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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Reflections on the practice of lent

Many Christians in the world participate in a practice known as Lent. Lent is a period or season proceeding Easter. During this time, one tries to discipline himself as a believer. He theoretically deprives himself of things in order to make more freedom to focus on the Lord. This is not an evil practice. It can develop in people a passion for following Christ and His commands. However, I will not follow it for reasons I will explain in this next paragraph. Before commenting on this blog, read it in its entirety first. This statement needs explanation to understand.

Lent is a practice which one might ultimately, by his power, try to discipline himself. A focus on this thought is a not a Christian thought. I am not saying that we should not develop Christian discipline. It is something that should be developed and maintained by the power of God. Through lent, their is a fear that one can develop self imposed righteousness. When that happens, one becomes dependent on his power to serve God, even though it is the Spirit which guides us to do right. Without the existence of God, we would not be able to know what is right and wrong, as a matter of fact, we would have no right and wrong. We must make God the basis of our reasons to do good works. We are not saved by doing good works. We do good works because we are saved. Works are important in the structure of The Way, but not the foundation. We are, in light of the shed blood of Jesus, the Christ, freed from these traditions - free from the responsibility of taking part in traditions and at the same time free to do them. Paul mentions in Colossians 2:6-23 freedom from human regulations and traditions due to the new covenant in the Great Sacrifice. In verse 8, he asks the believers to be careful not to fall for simple ideas of worldly based Christianity which avoids focus on the Christ. In the old covenant, the Jews had to perform certain rituals in order to maintain favor with God. Once the rituals were complete, God was pleased and the people praised God, or that was how it was supposed to be. Like every other follower of God, the Israelites eventually saw their own actions as the basis of salvation. This was not pleasing to God. God soon supplied us with a way to avoid yielding to this fallacy. He gave us an all covering sacrifice that would last for all time. So rejoice in the Lord because we can now not follow the Law, but follow Christ. This does not say we are able to disobey the Law, we still abide by its principles, but it is in light of God. So then, we obey what the Law says, but we do not follow it. We follow Christ. He is the King of Kings. He is our salvation and our door to life. He took the code of traditions away by giving His life on the cross, this is stated in 2:14. Our traditions have become secondary. We no longer are bound to religious leaders judgments on us based on the avoiding of traditions. We died to the worldly way of attaining righteousness. Paul said in verse 22 that these are all destined to perish because they are of human minds. They look wise, justifiable, and Godly, but they are self imposed. They lack any value in the kingdom because we cannot obtain righteousness by our own efforts. Live not by human commands for doing works only, but follow Gods will for holy living as mentioned in the Colossians 3:1-17. Since Christ has freed us, put your focus on the things that transcend this world. Allow love to guide you in kindess, compassion, true humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness. Seek peace with all believers. Sing your praises to God and worship Him. Minister to each other and be fed the Word of God. Be thankful in all the things you do (Paul, Col. 3:12-17).

For those already practicing Lent, do not quit. Instead, let the Lord guide you in Lent. Make your oath between you and God, and avoid bragging to men what you are doing. Do not let left hand know what your right hand is doing. Keep in this way and God will be pleased. Seek to honor Him. He is worthy. Praise to God for this.

The disciple must be entirely innocent of anger, because anger is an ofence against both God and his neighbor. Every idle word which we thinkso little of betrays our lack of respect for our neighbor, and shows that we place ourselves on a pinnacle above him and value our own lives higher than his. The angry word is a blow struck at our brother, a stab at his heart: it seeks to hit, to hurt and to destroy. A deliberate insult is even worse, for we are then openly disgracing our brother in the eyes of the world, and causing other to despise him.
(Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 127-128)
I truely believe that this goes toward any gesture or saying that even hints at hate. Some say that it is all in what you truely mean, but I say that what is truely existent in the hearts of men are fully evident in what we say and do. The statement that our intentions related to our words and gestures is not biblical. It is biblical to say that our words and gestures and actions are window to what the heart is feeling. The statements mention above show the desire to create our own version of christianity, disregarding the cost of carrying our cross that was commanded of us. You followers of The Way, use caution in your steps, for beside our narrow path is a steep embankment that threatens to swallow us whole. Use loving kindness in your lives. Do not seek what your heart feels is ok, for even our own hearts are treacherous. Instead, seek what God's will is in your life. Love for all, and all for love.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Love Your Neighbor and Your Enemy

Looking back on my life, I have taken note of the attitudes I had when I was younger. I see that I loved only what suited me. I was not unconditional in my love of people. I see now that the call to love all was unrestricted. We Christians have barred ourselve in prison cells of hate. Only limited love is able to leak to the ones around us. God seeks to liberate us from the oppression of hate. Love was the original plan for our kind. If we look at Christians as the chosen, we see that the church as a whole was chosen to love. We were chosen to be the representatives and the ambassadors. Any way could have been chosen to be the way to Christ, but the church has been honored by such a calling. We must value this calling above all callings and we must base all notions in our minds on this calling.
Our enemies deserve love from us just as much as our neighbors do. Our neighbors are no different than our enemies. Our creation in the Lord has made us in a certain sense, equal. Our sinful nature also makes us equal. Both natures existent inside us make it seem impossible to live with ourselves while trying to serve God. Everyone who has the potentional to experience God can know this frustration inside them. The battle the goes unresolved in this lifetime. In light of this, we must love our brothers, for we are not of this world, meaning we have been sanctified, but we are still in this world, meaning we know the struggles and torments this world has to offer. Let us not seek to separate ourselves from the world so we may hate those in the world. Let us seek to love those in the world and reach out to them in order to save them. Act in love to those around you. Act in love to those above and below you. Act in love regardless of you and your heart's desires of destruction.