Thursday, May 24, 2007

What's a Little Water Worth?

The Christian life has never been intended to be expressed primarily in church buildings. Oh, don’t get me wrong, worshiping with one another is something Christians do, and rightly so. But despite our penchant for doing church, structuring staff, and making sure our various rituals are completed, they form a significantly small percentage of what Christian life entails. In fact, I suspect they aren’t nearly as important as we seem to think they are.

The Christian life, it seems to me, is more about who we are, what our desires are, where our life focus is. These others, assemblies, staff, rituals, are all tools to remind us or to move us closer to where we are meant to be. As tools, they are not the substance of life, and we endanger ourselves if we allow them to become the substance.

Throughout Scripture, God makes it clear that he expects his people to do what he says, to pay enough attention to him to form themselves into his likeness. But event in the expectation of doing, there is always an expectation of being. This expectation is deeper and much more substantive than doing. When God gives Moses the Law there are aspects of it that appear harsh and stringent to us moderns. The whole idea of an eye for an eye simply seems out of place in our world; we perceive it as barbaric.

What we fail to realize is that this measure of justice was a limitation on the prevailing standards. Even in the world today, we see Man’s sense of justice seems to be “I will pay you back more than the damage I have suffered from you.” This sentiment isn’t really new. Lamech vows that he will avenge himself seventy seven times. He thinks himself to be one bad dude.

And so an eye for an eye is a step in the right direction. But there are other indications of a different standard to be used. The cities of refuge is one such example. These cities were places where fugitives could flee to and be safe from revenge. The care that is expected to be taken of the alien and downtrodden among God’s people tells us that his compassion extends to those who are not ‘his people.’ A reading of the Minor Prophets tells us that in addition to worshiping the wrong gods, God’s people were not acting toward each other as God intended them to live. It is both their false gods, and their false hearts that are the problem. And it is the heart from which both false worship and wrong behavior arises.

It becomes apparent as we watch Israel and Judah being prepared for exile that we get a fuller picture of what God expects. He expects that our hearts, that our very beings reflect his care, his compassion, his love for Creation. He expects that his followers will live and become like him.

It is with this background that we read Matthew 25 (see also Matthew 10.42) and we find the Judge saying either enter my kingdom, or depart from me. These sentences are not couched in language of false worship and false gods, but speak to peoples’ hearts, eyes, and motivations. It is in this passage that we read that a cup of water, given to insignificant people, is capable of securing for us a life with God. That cup of water, if drunk by us, separates us from God, but if given out of a perceived need, ushers us into the very presence of God.

What’s a little water worth?

It may be worth your soul.

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