Our faith should be held confidently… but carried gently.
It does not take too much for us to allow our faith to make us arrogant, like James and John, as recorded at the end of Luke chapter 9:54-55…
“When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them”.
The Samaritans were not welcoming Jesus. James and John wanted vengeance. It wouldn’t take us long, if we closed our eyes, to think of those who we would love to bring a little judgement down on.
That was not the Jesus way. Jesus entire incarnation was a lesson in carrying faith gently. This is the Gospel of Manger, Donkey and Cross. This is a God of humility and grace. Yes, he turned over a few tables in the Temple but in general…
We follow Jesus in holding our faith confidently… but carrying it gently.
Holiness has nothing to do with us feeding our own self righteousness and everything to do with feeding the world with shalom.
For too many decades planked eyed pietism has led us down a heretical path towards arrogant judgementalism. Tragically faith was worn like a sheriff’s badge and believers strutted, policing the world and many innocents had their souls damaged forever by being hurled into cells of exclusion.
The holiness of God is centred on the characteristics of love and grace. That is what makes him 'separate' - holy. When Isaiah is in the Temple and meets the holiness of God face to face he assumes that he is ruined. However, Isaiah discovers that before he can do anything to altar his predicament, God’s holiness kicks in and God moves towards him in grace and atoning forgiveness.
Holiness is not about what we achieve religiously within ourselves. Holiness is revealed in our self sacrificial giving to others, to neighbours, to enemies and to the marginalised in our society. Following Jesus is always worked out in relationships with others.
As Luke 9 rolls into Luke 10 we find Jesus sending his disciples out to do what? To wear their holiness like a badge and condemn. No. They go to feed the world with shalom. Everywhere they go they are to bring shalom. That shalom is the love of God moving across the earth, bringing the encroaching Kingdom Of God to everybody in every place.
As my friend Justin Zoradi described it in his book Made For These Times, It’s like “gigantic heavenly wheels rotating all over the earth. They roll around scrubbing up the darkness. mowing down injustice, and building up shaky structures of redemption and renewal.”
That is the return on holiness’s investment…. Hold it confidently and carry it gently!
God, give us a confidence in you
But give us grace to keep us from arrogance
God, give us a strength of conviction
But let us share it humbly
God may we believe courageously
But help us carry it gently
Lord, may we go forward with vision
But help us to be careful that we do not abuse your grace to feed our own self righteousness
But use your grace to feed the world’s deepest needs.