Comfort the People - 6th Day of Advent
How to Pray a Great Blessing on Someone

Unchanging Marching Orders

Swords to plowshares
Benchmarks of history have marked days and periods of my life.
I have seen history change in a split second. We have turned corners without warning. We have seen rules of engagement change with one new incident or incident. We have gone to sleep at night and awakened in the morning in a new reality.
The world changes slowly and it changed quickly.
Some things, however, do not change. In every circumstance, followers of Jesus are always part of a counter-cultural movement. We are always swords to plowshares people in a world of escalation. We are always different.
What is different today for a follower of Jesus?
Nothing of our mission or calling has changed in the last 24 hours.
The marching orders we awoke with yesterday morning are still in place. The call to love God and our neighbor is still in effect.
The challenge to be odd balls among people choosing sides based upon their own definitions or predilections is in place. The counter-cultural mandate to follow Jesus holds.
The different drum still beats.
The beatific ideal has not diminished.
We have received no countermanded revisions to our stance of radical trust.
We have received no direction to live in fear or reactive hostility. Nor have we been assigned the task of maligning those who disagree with us.
We still believe in acting in wisdom, grace, compassion, love, and righteousness where we have influence.
We still believe in the dignity of every human being as a person created in the image of God and passionately loved by God.
We still believe in prayer over our own actions and those things beyond our control.
We are still called to live with risk and to be willing to lay down our lives, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus. Safety is not the first order of our lives. That order is to follow Jesus.
We are still God's people first and whatever else we are, after that.
Nothing has changed.
Now, two specifics that were written separately from each other and from these introductory paragraphs. One came out of a meditation on leadership and another out of a discussion of taxes.
If you are an employer with employees, a commander with a military contingent, an executive chef with a staff, and artist with assistants, a surgeon with technicians, or a contractor with subcontractors, you know what it is to have a master plan. You know how important it is for the whole team to play together and give attention to detail.
In fact, the capacity of the line staff to be detail oriented is vital to your mission. We may not understand how all of those details fit together. The "boss" does and that why "they pay him the big bucks."
Thus, we have this insight into God's instructions, "You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently."
The diligence God demands is not to stifle our our creativity and individual expression, but to stimulate it --- in one direction.
"Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD!
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!
You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules.
I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me!"
(Psalm 119:1-8 ESV)
If you think the following passage is primarily about taxes and government and such, you miss the point. Jesus uses the obvious, knows the trickery, sees through the compliments, and issues a combination dismissal and clarion call to orient ones life to God and quit squabbling about matters of lesser consequence with far, far lesser motives. What is he trying to expose and sort out in your life today?
The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.
So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”
But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?”
They said, “Caesar's.”
He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”
And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent."
(Luke 20:19-26 ESV)
Being a disciple of Jesus begins with a commitment to radical discipleship. Then, it follows, that we will be led by scripture and lead in accordance with such. Finally, we will understand, that while we are citizens of this realm with responsibilities in this world, our ultimate loyalty is to God and to the Son of God, Jesus.
He will have the last word:
" He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore."
(Isaiah 2:4 ESV)