Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Stray Thoughts: So, What Do We Do? Rejoice!

So, here we are in the midst of some dramatic events going on all around us. It is a striking understatement to say that we live in a nation that is in transition. To be sure, there have been some evil things that needed to be pointed out so that they could be addressed and changed for the better. But there are some other things that are also undergoing change. And not for the better. Then, of course, there is this pandemic. Wherever we end up, when life calms down a bit, it won’t be what normal used to be.

So, here we are, Christians, in the midst of all of this upheaval. What are we to do? How are we to respond to and interact with all that is going on around us? What does faithful living to look like now? Let me offer some thoughts.

The first thing that we need to do is rejoice. That, I’m quite sure, is not so obvious to many of you. In fact, it probably seems to you to be the exact opposite of what we should be doing. You’ve seen buildings consumed in flames, destroying homes and businesses. As I write this, there’s still this new country in the middle of Seattle. And, let’s face it, we’ve all seen examples of some terrible leadership at all the levels of government, people more concerned for appearances and politics than for principles. And don’t forget that pandemic. So, how is it that I can tell you to rejoice?

Well, I’ve got a verse.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Philippians 4:4
There’s that word, ‘rejoice’, and it’s in the imperative. It’s a command. And it’s accompanied by another word, ‘always’, as in ‘not just sometimes’. And just in case we didn’t quite catch what He said the first time, the Spirit repeats it a second time. So, it’s not like we have a choice here. We are commanded to rejoice and to do that all the time.

Now, if you’re having a problem with this, it just might be because you don’t understand what ‘rejoice’ actually means. Most people understand it to mean ‘be happy!’ There are times when we can rejoice and be happy at the same time. And that’s great. But there are times when we should be anything but happy. Ever been to the funeral of someone you loved? Were you happy about that? Were you supposed to be happy about that? Absolutely not! It’s a time to grieve. Scripture says so. (Remember that really short verse: ‘Jesus wept’?) And yet, the Spirit is quite clear. We are to rejoice. Always.

But please note some attached words to that imperative. (It’s always a good idea to look at all of the words of a passage.) We are to ‘rejoice in the Lord’. That is, we are to rejoice in what Jesus is doing, whatever situation we find ourselves in. He is always doing something in every situation. And it’s always something good. So, we can rejoice in Him, be pleased with what He’s doing, even when everything else is covered in sadness and our eyes are filled with tears.

So, as we watch the world around us come undone, we can rejoice in Jesus because we know that He is up to something. And we can even know what that ‘something’ is. He’s in the process of saving the world, just like the Bible says.

Here’s just one place where it says exactly that.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:17
To be sure, the process of saving the world can be ugly at times, (think: crucifixion). But it’s a process worth pursuing. And that is exactly what Jesus is doing. He’s in the process of saving the world.

So, knowing, in some sense, what Jesus is up to, we can rejoice even now, in these confusing and troubling times.

This is, of course, an act of faith. We can rejoice in the Lord always because we believe the Gospel, especially one particular of the Gospel. We believe that Jesus, Lord of heaven and earth, is, in all that is going on, working toward the goal of saving the world.

Rejoicing isn’t all we are to be doing while we are in the midst of this process. We also need to be following Jesus. Now, you may be thinking, ‘Well, duh!’ But there are some profound aspects to this ‘following Jesus’ that need to be identified and explored. But that will need to wait until my next ‘Stray Thought’.

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