LASTing Peace, Becoming Perfect: Shut Up


Last week we started talking more about spiritual maturity in light of my upcoming book, Beyond Belief: Jesus Saved You, Now What?

James said that it any man can control his tongue, he is a perfect man. Let’s learn the first step to doing just that.

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Body Image and the Traditional Family

Have you ever thought about how body image is directly related to the demise of the family in modern society?

The traditional family is not simply under attack, but at this point has been so viscously and repeatedly assaulted that she is no longer recognizable as the institution she was created by God to be. It is also indisputable, even by the most liberal among us, that women’s physical bodies are so manipulated and objectified that frequently they don’t operate as God intended either.

Considering the family, I give you the divorce rate in America, the number of children in single parent homes, domestic abuse, latchkey kids, grandparents raising their children’s children, the disappearance of discipline and the overthrow of family interaction by tiny, handheld computers.

Considering the female body, I give you airbrushed magazine covers, (interesting article here) innocent daughters on diets, (talk about that here) every conceivable product offering a plastic-enhanced, fat-free version, menus touting “guilt-free” so that women have social permission to eat, women who can never have children after putting their bodies through premature menopause due to eating disorders in their formative years (ask yours truly).

Well known, observed facts, all of the above. But what do they have in common?

…great masters [demon tempters] produce in every age a general misdirection of what may be called sexual ‘taste.’ This they do by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses and advertisers who determine the fashionable type. The aim is to guide each sex away from those members of the other with whom spiritually helpful, happy, and fertile marriages are most likely.

Have you ever thought of that?
That our obsession with perfect bodies (at least what the momentary, finicky appetite of sexual desire deems salable) has distracted eligible men and women from proper interests in the other sex based on faith, commitment, intellect and prayer? That an attitude of entitlement lends to severed marriages as one partner selfishly believes they deserve to be happy at the expense of their vows?

We now teach men to like women whose bodies are scarcely distinguishable from those of boys. Since this is a kind f beauty even more transitory than most, we thus aggravate the female’s chronic horror of growing old (with many excellent results) and render her less willing and less able to bear children.

As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something that does not exist – making the role of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible. What follows you can easily forecast.

What astonishes me, is that C.S. Lewis published The Screwtape Letters in 1942. Screwtape was right, what followed was easily forecast. Seventy-one years later, we are fulfilling his prophecy.

What came first, the chicken or the egg? What came first, the decline of the family as the foundation of society or the objectification of the female body? Regardless, if we intentionally address one, will we necessarily affect other?

Resonance

An echo in my spirit,

Like a pulsing in my chest,

An ache in my soul.

Life struck

by felt-bound hammer, and

Days pounded repeatedly, my

Pain cloaked in mercy.

Your Spirit sings near me and

Tremors erupt in my belly.

Notes of resonance, harmony.

Your voice beckons all my straining

Peels the silence away.

With strikes and songs, strokes and pelts.

You coax the music of my life

To resonate and harmonize

Where beauty lay cold and shrouded under cobwebs. 

Abandoned, deemed useless and out of tune.

You stood nearby and hung your notes between us.

I felt the rumble in my belly –

chords of life vibrating with mysterious life. Creator Life.

Then Jesus, you sat and touched the keys,

Pulled your fingers down the dusty keys,

And crescendo followed trill as songs I long thought died

came forth.

Considering Consider

Recently, someone shared with me their least favorite verse in the Bible. “You therefore be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48.

James 1:2 used to be a hang up for me. “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,”. How can God possibly expect us to consider trails joyful?

In our modern vernacular, consider often means, “ to ponder, to bear in mind, to have an opinion, or make allowances for.” (www.dictionary.com) That usage is not very conclusive; it implies an either/or stance.

My sisters and I recently took each other to task, two on two, debating the color of our mom’s car.  Jennifer and Rachelle considered it gray, Kelsey and I considered it bronze or taupe. The battle escalated until we called our mom. We finally insisted that dad pull the car’s original paperwork to prove one side of the discussion. Kelsey and I won.

This brings consider into focus, regardless of how Rachelle and Jennifer considered the appearance of the car, there was a verifiable truth. Truthfully, if I meditate on my trials for very long, I will most certainly not conclude that they are joyful. But, maybe it doesn’t matter how long we ponder our trials. Maybe it isn’t a case of analyzing all the possible good that God may bring out of our pain.

The Greek word for consider, in James 1:2 is hégeomai, meaning, “I lead, I think.” Additionally, it can mean, “to lead, command, have authority over.” When you replace consider, in James 1:2, with the fuller definition, one way it reads is, “Have authority over all joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds.” That’s a different perspective!

This broader explanation of James 1:2, leads us to 2 Corinthians 10:5b, another verse that I have long wondered how to obey, “…and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”. A captive is under the authority of his captor. Biblically, even in the midst of trials, we are the captors, we are in authority of our own joy.

Now on to the rest of James 1:3-4, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.”

Do you see the linkage back to my friend’s least favorite verse? James is telling us how to be perfect. Could it be that God will bring us to speechless awe at His never ending ability to reconcile the most polar opposites: trials and joy, perfection and pain?

For what it’s worth, let me offer you my personal paraphrase of the these two passages side by side: Brothers, take authority over your joy when you encounter various trials. Take captive under your authority all your thoughts and fears. It is an indisputable fact that when you remain obedient in the hardest situations you will become more perfect, more like your Heavenly Father. 

And the crowing conclusion: The fulfillment of this obedience, this increasing Christ-likeness, is God’s glory.

“Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

2 Corinthians 9:13-14

My Way or the Highway

When I was a little girl, I was an unconscious legalist. My good-Christian parents had chosen to homeschool their four girls. Like most kids, products of our environment, we assimilate what our parents, our peers, the adults we respect, the world around us – what everyone else does as the way things should be done.

 

My wonderful mother ground her own whole wheat into flour and made healthy homemade bread. We grew up active – swimming, playing outside, watching very little TV. I didn’t realize that I was building a moral code based on my observations. Even worse, I didn’t realize that I was equating all of these good things with the “good works” that God had created me for.

 

Let me explain, here’s what my pre-adolescent mind deduced: all Christians make their own homemade bread, all Christians call the television the boob-tube, all Christians homeschool their children, all Christians eat dinner together as a family and require their kids to drink a full glass of 2% milk every night.

WRONG!

 

That’s what Will Davis’ chapter 6 in, “10 Things Jesus Never Said,” addressed.

The Lie 

If it’s wrong for you, then it has to be wrong for everyone else.  If God requires you to do it, then every other Christian has to do it too.  If we’re not all completely uniform in our Christian beliefs and practices, then someone is out of line.  If other’s aren’t acting, worshiping, and believing exactly as you do, then they’re not good Christians.  Maybe they’re not Christians at all. 

 

That’s harsh, and few believers would agree that they think this way, but, if our actions reference our true beliefs, then most of us have been caught in the act. My examples above are pedantic, thoughts of a school girl.  But they are none-the-less indicative of how we often treat other believers. To this day, I have to remind myself that my husband was not brought up to believe that the television is inherently evil – it’s OK to watch more than 30 minutes a day.

 

Now, before you think that I am saying, “Anything goes, do whatever makes you happy,” let me emphasize: I am talking about debatable issues. The Bible is not ambivalent to our behavior. There are non-negotiables: all human life is valuable, stealing is wrong, God’s name is sacred, homosexuality is a sin, sex outside of marriage is wrong, and Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father are a few examples. But truthfully, God did not prescribe a certain number of hours of television. He never said “homeschool thy children.” God does not approve of one church denomination over another.  (In fact, it is my opinion that God would rather we didn’t have denominations, but that’s another article.)

 

Davis concludes this chapter, as the others with, Come to Me, All You Who are Weary and Burdened. To paraphrase his final paragraphs: God enjoys all kinds of music and God doesn’t have a favorite color.

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