Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Oily Hair and Mountain Dew

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head,running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. - Psalm 133 (ESV)

I am somewhat ashamed to admin that I usually just focus on the first verse of this psalm when I read it, and often it's in quoting it to my sons when they argue with one another! ;-) Lately, however, I've been looking at this in a different context - the context of God's desire for believers to live this way with one another.

I "grew up" in the faith around lots of grumpy, fundamental, fearful and unloving Christians. Unity was always a weird thing to mention because of the associated fear of being "ecumenical" which was a total heresy. Unfortunately, the fear of heresy can lead people to avoid biblical truths that are crucial to the Kingdom of God. Such is the case with unity.

Take a look at the prayer of Jesus here:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message [That's us!], that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. " - John 17:20-23
There appear to be great consequences to believers having oneness!

What I hadn't really considered from Psalm 133 before is the reference to oil. Oil in the scriptures is usually a picture of the Holy Spirit! So in this context, believers being together in unity is like the Holy Spirit on the head (Jesus), running down to the beard, and even down to the robe. I take that to mean that unity in Christ results in (or is the result of?) a pouring out of the Spirit on the body.

And what of Aaron's Head/Beard? Augustine, when commenting on Psalm 133 says this:
"...As the ointment on the head, which descended to the beard, to Aaron's beard, which descended to the fringe of his garment" Psalm 132:2. What was Aaron? A priest. Who is a priest, except that one Priest, who entered into the Holy of Holies? Who is that priest, save Him, who was at once Victim and Priest? save Him who when he found nothing clean in the world to offer, offered Himself? The ointment is on his head, because Christ is one whole with the Church, but the ointment comes from the head. Our Head is Christ crucified and buried; He rose again, and ascended into heaven; and the Holy Spirit came from the head..."
Now check this out...
What is the "Dew of Hermon"? To understand this, we need to understand some info about Mount Hermon:

  • At 9,200 feet above sea level, Mount Hermon is the highest mountain in Israel, Lebanon, and Syria.
  • The mountain is actually a cluster of mountains with three distinct summits (that's pretty trinitarian, eh?) , each about the same height. This cluster, the Anti-Lebanon Range, extends for approximately twenty miles in a northeast to southwest direction, running parallel to the Lebanon range on the west.
  • Runoff from the snow-covered mountain’s western and southern bases feeds several streams and rivers. These merge to become the Jordan River. Additionally, the runoff facilitates fertile plant life below the snow line, where vineyards and pine, oak, and poplar trees are abundant.
  • Mount Hermon is called the "gray-haired mountain," or the "mountain of snow," because of the covering of snow, which is present on it most of the year.
Wooah! The Dew of Hermon is the source of the Jordan River! To an Israelite, the Jordan River is the source of fertility for the entire country. This is a big deal!

I am not saying that Unity is the Jordan River. I think unity represents the idea of "several streams" and rivers that converge to channel the water flowing from the three peaks of Mount Hermon down to the Jordan River! When we understand our place under Christ's headship, we align ourselves to be channels of blessing to the whole world.

When believers live together in unity - the water that runs off the mountain (the three peaks!) becomes the source of life for all that need water. There's some rich significance here. Compare this to scriptures that speak of "living waters" and "deep fountains".

I have to confess, I have much more to think about regarding Psalm 133. Regardless, I am convinced that unity (in Christ) is something that by God's grace we MUST live in.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bullhorn - Yeah or Nay?

Take a few minutes to watch these videos regarding evangelism, then come back for some thoughts:

Rob Bell - Bullhorn Guy Part #1

Rob Bell - BullHorn Guy Part #2

Todd Friel - Response Part #1

Todd Friel - Response Part #2

The above videos are just one example of a larger "conversation" (often more of an argument really) going on in the world regarding God's disposition towards the lost and how should we relate to them. Should we tell people their headed for hell in a hand basket - or that God loves them just the way they are? Which is it?

Perhaps neither approach is correct in and of itself. Yes, God's wrath is on the unsaved. That's clearly understood from scripture and a terrible reality. God's love for the lost is also evident - had it not been, he would have never implemented a plan to sacrifice his only son (Jn 3:16) on their behalf. God can perfectly love and hate those who are lost.

What really troubles me is that the focus of "Evangelism" has been solely rescue from hell and destruction. Don't get me wrong, that is most assuredly a result of redemption - but is it the point? Remember, God created mankind in order to enjoy relationship with him forever! The New Testament calls believers to the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 cor 5:18) - the emphasis being on seeing people reconciled (ie. "brought back together") with God through Jesus Christ (Is. 58-61, Lk 4). As a result, God's wrath is no longer on them, and they don't need to spend eternity separated from God. .

When we simply stand outside and tell people "you suck - God hates you - you're headed for hell!", is that really what reconciling looks like? Would you seek to restore a sibling to your own father by calling them up and screaming "Dad hates you, you'll never see him unless you change!" Is it true? Yes, but just because something is true, doesn't make communicating that truth without love an okay proposition.

On the flip side, we must be sensitive, but courageous and firm in helping the lost see their brokenness if they desire to be reconciled to God (Jn 3:36). There's plenty of loving ways to do this without a bull horn - which is the point I believe Rob Bell is making in the above videos.

So how then should we witness? I propose by the Spirit of God - using the law as often as necessary, but with the right purpose in mind. The law, according to scripture, is just if one uses it justly...

"Now the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. They want to be teachers of the law, although they don't understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on. Now we know that the law is good, provided one uses it legitimately. We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral and homosexuals, for kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and for whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching based on the glorious gospel of the blessed God that was entrusted to me." - 1 Tim 1.5-11

The law is much like an X-Ray machine. It reveals brokenness, but is powerless to fix it, or like a mirror that can show us our dirt and grime, but itself cannot remove it. Therefore, the right purpose of the law is to show us that we need cleansing. Some people need X-rays to prove to them that they're broken. Others no it the moment they come to the ER! As ministers of reconciliation, we need to be attuned to the Holy Spirit to know what's necessary in dealing with others to bring them along in the process. Love is never optional in this process (1 Cor. 13:1)!

With that in mind, we need to respect that fact that God has gifted the saints differently with various gifts, styles, and yes, even methods. Perhaps if we stop trying to prove everyone else a heretic and ourselves a hero, and follow Christ's command that we love on another, we can spend less time arguing about bull horns and more time reconciling!