Recently a young man in our community was killed. It was a sad and tragic time for those who knew him. What made it even more tragic was the fact that there was a group of protesters who made plans to picket his funeral. If I told you the bizarre sequence of illogic that made these people think it made sense to protest a funeral, you would hang your head in shame at the idea that there are people in this world so completely incapable of logical thought.
What makes it far worse, however, is that these protesters were representatives of a church. So you would not just hang your head in shame at their illogic, you would hang your head in shame at the thought that there might be Christians so utterly incapable of compassion and decency.
Over the last week, I've had several people comment to me that they are concerned that these protesters will "bring harm to the name of Christ" I understand their concern, but I think there is far less to worry about than they realize. The people I've talked to -- both Christian and non-Christian -- realize and understand that these people have absolutely nothing to do with Christ, even though they might claim His name. They have as much to do with Christianity as my left big toenail has to do with the current government in Bangladesh.
And everyone understands that...
In fact, I visited that church's website and went to their "about" page (which should tell us all about who they are, right?). I found that their "about" page talks in three places about the causes that they protest against, and only once mentions the name of Jesus. That in itself isn't a big deal, except that, the one time they mention the name of Jesus, it is to make a point about what the Gospel isn't.
This reminded me of two verses. One is:
The church is to be built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, and He must be the center and foundation of everything we are, and everything we do. I think it is possible that at one time this church had Jesus Christ as their foundation, but certainly that is no longer the case; now their foundation is the cause and the protest which they have embraced. One has to only visit their website or listen to their interviews to realize, this is a people which has lost its foundation.
How does something like this happen? That's the other verse I was thinking of:
If Jesus is our foundation, He is also our focus. We must never take our eyes off Him, off His life, His character, His acts, His teachings, and His death and resurrection. When we take our eyes off Him, we run the risk of having our attention fixed instead on other things.
And the other things might not even be bad things. Sometimes in the church we even get caught up in good causes. But the moment a cause, a program, or an activity causes us to lose our focus on Jesus Christ, then it becomes a danger to us all.
Last summer we scheduled youth group events for the teenagers at our church. We had, in addition to having the teens organize and lead a Vacation Bible School, some fun events -- trips to the beach, hiking, camping, and other things. Two events stand out in my mind.
First, was our trip to see the SeaDogs -- our baseball team in Portland -- play a Friday night game. Unfortunately, we had picked a week that didn't work well for most of our teens, and the few teens who could have gone, forgot all about it. The result? Three leaders showed up, and no teens at all!
I was disappointed. I was really looking forward to going to the game with the teens (I'm really not a big baseball fan, but it still is a fun time, when you go with people you know and care about.)
The other event was our hiking trip. We were planning to take our teens on a hike up Cranberry Peak, in the Bigelow Mountain Range. Because this was a long trip, and about two hours from home, we decided we would go the day before, spend the night at my brother's home, and his family could feed us breakfast, and provide food/supplies for our backpacks. Naturally, this would cost money, and we were going to have to charge each teen a few dollars to cover everything. And we were also going to have to get an advance count, so my brother would know how much food to buy. So I passed around a clipboard, and teens signed up if they were planning to come. We had fifteen people sign up. My brother purchased accordingly.
And the day of our departure...we had a grand total of four teenagers who showed up. Which meant much more money had been spent than should have been spent!
Now, I must say, we had a really fun time. But...I was very disappointed. And this was a very different kind of disappointment. When we didn't get to go to the SeaDogs game, I was disappointed, but it wasn't a disappointment directed at any one particular person or people. This time, I found that I was disappointed in people who said "Yes, I'm going to do this," and then backed out. I had been let down.
The book of I Peter says (1 Peter 2:6) that whoever believes in Jesus, the foundation stone of the church, will not be disappointed (in some translations). And this is not talking about the first kind of disappointment. Obviously; we all face disappointments on a regular basis. Anyone who thinks that Christians go through life without disappointments...they need to rethink that!
However, what we can say is this: we will never have the second kind of disappointment in Christ; He will never never let us down. He will always follow through.
The translation I use says that we will not be put to shame. We will never be embarrassed or ashamed that we put our faith in Christ. He will never let us down, because He is the solid rock, the sure foundation.
Solid, liquid, or gas? Which are you? Everything around us is in one of those three states. What exactly does it mean to be a solid, or a liquid, or a gas? Good question.
A solid is a sample of matter that retains its shape and density when not confined.
A liquid is a sample of matter that conforms to the shape of a container in which it is held, and which acquires a defined surface in the presence of gravity.
A gas is a sample of matter that conforms to the shape of a container in which it is held and acquires a uniform density inside the container, even in the presence of gravity and regardless of the amount of substance in the container.
If we were to compare the people of this world to molecules, I think most would be in liquid state. Free to float about, held in place only by external forces, but never really bound together.
This is what our world is now, but I think that we are moving toward becoming gaseous. Our society has become more and more mobile as technology increases, and people talk about easy transportation and Internet as things which make our world "smaller." But in reality, they don't make our world smaller; they make us bounce about frenetically like gaseous molecules. We are becoming a people who randomly bounce about, running into more and more molecules, but never attaching to any of them. We are becoming gaseous.
But for those of us who are Christians, we are called to something completely different than this. Not liquid, not gaseous. Solid. We are called to be part of the church, a structure which, while living and breathing, has an architect who has fitted us together, and we are bound together. Something solid, something permanent, something unbreakable.
Most people in our society don't want to part of a structure, for a structure binds us, and makes us less free. At least...that is what they think. But even liquids and gases are bound -- they are bound by externals -- a pitcher, a glass, a room. And those which are bound by nothing eventually become utterly lost and alone.
But in a solid, no molecule is ever alone, and every molecule is part of something bigger and grander than itself. And, unlike water and gas, which shift and change depending on the container, the bonds which hold us together will never change, will never be broken.
1 Peter 2:4-6 tells us that we come to Christ to be built up as a spiritual house. Christ is the bond which holds us together. He is the foundation upon which we are built. And, "whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame."
It is interesting that, in our free-flowing, frenetic society, being "bound" is considered to be a bad thing, but it is only as you take your place in the structure which was designed for you that you discover what you were really made for, and how your life can be both fulfilling and free.
When I was a kid, our house had a kitchen and a dining room, and there was a wall, with a doorway, between the two.
That wall is no longer there. At some point while I was growing up, my parents decided they'd had enough of that wall. They wanted to have one large, wide open room, instead of two smaller rooms.
So dad took a sledgehammer to the wall and knocked it out. Of course, when they built the house in the first place, they knew that someday they might want to get rid of that wall, so they were careful to build the house in such a way that this wall was not a load-bearing wall. It was supporting nothing. Nothing else anywhere in the house depended on it. It was, in a nutshell, useless.
The book of Ephesians tells us this:
1 Peter 2:4 adds to this image by telling us that we are not just stones in a building, but we are living stones, growing together as God has fitted us together.
But as God is building His house, He is not putting in any useless stones. There is no part of His church that He could point at and say, "That living stone there doesn't support anything. Nothing else in My house depends on that living stone. That living stone is, in a nutshell, useless. I could take a sledgehammer to that living stone and it wouldn't affect anything else in the building."
We are all "load bearing" in the church. God has fit us together perfectly, designing each of us to bear and carry a load which was specifically designed for us. Galatians tells us this:
The good news is that the load is not an unbearable load; Jesus said in Matthew:
In 1 John, John reiterates these words by assuring his readers that:
The loads we are each given are not unbearable, or unreasonable. But they are our burdens to carry. And in carrying our own load, we support and strengthen all the other living stones in the building with us, strengthening the entire structure. It is an exciting realization to understand that we are fitted so perfectly together by God, but with that realization comes an exciting responsibility as well -- to build up, strengthen, and support the living stones all around us, who shoulder their loads side by side with us.