While I am off on vacation and soaking up the (winter) sun, take a look back at this previous devotion. It’s just as relevant now as it was then. Click here to view today’s devotion.
Read Mark 7:14-23
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
I am sure you are looking at this title and going, “Oh, no! Where’s he going to go with this.” I can assure you that I am not about to pull my inner Calvinist out. As a theologian, I do not subscribe to much of the five points of Calvinism. Still, on the point of “total depravity”, even John Wesley said (in a letter to John Newton dated May 14, 1765) he did not “differ from [Mr. Calvin] an hair’s breadth.” After all, the Bible clearly teaches that humanity strayed from the love and grace of God, allowing sin and evil to enter into the picture; however, the grace of God has given us the ability to choose good over evil and to choose holiness over sinfulness.
So, even though I don’t agree with the other four points of Calvinism, I am not going to take this devotion to a comfortable place in regard to human depravity. We all have that potential to fall to reject God and fall back into our depraved state. I see evidence of this in Scripture as well as in every day life. I would have to be morally blind and completely naïve to think that human depravity doesn’t exist in this world. All we have to do is turn on the news to find it. In fact, along with covering the depravity of human beings around our communities, our country and our world, the news networks (and I mean ALL of them) themselves engage in depravity.
I was just recently watching the news and seeing college kids at the University of California Berkley rioting on campus because a conservative/liberatarian speaker was coming to give a speech. When I say rioting, I mean wearing masks, throwing molotov cocktails, shooting fireworks at the school library, pepper spraying a woman who had a “Make America Great Again” hat on, knocking down power lines and making a bonfire out of school property. All of this because people are opposed to the current administration and, as a result, conservatives in general.
On the flip side, conservatives have done their share of riling up anger. They have engaged in irresponsible rhetoric, led a brutal campaign unlike I think anyone has ever seen before, thoughtlessly executed laws that have done harm to people, and engaged in “tit-for-tat” bomb throwing on social media. What’s more, as is usually the case when any side wins an election, there has been a lot of gloating as well. Not to mention the white supremacists and other morally debase people coming out of the wood work, spray painting swastikas on playgrounds, shouting racial slurs at people of color, and chanting “build that wall” at our Latino and Hispanic brothers and sisters, most of whom are citizens.
Don’t mistake me here, I am not engaging in political discourse or taking sides. As I see it, both sides are wrong. We live in an age where we no longer can look at one another as brothers and sisters, as fellow human beings, as children of God; rather, we look at others as enemies, as evil, as monsters, as ignorant, as dangerous, as threats, as demons that need to be sent back to the fires of hell. Burn, baby, burn.
This world is on fire with depravity right now. No, it’s not the first, nor even the worst time in the history of the world, but we are descending into the depths of destruction faster than anyone of us could have ever anticipated. People I once stood side-by-side with in serving others, are now chanting “fight fire with fire”. People I once could have an intelligible conversation with, are no longer stopping to listen anymore. Everyone anymore seems to be screaming expletives past each other, without stopping to pause and notice that they have lost the high ground.
Is this what God wants? Is this what God envisioned for us when we were created? How can we claim to love God when we hate our neighbor? How can we claim to listen to God when we cannot even have the respect and love to listen to one another? We have become a depraved people, spanning generations. I recognize that that NOT EVERYONE has engaged in the extremes of the depravity we have been seeing; even so, most of us who have not have laid quietly in fear of standing up IN LOVE against it.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Do you believe in all that he did and taught? Do you believe in the power of his resurrection and the coming of the Kingdom of God? If you answer yes to all of those questions, then you are called to be the peacemaker of the world around you. All of us who believe are. We are to look for truth on all sides and bring people together, rather than divinding them further apart. We are to take the long, hard, painful road of loving all people, especially those we disagree with or call our enemies. We are to be the hands and feet of our risen, living Savior. We are to counter depravity with the goodness and righteousness (aka justice) by the grace of Christ who is Lord. Will you join me in that? I hope so.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“All we are saying is give peace a chance.” – John Lennon
Lord, help me to assess my own fears and feelings so that I may rise above depravity and be a peacemaker in the world around me. Amen.
Read Galatians 5:13-21
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.” (Romans 6:19 NLT)
In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”
THE WORKS OF THE FLESH: Impurity. My family loves to drink water; however, some in my family refuse to drink tap water. For them, tap water skeeves them out because it comes from the ground and into our cup through a “dirty” faucet. We cannot know what is in that water, and it tastes kind of “funny”; therefore, the perception is that the water is not pure. On the other hand, bottled water is perceived to be pure water. It is assumed by most people to be filtered of all impurities and, therefore, it is a “safe” and “clean” water to drink.
At one time, decades ago, people would have laughed at the idea of bottling and selling water. Who, in their right mind, will ever buy bottled water? I can get that for free right out of my tap, why would I pay for something that I can get for free? Yet, the bottled water industry (owned by-and-large by big “junk-food”/”soft-drink” corporations such as Coca-Cola, Nestle and Pepsi) has done a phenomenal job in marketing their product. Brands such as Nestle’s “Pure Life”, Poland Springs, Dasani, Fiji, Nirvana, and others all suggest that the water that is being sold is pure, natural, wild, exotic, heavenly, life-giving, etc. Yet, is this water any more pure than the water that ACTUALLY comes from one’s well in their backyard (provided you don’t drink city/town water)?
Whether or not bottled water is cleaner or more pure than ACTUAL water from an aquifer under the ground is debatable; however, what isn’t debatable is that water can be, and often is, contaminated by things that make it impure. While in it’s natural state water is pure and is the bare necessity to all living things, things from the outside can seep into it and make it impure. Like water, we too can be contaminated by outside sources. God created us pure and wholesome as beings capable of love, of compassion, of creativity, of growth, of respect, of stewardship, and of service. God created us with the ability to be vessels of life-giving water, a people who nurture and care for all living things, as well as for all of creation.
However, outside sources in the world have seeped into our lives and we know what they are. We have become glamoured by materialistic things, we have been charmed by greed, hatred, bitterness, vengeance, arrogance, narcissism, and selfishness. As a result, we have become contaminated and impure. We have become consumed by stuff that doesn’t belong with us and, as such, have become depraved. What’s more, have begun to define ourselves by our depravity in ignorance of what our pure and wholesome state is. This is NOT something we were born into, but something we’ve allowed to take over our lives and our world. Paul is calling us to allow God to purge us of our impurities. That can be a painful process; however, once it is done we will begin to experience what true and pure life IN GOD actually is! Are you ready to become filled, once again, with living water?
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“One by one, little by little, moment by moment, a wise man should remove his own impurities, as a smith removes his dross from silver.” – The Buddha, The Dhammapada 18:239
Lord, help to purge me of my impurities so that I may once again experience and share pure and true life. Amen.