In a recent sermon my pastor Joel Wayne said “Social media provides the illusion of companionship without the demands of a relationship.” He was making the point that many who are active in social media acknowledge deep loneliness. Joel contrasted this with encountering Jesus as he is presented in the New Testament in a community of faith. I came away wondering whether Pastor Joel’s comment about social media could be applied to what passes for community in many churches. Paul’s teaching in Ephesians about participation with Christ in authentic community speaks truth to this problem.
Jesus called his first disciples from fishing for fish to fishing for people. They abruptly left their livelihood behind to follow him in this radical kingdom adventure. The decision whether or not to follow Jesus remains the most crucial one in all of life. Jesus still fishes for people through his followers today.
Legacy is a word that is overused today, but it is fitting to think of Bethsaida, Capernaum, and Chorazin with this word in mind. Our legacy depends on how we respond to the opportunities God graciously gives us. These three villages had many opportunities to respond to Jesus and his teaching, but they did not. May God grant that learning about their history will lead us to avoid their legacy.
Recently I sat down with Jonathan Greer and John Hilber to talk about Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament, a recent book they edited with John Walton. We spoke of the need for such a book, how it was put together, and who should read it. Greer, Hilber, and Walton rightly believe that we best understand the meaning of the Old Testament for the world today when we understand the world to which it was originally written.
I’m thankful that the Bible isn’t hagiography, an idealistic, even idolizing way of telling a story in which the heroes and heroines are scrubbed clean of mistakes and weaknesses. Just about any biblical character of note, except Jesus, has both good and bad moments in the scriptural story. Remember how Peter, the church’s foundational rock, quickly becomes a stone of stumbling to Jesus (Matt 16:22-23)? The Bible doesn’t sugarcoat the saints. Why is this?
Lately I’ve been thinking about grace greater than our circumstances, the kind of “sufficient grace” Paul spoke about in 2 Cor 12:9. I don’t want to diminish the amazing grace that saves from sin when someone first believes the gospel, but saving grace is just the beginning. There is also sustaining grace for all the obstacles and afflictions that come our way. The grace that first saves from sin continues to save from pain, fear, weaknesses, and insecurities. We shouldn’t be surprised that Paul speaks about grace greater than our circumstances as well as grace greater than sin. Saving grace doesn’t stop saving once we’re saved.