Note: This series is written as a first-person narrative in order to present Jesus in the context he walked with the unknown disciple that narrates presenting my thoughts and sparking more thoughts with his questions. Enjoy.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’”
Jesus was referencing the Law in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. An oath is invoking God’s witness that you’re telling the truth. Nothing wrong with that, right?
“But I tell you…”
“…do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.”
Is Jesus saying that our integrity should be so great that we didn’t need an oath? I know a few thought that way.
A disciple leaned over, saying quietly, “I have always tried to avoid the curse by swearing on something less than God.”
“Not anymore,” I whispered back.
“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
“Fear from the evil one?” What’s that mean? Any breaking of your word is evil? I can see the core of this being integrity though.
We tend to shake our heads at evil, but what about us being the opposite instead? How are we measuring up?
The second letter to Timothy can be a scathing commentary on culture in its listing of everything that’s wrong. I got a thesaurus and made a contrasting list. Virtue against vice. What would the world look like if people were that virtuous?
How many of these describe you or your culture?
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5
Let’s look at these one at a time, checking what applies:
narcissistic and self-focused
impelled by greed
disobedient to parents
devoid of natural human affection, calloused, inhumane (sociopathic)
intemperate and immoral, lacking self-control
haters of good
lovers of sensual pleasures rather than God
hold a form of outward religion, though their conduct nullifies their claim to faith
It would be so easy to launch into a social commentary on the sins of the world. I’m doing the harder thing by challenging you to be the opposite of this list.
Imagine the world…
Where instead of being focused on themselves, people focused on others. They were generous rather than greedy or stingy. Instead of bragging, they were humble, so much so that no one could accuse them of arrogance.
Rather than lashing out and abusing someone, people were respectful. Not holding a grudge, but forgiving. They didn’t have unfeeling sociopathic tendencies, instead loving others.
They were grateful, holy, and moral. They praised others rather tearing them down. Acting with self-control instead of impulsive emotion. This leading to them being humane and kind, lovers of good, honest and loyal. Living responsible lives, and not reckless and conceited ones.
They loved God more than what He made, taking their pleasure in that relationship, discovering a joy they had never known. Truly being holy and virtuous 24/7 rather than an hour on Sunday, if at all.
How would you respond to a person like that? Answer it.
I challenge you to be a person like that.
It’s convicting, isn’t it? I’m not all of these myself. Here’s the good news, they fall under two commandments: love God with all you have and love others as yourself. That would truly make Christianity a bright light in the darkness.
The catch is you cannot sustain it. How can someone truly be holy and virtuous? It isn’t humanly possible.
It is supernaturally possible. When you’re saved, the Holy Spirit begins to work in you, and the closer you are to God, the more that work grows and is seen. Christian maturity is measured by the Fruit of the Spirit and how much of it is evident in their lives.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
That’s what makes the above possible, keeping in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). Now go be the change.
How do you know the right thing to do? Did someone teach you or is it learned by example? What is the example?
Here’s a question, what influences are directing your kids, nephews, and nieces?
Cultural and Environmental Influences
It’s subtle, going all with what they see in the environment they live in and the culture that surrounds them. Like sheep without a shepherd…they follow the first one who has influence with them.
Recently I listened to how one of my relatives is being influenced by a girl younger than her regarding sex. The girl is 9 years old, her mother an addict, being brought up in an environment that caters to the darkness of the heart. It’s a heartbreaking cycle.
It reminded me of my own bad influence with my younger siblings. My brothers made almost every mistake that I did, and now I wish they’d copy my better example. Trying to look cool, I enabled my sister in some of her bad behavior while we were kids.
Then we have the influence of music, movies, and television. They all carry a particular worldview, theme, and approval or disapproval of certain behaviors. Do you know what they are? That what they’re teaching is okay?
I love superhero comics, they’ve influenced me. The X-Men taught me not to be prejudiced against those born different. Spider-Man taught me that with great power comes great responsibility.
It’s not always bad; it’s also not always good either. These are big influencers. Dare I say, more than you are just because of the accessibility?
Solomon teaches to guard your heart and to stay away from bad influences (Proverbs 4:23). Paul goes a step further, saying to guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). It’s not always possible. How do you guard your heart and mind, and the kids’?
By instilling a Biblical, moral foundation, that they can use to critically think through. Learn and teach them the natural consequences of their actions. It’s a start, but it’s not enough.
Our hearts are wicked. Doubt me? Post your every thought and feeling on Facebook. Every one of them, no filters, without any shame. That shame is the recognition of a dark and twisted heart.
We need new hearts, ones that can only come from God. A regenerated heart that is bent towards pleasing Christ who saved you (Ezekiel 36:25-27). The key is that to get it, you have to trust that Christ saved you when he died and rose again, and follow him.
Literally. I’ve yet to be led astray by him, but my own decisions have sent me the wrong way. Can you say your choices are flawless? Or does life leave you feeling harassed and helpless, with no idea where to go?
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Let him lead you, and lead others to him. Lead your kids to him.