Seat” (words by Kari Jobe)
The bottom line is that Jesus, by nature of who He is and His work on the Cross for me is worthy of my obedience. How Jesus must tire of my recalcitrance. I’m even proud of my stubbornness, irascibility and curmudgeonly ways, thinking of them as an eccentric family trait.
Like Josiah, I see the importance of obeying the Word of God. To me they are a road map for living. However, Jesus points out in the Scriptures an error of the Bible believers in His day that can be just as true of me and I suppose other believers.
“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.” (John 5:39-40).
RC Sproul makes this point in a sermon on John 5, noting how we modern day believers still try to maintain some sense of self importance and control over their own lives. He decries the use of a bumper sticker with this message.
God said it. I believe it. That settles it.
“How arrogant is that,” says Sproul. “I want them to write a new bumper sticker: ‘God says it. That settles it.’ It doesn’t matter whether I believe it. It was settled long before my assent and long before I concur with the message. If God Almighty opens His holy mouth and says something, we don’t need another witness. It’s over. It’s settled.”
Sproul further explains the primacy of Jesus Christ and obedience to Him by referring to Paul’s statements to a group of Athenian philosophers:
“God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”(Acts 17:30-31).
This message is in contrast, says Sproul, to the current evangelistic techniques of today which emphasize our “receiving” of an “invitation” from God.
What is needed is for me is to “sing a new song” to Him that sits at the mercy seat at the Father’s right hand. This should be a song of willful, happy obedience to Jesus.
Why? Because He is worthy of my obedience, and it is not an option. Oh, and did I say “He is worthy?”
“With all creation I will sing praise to the King of Kings and I WILL adore You.”(Kari Jobe)
I have some ideas how this obedience will translate into my daily life, but more importantly, I now have a reason for this submission to the authority of Jesus.
Filled with wonder,
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is Power
Breath, and Living Water
Such a marvelous mystery (Kari Jobe)