Honoring God

I was listening to Romans the other day (okay, over two weeks ago, now) and I’ve read this before but it particularly popped out at me again like I’d never heard it before:

Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. -Romans 14:3-6

Paul’s talking to the Romans about people who eat meat versus people who eat only vegetables, and people who observe special holy days versus those who do not. The Mosaic law included pages and pages of rules about what could and could not be eaten, and what days should be observed (and what you could and could not do on those days, etc.) Many people (particular new gentile believers who didn’t know the Mosaic law by heart as did the Jews) were living a much more free Christianity apart from the old ritual rules which many of the Jews continued to observe. So Paul is coming at these two camps saying “Hey – we’re all doing what we do for God, and he honors all of it.”

The thing is, I’ve been in the ‘free’ camp for a while now. Namely, I don’t particularly observe Sabbath, and I eat what I eat, among many other points. But when I heard this I realized something; I’ve been looking down on people–or living down, if you will. While I’ve considered other people ‘weaker’ or ‘misguided’ or ‘deceived’, etc.., the truth is, God is much less petty. Much. The beauty of the new covenant is that it isn’t all wrapped up in what we do, or don’t do. It means that we’re free on an individual basis to decided how we will honor God. By esteeming a day, by doing Church a certain way, whatever. But what God honors God honors.

This has been stored away somewhere in the back of my mind for the last couple weeks, but I got a fresh first-hand glimpse not too long ago of someone (I won’t go in depth on this one) zealously calling out another person for something they ate. Now here’s the thing: I thought it was pretty silly. I mean, come on. But that’s exactly what Paul was talking about. If I could go back now and say something to those two people it would be this:

“Look, you only eat certain things because you believe it honors God and your body–and it does. It’s not about following rules or keeping yourself out of hell, it’s about honoring God and God is honored in so many more ways than you or I can imagine–like giving your life, not just your diet. If you want to honor God by not eating certain things, then by all means do so. But don’t look down on someone else because they choose to honor God in another way, or because your way of honoring God doesn’t mean anything to them.”

Jesus… show me how to honor you, and teach me how to honor others in whatever way they choose to honor you. I want to build bridges between your people, not burn them down. Thank-you for your new covenant that brings all of us together no matter where we come from, or what we believe. 

Meeting Jesus [John 1]

When Jesus met Peter he didn’t need an introduction.

This one’s for my peers. For the twenty-somethings, the teens, the church-grown pew-lings who grew up in his fan club but haven’t actually gotten to meet Jesus. They taught you Jesus-theory but failed to show you Jesus life. My heart breaks for you.

My heart breaks for you because I am you.

I grew up on Christian theory and equations for being good and doing the right thing. I know about feeling guilty because I know my parents want me to go to church but it just isn’t working for me. I know what it’s like to come to that point where you know you have to make your own decisions about Jesus, Christianity and church instead of just doing what your parents do.

But let me introduce you to Jesus.

There was this preacher guy named John, and people listened to what he said. One day he saw Jesus walking by and he said to two of his fisherman-punk-followers, “Look, there goes the Lamb of God,” and they left John and they followed after Jesus. Jesus was like, “Hey guys…what are you looking for?” and they just kind of had a social fart and blurted out, “Where do you live, teacher?”

Jesus just smiled and said, “Come and see.”

One of these young fisherman punks was Andrew, and when he knew where Jesus was staying he went off and told his brother Simon that he had found the Messiah, so Simon came back with Andrew to meet Jesus.

“You are Simon the son of Jona, but you will be called ‘A Stone’ (Cephas, Peter)–”

–As soon as He “beheld him”.

Jesus saw Simon coming toward him and he said, “Hey, I know who you are, and this is who you will be.”

I know you probably don’t get it yet. But meeting Jesus–really meeting Jesus–is more like being reintroduced to yourself. It’s like nothing you’ve learned in church because when Jesus meets you it isn’t theory anymore, it’s him, and he knows you.

I want to say the real question is “Will you let him in–let him speak,” like you have any say over him. But that’s not it. He didn’t ask Simon’s permission or even wait to be introduced (how did he even know Simon’s name?) The truth isn’t those formulas you’ve heard. The truth is, Jesus is going to meet you and he’s going to speak the truth of who you are and who you will be. The truth is he’s speaking it now–right now, here, in this moment, where you are right now. The truth is if you listen now you can hear the Creator breathing your heartbeat, and only you can hear it. It doesn’t take a good speaker or an emotional worship leader, all it takes is for you to stop and listen for the voice that you know deep down can’t really be just your head talking back, and believe him.

A few days after Peter met Jesus, Nathanael came along. It went like this; Jesus found Philip who lived in the same town as Andrew and Peter, and Philip ran off to find Nathanael. So Philip tells Nathanael that they’ve found the prophesied Messiah and Nathanael incredulously comes along to see. As soon as Jesus sees Nathanael coming he says to the others, “Look at this guy, he’s a true Israelite, there’s nothing fake about him.” Nathanael maybe still sounds a little incredulous as he says, “Dude, how do you even know me?” We’ve never met before. Jesus says, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip even called you.”

Boom. Nathanael proclaims Jesus Messiah, Son of God and King of Israel just like that.

Jesus grins, “You believe in me because I told you I saw you under the fig tree?! You’re going to see things way better than that; soon you’ll see heaven and earth collide.”

There’s so much I want to tell you that I don’t know how to yet. But one of the most important things is Jesus is a person! He’s real and actual! You can hear him if you listen; you can feel him if you reach out your hands. And soon, maybe tonight, maybe later on, maybe in the middle of the biggest storm you’ve ever faced, you’ll hear him. He’ll say “Child…I know you, I’ve seen you when you think no one is looking; here is who you are going to be.” And Jesus won’t be the same to you again.

Because when it comes to Jesus, you can’t just go on what someone else says; John pointed Jesus out to his disciples as the Messiah he had been heralding, but their lives only changed when they left John to meet Jesus personally and individually. You just have to meet and experience him for yourself and I promise you this: ‘He is not a tame Lion, but he is good;’ and you won’t walk away the same.