Monthly Archives: June 2014

Work

Editor’s note: My mom used to quote the Bible with regards to work, “Do your work as unto the Lord, not men.”  I’m reminded of that when I read this note, and it continues to be good advice, even if hard to do.

First, a thought or two about the weekly (daily) grind, prompted by the lament of the dullness of life (when looked at in terms of what you spend most of your waking hours doing), the difficulty of “Monday” (which is proverbial, of course) and brevity of Sunday or the weekend.

It all points up the importance of landing eventually in a life calling (or different ones) in which all that stuff is minimized (every job has some of it) because you like the work, you “grow”in it; you can put yourself into it because you are fit for it and can express your unique gifts in it, etc.  Obviously, it’s different work for different people.  I would hate “selling”.  Some people love it, and look forward to Monday AM in order to get back at it.  Artists and such will work around the clock for the same reason; starve at poor paying jobs on account it’s so much fun, etc.

Trouble is, most people get into the wrong jobs for the wrong reason; either for money or prestige (money can be in either white-collar or sweat-shop jobs) or in envy and admiration of the guy who enjoys his, or seemingly so.  The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, like Tom Sawyer and his fence.

Then too, even though a job may take most of your waking work-day hours, it also provides the means by which you can do fun things during the off-hours – fuel a car, go to movies, buy clothes, etc.  All of which would not be half the fun and enjoyment if you didn’t work for them.  Ask the couples who can do nothing but travel, for example, and NEVER have to get up in the morning.  Bored silly.  Vacations are fun just because they are vacation; as a steady diet, it becomes as boring as a job at Disney World, with their vapid voices and false smiles.  The whole thing is false, of course.  That is not real life.  Only real horses make manure for somebody to sweep up – to put on our strawberry plants!

But more than this, a chap ought not to work just enough to satisfy his own needs of food, car, vacation, clothes, etc.  Guys who do that (like people who don’t show up for work or retire in mid-life) are hardly to be envied, and aren’t.  They get introverted, crabbed, selfish.

The Bible says in one place we ought to work in order to help others, which gives a person real satisfaction and pleasure.  Otherwise why get married, which adds only to one’s obligations and need to work.  And, as Christians, we take from our earnings to maintain God’s work in all parts of the world.  Just think what you are doing by means of that sweaty work at painting, driving a truck, or whatever your vocation; it is exactly the same as if you went in person, yourself, and did an equivalent amount of work helping that ministry. When someone is on the mission field, whether building a church or teaching school or practicing medicine, very literally it is just as if you were doing those things, despite any disparagement of ones abilities to thread pipes or build something.  Carpenters don’t know how to make hammers (forged in steel-mills) and MDs do not know how to make the medicines they dispense.  The work they “do” is made possible by somebody else, and God sees and knows it all, coordinates it all.

So, if somebody were to ask you (and they literally do – the dumbies – “Whadda ya doing?” – as you obviously pile lumber or paint the school) you could say, “Me? I’m making sick kids well in South America or Africa; I’m building a church in Haiti.” By means of your money – which means, your work!  You are a very literal missionary without having to leave the USA; you have done dozens of things that have to be done and which you couldn’t do personally, whatever the reason.

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Divorce and Works

I have heard lots of psychologists, “Christian” and otherwise, give plenty of talks regarding the problem of alcoholism – sin or disease?  But everybody agrees that it is not good; many confirmed alcoholics would like to quit.  What makes it “sin” is when a person refuses to do anything about it.  After all, any normal person tries to get rid of a sickness; he becomes responsible for his plight if he ignores or denies it.

And so with divorce.  We have a tendency to be legalistic, having all kinds of rules regarding many different areas in religion, even how to worship.  And so people get all bent out of shape in asking such questions, “Is divorce OK under this circumstance, etc.?”  Rules, rules!  Jesus was asked that same thing, and cut through it all by saying, Divorce is wrong, period.  Like murder, say.  If those who persist in such (or doting relatives who defend them, by saying, This is not the unpardonable sin!) would simply say, “It’s wrong; I am sorry.  If I could restore the union, I would. The fault was mine as much as hers (or his).”  Then we could go on from there.  Every sin is pardonable.  To get a divorce under “permissible” circumstances is like a man shooting somebody in self-defense; he says, “It is wrong, always, to kill anybody.  I am sorry I did.  I regret I had to.  But there was no alternative.”  People who divorce on shoddy or no grounds are saying, “There is no alternative” – when often there is.  They are denying it’s wrongfulness.  All of which is a sign of an unregenerative, unchanged heart.  It is disagreeing with God, who says, “I hate divorce” – Malachi.

And that is what is involved in the statement in John 3, right after vs 16 – that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world (which some people misinterpret to mean that everybody will be saved!) but to save the world.  That is; he did not come to give some more bright ideas as to what is right and wrong (which is how some people interpret the Sermon on the Mount, etc.).  We have plenty of that already.  Jesus said, I have come to change you; make you new people.  I am not telling you what to do and what not to do, but rather, what you ought to, and can, be!   Other religious leaders are always and forever fastening new rules on you; Jesus said my “yoke” is easy, my burden is light.  Learn of me.  Be like me.  Let me live in you.  Relax; quit trying so hard.

Which, by the way, is what is all wrong with this thing you often hear in sermons; Jesus did so much for us; let us try to do more for him.  The gratitude-attitude.  Self-effort.  That is not the gospel. That’s salvation by works.  If we are saved, then we automatically and naturally will live the Christian life; or rather, Christ will live his life in and through us.

Martin Luther, in his good reaction to Roman Catholicism and “earning” salvation, stressed that last point.  That’s why we need another Reformation.  The Heidelberg Catechism is off the track here, in its third part which says, Since God and Christ have done so much for us, what should we do for them?  The Bible says, God is at work in us to desire and do what is right, what he wants us to do, for our own good.

Divorce

A thought or two on divorce, more for putting down my thoughts so as to clarify that muddy matter (wide disagreement, even within a given denomination, like our own).  The reason why the matter is so important is that it is not peripheral to the well-being and survival of the race – like war, murder, etc. – but is at the very heart of it all, involving the very essence of society, its fabric.  Marriage is not an optional institution, like different forms of government, but is itself the means by which society and the race itself continue.  Marriage is mating, by which we all come into existence, and that in turn involves planned parenthood, polygamy, abortion, and divorce. So – all that the Bible has to say about the subject, as usual, is only for our own good, individually and collectively.  God couldn’t care less as far as it really affecting him; He’s “untouchable” by it all.  He is not come puritanical crank who likes to see people be miserable in marriage rather than find happiness outside, etc.

OK; all this talk about divorce being OK or permissible, when and where, etc. puts it in a class with whether marriage is OK or not for a given person – or whether God wants me to be this or that in life, or marry this person instead of another.

Premise 1.  Divorce is sin, wrong, bad.  There may be reasons for getting one, but that does not make it right or good.  Like cutting off a person’s arm – it may be necessary, but can you ever imagine a situation in which we say that it is not bad, wrong, harmful?  In other words, it is a sin, and like ANY sin, it can be forgiven (under proper conditions).  The big problem (or sin!) with some people is that they deny that a given divorce is wrong, bad, contrary to the ideal, what God wants, etc. (I can mention is no more wrong than breaking up a business partnership, which, of course, is not a matter of morals – unless you renege on the terms of the partnership, which people do in marriage, having promised NEVER to part, etc.).

2.  So – we say divorce is OK a/c adultery of one person.  They have “broken” the marriage, so to speak.  But, even there; divorce is not automatic.  Many people have spouses that were unfaithful, and then were genuinely sorry, and the marriage kept on as before.

3.  The big question regarding forgiveableness of divorce lies in that very matter of repentance, regret, etc.  Many even plan divorces (sometimes with a new mate in mind) and then pretend “sorrow” in order to stay in the church.  The church has become so all-fired indifferent, lazy about the epidemic of divorces that they don’t do anything about it by way of asking as to repentance.  Such repentance would naturally include every effort at reconciliation if the previous partner has not remarried.

4.  When one of the divorcees remarries, the first marriage is obviously unrestorable.  Back in Leviticus God forbids a man (or woman) who finds that spouse No. 2 is no better – or worse – than No. 1, to go back to first partner.  That is an “abomination”, says God; wife-swaping; legalized bed-hopping.  An “innocent” person can then remarry (if previous partner remarries).  Till then, ideally, neither should, always hoping for a day of restoration, which in many cases would take a “miracle”, but that’s what our faith is all about – changing us to such an extent that we become brand-new, different people.

5.  If the conduct of one of the divorcees proves that he or she is a non-Christian, including absolute refusal or unwillingness at reconciliation, then, according to I Cor 7:15, the presumed believer, the “innocent”, is also free to remarry.  In the eyes of God they no longer are of one flesh.

This pretty well covers just about every situation, doesn’t it?  As often, we make it more confused and complicated than what it is.  What we want is to have our cake (church membership) and eat it too (get divorced).  I can respect, while not approving, a church member who gets a divorce and says, “I know it is contrary to the rules of God and church, and so I will step out.”  Like the case above, they make the church look silly by getting their way and continuing to defy other rules.

That’s why we take an all-together different position or attitude toward divorce on the part of unbelievers than we do of professed Christians.  They too should not divorce – for own sake, the kids, society, etc.  But they don’t have the means at hand (God himself in them and their marriage) to make a go of it if certain intolerable conditions exist.  Then God (and the church) as much as say, “Better to divorce than to ruin your lives” – and the kids – in that fashion.  But that is like saying war is “OK”, or capital punishment, even though to kill a person is always wrong; in some cases it is a necessary evil, or the lesser of two, like shooting a person to prevent his killing a dozen.  We do not say it is OK; we say it was an unavoidable, inescapable action – again, like cutting off an arm.

Which is what divorce is like.  It is no magic answer for married unhappiness.  No. 2 rarely goes much better than No. 1.  If if lasts longer, it is usually because the partners are older, wiser, more experienced. Or, they wake up, too late, to the fact that the fault was not in the other person (No. 2 is no better, really) but in the demanding relationship, plus their own failures.  A good marriage is not a difficult thing to achieve; humanly it is impossible.  Happy the person who realizes in this, as in EVERY OTHER ASPECT OF LIFE, I can’t hack it in myself – never, ever – but God can; Christ in me can do ANYTHING.

Being “Up”

We all have our ups and downs, with some of which there is nothing wrong. Before sin, Adam had days when he had more oomph than other days, which is a natural thing like getting tired, and sleeping, as Jesus did.

However, we ought always to be emotionally or spiritually “up” (again, that “upness” will vary in degree), and one good way to keep it up is to count one’s blessings.  This is old enough counsel – such as in the old-time song “If upon life’s billows…..”  But the soundness of the advise lies in the fact that we get down by focusing on the negatives of life.  For example, instead of being happy about work and our pay, if somebody gets more for the same job (which ain’t right, of course) “they” steal our happiness away from us, which we ought not allow anybody else, or anything, to do.

It has helped me a lot in this universal problem to think of how we all, generally speaking, live a life like kings nowadays in comparison with anybody that ever lived on earth before us, even recent royalty.  Personal autos, abundance of water for showering, modern medicine (glasses), absence of many diseases (TB, for example, crippled scads of people in my generation).

Last night I raced through a book about Harriet B. Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.  (Her house, incidentally, was near where I went to school in Hartford, CN, right next to Mark Twain’s, by the way.  Was fun to visit both.)  But in her day life-expectancy was short; many mother’s died in child-birth.  Many kids never survived weaning.  And talk about uncomfortable lives!  Their daily routine (chopping wood, outhouse toilets) sound like another planet now.  Our ability to run to Macs for a shake, or take in a movie (flicks in my boyhood were a colossal joke), is a life that Solomon would have thought was literally “heaven”.

All of which is to say nix regarding our spiritual advantages over even “saved” people of previous generations, and even today in many parts of the world.  You ought to read the chapter in Stowe book about her “joining church”.   Dour clergyman asked her if she realized that she was hell-bound, a miserable worm, prone to all manner of evil, etc.  Upon her affirmative reply he said, “Good; now you can be a church-member.”  And too many people are still under that kind of a cloud, bondage.

By contrast, we ought to be full of joy every minute of the day.