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Living Out Jesus' Teachings
21 October 2014
In many of my recent articles, I have been sharing the New Testament teaching of Yeshua (Jesus) and His disciples about what it really means to follow Yeshua: to deny ourselves, to lose our lives for His sake, to take up our cross daily, to receive and give God’s unconditional love, to care about others, and more. In other words, to be LIKE Yeshua in every way.
I’ve been writing these things because they are the TRUTH, not because I’m such an expert at living them out. I definitely do NOT have my act all together! The reality is that I feel very much like the apostle Paul when he wrote that he was the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15-16). It was only by God’s mercy and grace that his life was transformed into something beautiful.
I also find myself strongly identifying with Paul when he wrote:
“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.... I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway....It is one thing to read in the New Testament that we are supposed to “die to self,” but quite another thing to understand how to practically live that out in daily life. Following is an admittedly-contrived example I invented which illustrates some of these difficulties. Let’s take a look at the married couple, Sue and Bob:
I have discovered this principle of life — that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s commands with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Yeshua the Messiah, our Master. (Romans 7:15,18-19,21-15a)
Bob was reading Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 5:25-33 about how husbands are supposed to love their wives like Yeshua loves the ekklesia (church).OK, like I confessed above, this story is contrived. But I think it clearly illustrates some of the issues that many followers of Yeshua struggle with as they try to live out His words in their daily lives.
As one small step in applying this command, Bob decided that each morning at breakfast he would give his wife Sue a big hug to show her how much he loved her. At first Sue was quite pleased with Bob’s newfound zeal to apply the words of Yeshua to their marriage. But she quickly discovered that the painful reality was not as wonderful as the theory!
You see, each time Bob gave Sue a hug, he stepped on her foot, causing her great pain. Any pleasure the hug gave Sue was overwhelmed by the pain he caused in her foot. Bob was completely unaware of the pain he was causing his wife, so he just continued to hug her — and smash her foot — day after painful day.
Sue started thinking that it was not right for Bob to give her such pain each day, and that she should tell him about it. But then all sorts of New Testament verses came to her mind about denying self and bearing your cross (Matthew 16:24), unconditional love (1 Corinthians 13), and putting other’s interests before your own (Philippians 2:4).
Sue did not want to hurt Bob’s feelings, nor did she want to discourage him in his attempt to obey Yeshua’s teachings. Even more importantly, she wanted to obey Yeshua herself with all of her heart. So she decided that the response Yeshua required was to not tell Bob about the pain he continually causes her, but that she should bear it in silence out of love for and obedience to Yeshua.
After many months of this daily pain, Sue began to wonder if this REALLY was God’s will, or if perhaps she has misunderstood or misapplied Yeshua’s teaching. Eventually, she decided that ‘love” must be accompanied by wisdom. This daily pain was avoidable and unnecessary, so she told Bob about the pain he was causing her each time he hugged her.
Unfortunately, Bob had a very negative reaction to Sue’s revelation. He angrily told her, “My motives are pure! After all, I’m only trying to demonstrate my love to you on a daily basis by giving you a hug. It’s not MY fault that your feet are in the way! Or that your feet are so oversensitive that they can’t take a bit of stepping on! If I keep further away so that I don’t step on your foot, then I can’t give you a proper, loving hug! I think you had better just wear some better, stronger shoes and quit being such a wimp!”
Despite Sue’s continued pleas, Bob continued to step on her foot and cause her daily pain. Rather than telling him to stop hugging and hurting her, Sue continued to submit to his pain-giving hugs — for Bob’s sake and for the sake of their relationship, but primarily out of an attempt to obey the teaching of the New Testament.
But Sue’s heart became harder and harder, and further and further away from Bob, because of the continual pain he caused her. This led to a whole new set of problems in her relationships with both Bob and Yeshua.
It is obvious that Bob is in the wrong, and not acting as Yeshua desires. But there is something else in this story that just doesn’t seem right. Are Sue’s actions REALLY what Yeshua means by denying self, bearing your cross, loving one another with His love, and everything else the New Testament teaches?
In reality, isn’t Sue being rather masochistic (in the non-sexual sense)? Does Yeshua REALLY ask His followers to submit to unnecessary, avoidable abuse for the sake of “love”? Are His followers being selfish and unloving if they refuse to submit to such abuse? shrewd as serpents (Matthew 10:16). I think our human tendency it to lean too far one direction or the other.
In our desire to be as innocent as doves and to follow Yeshua’s teachings, we can end up being naïve, gullable, and unwise. On the other hand, we can easily use our human “wisdom” to wiggle our way out of obedience to what Yeshua expects of us, and even to justify our disobedience.
Just like we need to be innocent and shrewd at the same time, I think we also need to be loving and wise at the same time. Love without wisdom can easily lead you to a quagmire of folly, sentimentality, permissiveness, and harm. Wisdom without love can easily lead you to a desert of legalism in which you are overly rigid and lacking compassion.
In this story, it seems VERY reasonable and right for Sue to tell Bob about the pain he is causing her. Their problem would be very easy to solve — well, if Bob were being more loving and cooperative.
Rather than suffering from problems that could be solved without too much effort, it seems much wiser to bring problems out into the open, talk about them, find a solution, implement that solution, and get on with life. But how does that fit in with Yeshua’s commands to be loving and unselfish?
So then, what does it really mean to authentically live out Yeshua’s commands without falling into these kinds of traps? I for sure don’t have all the answers, but I am longing to learn.
I desperately want to live IN the Beautiful Kingdom. I also desperately want to live OUT the Beautiful Kingdom in my daily life. I’m on a lifelong journey with Yeshua to discover how to do just that.
This article is 26th a series of articles on this Web site related to Exploring New Testament Realities which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
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