Sunday, January 1, 2017

Outrage vs. the Living Daylight

This is the devotional message
I gave on 1/1/17 at my church,
Huntingdon Valley Presbyterian Church.
It’s been edited slightly for this pos

Some of you know me. Some don’t. I probably should tell you something about myself.

My name is Stephen Clark and I go by Stephen. I write stuff now and then.

I grew up in New Castle, Indiana, the home of the world’s largest high school fieldhouse.

In July of 2015 I moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Oreland, Pennsylvania with my wife BethAnn. Oreland is her hometown. We live with her dad, Walt.

Coincidentally, my dad’s name was Walter, too. But, oddly, everyone called him Buddy.

My mom’s name was Grace and she loved hymns. She had a sweet, tremulous voice that I can sometimes hear when certain hymns are sung.

When I was a kid, it used to crack me up every time we sang, ‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus because of the verse that declares, “Oh for grace to trust him more.”

Even my dad giggled at that one.

And, of course, there was “Amazing Grace.”

I’ll have a whatever-you-call-it

I lived in New Jersey for about 10 years where I learned how to say FUGGEDABOUTIT. Here, I’m being influenced to say WOOTER but am hoping it doesn’t stick.

I’ve moved around the Midwest a bit. I’ve lived in Illinois, near Chicago -- DA BEARS! In Missouri -- or rather, MISSOUR-AH. As well as Ohio.

If you’re counting, that’s six states, all connected.

This has caused me great confusion as I’m now never sure whether to ask for a soda, a pop, a cola, a soft drink, or something else. Seems no matter what I call it someone looks at me confused or corrects me.

When I was a kid back home in Indiana, we’d go into a restaurant and ask our waitress or waiter for a coke. They would bring you a Pepsi or an RC or perhaps even an actual Coca-Cola.

Whatever came, it was dark, cold, and fizzy and you were okay with it. Even if it was root beer.

Today, that’s not the case. No matter what you ask for, you risk annoying or offending your wait-person.
“I’m sorry, you want a WHAT? How dare you! We don’t serve that kind of garbage here!”
Or, the wait-person runs the risk of offending you by bringing something you didn’t expect.
“What’s this dark stuff? I specifically asked for diet bottled spring water with a twist of gluten free lime!”
Whoever is offended, there are raised voices, ugly name calling, possibly even the threat of gun play and lives being put at risk.

Seriously. It happens!

A time for everything

Ours is an outraged society.

We will not be pushed around, slighted, or stand for even the tiniest potential offense. We don’t give ground on the road or anywhere else. Hair-trigger sensitivity and stabbing snark abounds.

This doesn’t feel like a very Christian way of life to me -- being outraged at nearly everything all the time. Yet Christians are just as outraged as everyone else.

Sure, there are times when outrage may be called for.

Poet Dylan Thomas protested against death encouraging that we “Do not go gentle into that good night” but instead “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

I won’t argue with that.

Even Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

That would include a time for outrage.

But this well-known passage also teaches that there needs to be balance. It’s not all outrage all the time for every reason.

I resolve to....

It’s a New Year and a time for new resolve.

This brings me to my text. John 15:12 and 13. This is Jesus speaking:
 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
What does it mean to lay down one’s life?

Well, it’s something that I have a very, very, very hard time doing.

And BethAnn is mumbling to herself, “Amen! Preach it brother!”

Laying down one’s life can take many forms. The most extreme form may be someone who throws themselves in front of a bullet meant for another. That’s pretty dramatic.

In other cases it can be as simple as shutting up.

Not expressing an opposing opinion.

Choosing to not make an issue over something that could be viewed as a slight.

Not reacting to someone’s insulting comment or cringing at a homeless person’s body odor.

Keeping the snark to yourself.

Or, simply eating Aunt Sally’s Jell-o Salad Delight, with a smile.

These are just a few specific applications.

General biblical principles that support these can be uncovered by considering what Jesus did or said. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew is a good source.

You know, the part where Jesus says soul-prodding, ego-deflating things like:
  • “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
  • And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
  • And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
  • Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
  • But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
Paul even weighs in telling us in Romans that, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with everybody.”

This all points to laying down our lives for others.

First you die, then you love

But the John text also mentions love.

Anyone who hangs around me for any length of time will likely hear me reference Francis Schaeffer on this point. In his excellent book, The Mark of the Christian, Schaeffer cites John 13:34-35. He explains that Jesus gave the world the right to decide the genuineness of our faith by the love we show toward one another.

Schaeffer says,
“What then shall we conclude but that as the Samaritan loved the wounded man, we as Christians are called upon to love all men as neighbors, loving them as ourselves.”

“[Also], that we are to love all true Christian brothers in a way that the world may observe. This means showing love to our brothers in the midst of our differences – great or small – loving our brothers when it costs us something, loving them even under times of tremendous emotional tension, loving in a way the world can see…. ”

“Love and the unity it attests to is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.”
So the mark that the world has a right to observe in us who call ourselves Christians, that validates us as true Christians, is “love”.

Especially love expressed to those who are not Christians.

And very emphatically it is love we show to each other within this entity called the Body of Christ.

Not outrage. Love.

Not anger. Love.

Not assertion of rights. Love.

Not political points. Love.

Not religious rules. Love.

Not jealousy. Not criticism. Not exclusion. Not intolerance. Love.

Of course, not the love as promoted by Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda who blithely declared, as he accepted his Tony award, “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love....” Let’s see [counting] ‘em all in.

But what Schaeffer means and what I’m getting at is love as evidenced in the life of Christ and wrapped in the context of Scripture.

A much kinder, deeper, truer love than the world could ever hope for.

A love that can happen only when we lay down our lives and consider others before ourselves.

A love that’s costly, difficult, thoughtful.

A love that’s beautiful, attractive.

A love that looks radically different than anything the world labels as love.

Getting mad at the right stuff

But what about our outrage?

It’s there.

Perhaps we should channel it toward better, more worthy targets. Like injustice, bigotry, poverty, abuse, trafficking, hunger, homelessness, and the like.

Or, getting more personal, how about raging against sin? My sin. Your sin. Our sin. The sins we are so quick to overlook and cuddle up with.

You know -- lust, envy, greed, lying, gossiping, bigotry, and -- dare I say it -- not being loving.

To name only a few.

Loving away the hurt

My point is that love is a big deal. The only good love -- and the only love that covers a multitude of sins -- comes from the God who is Love. Who empowers us by His Holy Spirit to be as loving as He is. Who exampled His radical love through the giving of His Son, Jesus.

We all want to be loved. It hurts when we’re not. Perhaps that’s the source of some of our outrage.

You and I could use less outrage and more love.

The world definitely needs far less outrage and a lot more love.

Look again at the text: 
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Jesus isn’t making a request. He issued us a directive. A commandment. This is not optional.

So, at the start of this brave New Year, let’s resolve together to be more loving. To let go of outrage. To lay down our own lives. To live up to the mark of Christ on our hearts, and -- instead of being outraged at others -- to love the Living Daylight into people.

The Living Daylight.

Oh Lord, help us to so resolve today and every day this year.

What have you been angry and outraged over recently? Do you think it is a good think to be outraged? Sometimes? All the time? Never? What are some practical ways you can think of to live out the idea of laying down your life? Are these things you have done or experienced? If so, how did it feel? What happened? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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