I am not always a big fan of The Message Bible translation, but sometimes it gives me such a fresh perspective on scripture, and the simple language allows the truth to get right into my heart. For example, this week I read Matthew 5:13-14:
Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?… Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.
If only beauty was always this easy to see!
It can be so easy to get bogged down and forget the greater purpose our lives are designed for, making God visible and tangible to the world. I know that I often get so wrapped up in my own concerns and struggles, I forget they are opportunities: chances for my faith to grow, examples I can look back on, obstacles I can wrestle with, and all of these things will shape me and the way that I reflect God to the people around me. To me, that is the best way to understand the meaning of being made in God’s image, that my purpose is to show what God is like. Certainly on most days, reflecting God is not the first thing I think of, and my actions and reactions often fall very short of this lofty goal, but it helps me not give up when I remember that it’s God’s plan, not my own.
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I have not managed to read my Bible very much lately, but I have been so struck by this realization since it came to me two weeks ago that I think about it nearly every day. I almost feel like I can’t read anything new until my soul finishes savouring the Beatitudes in light of this new perspective. I am familiar with the Beatitudes as a challenging/confusing list of all the ways God’s kingdom is upside down and backwards to what we might expect. However, as I read through Matthew, I freshly noticed the passage between Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and his teaching of the Beatitudes to his disciples (Matthew 4:23-5:2):
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,and he began to teach them.
In the beginning of his ministry, Jesus is on the fast track – he is fulfilling his mission to proclaim the arrival of God’s kingdom in word and deed, and the news is spreading. He is fantastically well-received, and the intensity of people’s response is hard to imagine: pained, seizing, paralyzed and possessed people from across Syria flocked to him for healing. Crowds followed him, but his response was to withdraw away from the crowd and teach his disciples (those who followed him even when there wasn’t a show). He teaches them the way to obtain God’s blessing, and it is pretty much the opposite of what you would strive for if you were pursuing a promotion or raise in any earthly context.
Matt and I went car shopping yesterday. BLAT is on its last legs, and we are hoping our next vehicle will be more reliable for us over the next several years. The car we test drove today was nice, but not the right price, and the sales guy was merciless in his haggling. He stood firm on the asking price despite some obvious work the car would need, so we walked away (literally – to the bus stop), but it was a good experience for us to confirm what is important in the next car we buy.
The most interesting part of the day for me was reading through the CarFax print-out that laid out the history of the car. We could see how many owners the car had, how much mileage each owner put on the car, and whether there had been any accidents or other claims (such as the car being stolen or vandalized). This car had a pretty clean record, but it got me thinking – what if people came with a printed out history? Would it make relationships easier or harder if we could know everyone’s past right off the bat?