Monday, June 26, 2006

Different Visions of the Same Situation

It's amazing to me how two different people can look at the same situation and see different things. It's all about what you are looking for...for example, in a football game, when you see a running back go for a 75-yard touchdown run, some casual observers may see a man who is simply faster than the defensive players. The commentators, coaches, and players see something different. Was the guy fast? Probably. However, when the replay comes, they show you that the right guard pulled and took out a key linebacker, the fullback blocked the cornerback, and the free safety misread the whole play. That's not what you just saw a guy running real fast that scored, but when you have "football eyes," you see what really happened.

The same seems to be true in life. Those reading Genesis see the sufferings and mistreating of Joseph by his brothers and by Potiphar's wife. However, what Joseph sees and what God had planned were something very different. Was there suffering? Sure. However, Joseph tells his brothers that what they meant for harm, God meant for save the lives of his family (Genesis 45:4-11; 50:19-20) and, ultimately, God was preserving the covenant He made with Abraham.

Consider King Josiah in 2 Kings 22-23. Other kings of Judah had been considered good, but none had reformed the religious system completely...the high places were left undisturbed. They were simply accommodating people and their religious preferences. Josiah heard the Word of God, and his vision was cleared up. He saw that what the other kings had done was not accommodation, but it was sin. So, immediately, he began massive religious reform in the temple, tore down the high places, and Josiah had everything that compromised the worship of God demolished and burned. He even went so far as to gather the elders of Judah and Jerusalem to have them renew their commitment to biblical worship (2 Kings 23:1-3), and he reinstituted Passover, which had been ignored since the time of the judges (2 Kings 23:21-22). The vision of accommodating society was actually sin in God's eyes, and the vision of a fanatically religious king was actually pleasing to God. "Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did - with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses" (2 Kings 23:25).

Now, consider Jesus. When he entered Jerusalem in Matthew 21, the scribes and Pharisees were agitated, but this was only the beginning. He went to the temple, and there he found "business as usual." Temple taxes being taken, the temple used as a shortcut to get through the short, he found a den of robbers and not a house of prayer. To the Pharisees and scribes, this was how church was done. It was their system...they had been doing it this way for a long time, and for Jesus to overturn their religious system was, in their eyes, heretical and a challenge to God Himself. Jesus' vision of the temple was one of glory, where hearts were turned to God in prayer and lives were centered on true, biblical worship. The Pharisees' vision of the temple was one of religious organization...seeking to put what seemed most practical or what had "always been done" ahead of what was best...what was right...what was God-honoring.

In life, these same three areas are stumbling blocks to many. We see suffering as just suffering instead as God's divine means of providing for our sanctification and, even greater, His glory. The church accommodating any and all belief systems (for fear of offense) is seen as a great goal when it is actually a terrible disaster...the church that stands for nothing will fall for anything. Finally, we see the functioning of the church, too often, as one of organization...making sure we just keep the wheels turning...making sure we have keep doing what we've been doing (or revive what we used to do) because " worked in 1956 when we did it."

You and I must learn to see life, family, and the Church with the biblical vision that God has for it. If that means that all organizational polish must be thrown out the window, then go for it. When we stop asking "What is the best thing to do? What is the right thing to do?" and, instead, ask "What does procedure dictate?", then our vision needs to be corrected.