And the bad news just keeps rolling in! But as my mother is fond of saying, this too shall pass! I know the turmoil is real but this is one of those times when keeping your wits about you and focusing on the important things really can make a difference in the outcome! Who is driving your bus? The spirit of anarchy or the Holy Spirit that passes all understanding? Are you living in fear or are you living by faith? Which bus are you riding?
I have mentioned here previously that I've been working through Disciple Bible Study on my own. This is the Bible Study program that the United Methodist Church has widely promoted as being effective in teaching about discipleship. Wonder of wonders, after 17 weeks of study we are now FINALLY getting in to the New Testament. And this week's section is titled "Radical Discipleship" with today's reading focusing on Matthew 3-7 (talk about perfect timing). I've been using my Wesley Study Bible as I have gone through the Disciple study because it has extensive notes.
Contained within this section (chapter 5) is The Beatitudes-the "blessed are" verses. John Wesley preached extensively on the Sermon on the Mount and it is worth reading what he had to say! If you go to the Wesleyan Center for Applied Theology you can read the sermons (21-33) and I encourage you do so! Take your time because it will deepen your understanding on these very key scripture verses.
Now that I have gone round the mulberry bush and laid the groundwork for what I want to talk about, let me get back to my key point. Having read this material previously and, having read Wesley's sermons I have found a couple of things already that I disagree with in the Disciple Study and in the notes in the Wesley Study Bible (it's only Tuesday, for heaven's sake!) And in the grand scheme of things this relates to what is going on in our world today. Why is there such a hunger for this teaching and yet such a huge misunderstanding of what it means to be a disciple? Why does it seem like our moral compasses are so skewed and fear seems to be the predominate driving force? Where are our leaders? Who is driving the bus?
First, Disciple Bible Study defines a disciple as "a learner". Having already looked up the word, I know that this is not a fully accurate definition. It's accurate as far as it goes but it just doesn't go far enough! A much better definition is "apprentice". Why? Because it clearly implies that YOU must be active in your learning. A teacher may teach, but YOU must practice and then ultimately you must go out and use what you have been taught! Another key thing about apprenticeship is that you have to choose carefully who you follow. Who will be the best teacher? Or, in the modern vernacular "who are you going to let drive the bus?" Who are the leaders and teachers today? More importantly, are they the best choice?
My second "nitpick" (and yes, I may be splitting hairs here) is the Wesley Study Bible note (section on 5:17-48) that says "Righteousness, a term that is better translated as 'justice'..." Again, accurate as far as the definition goes but there is so much more to it! Let me ask you this, does the word grace come to mind when you think of the word justice? No? The definition of righteous in my dictionary says "in conformity with the moral law". What's the ultimate moral law in the Bible according to Jesus? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. In my opinion, you have to add grace in to the mix along with justice in order to have a full understanding of what righteousness implies. The grace of God through Jesus saves those who choose to follow. In turn, those who follow are expected to conform to the ultimate moral law, justice THROUGH grace, or put another way, justice BECAUSE of grace, which is righteousness. To me, this is a much bigger or more accurate picture of what the word means. There is an active component to this that has to come from me. Am I acting justly towards others because of the grace that I have received? Are my teachers and leaders leading by this example? Or is it a whole lot of self-serving lip service? Am I looking out for others or am I just looking out for me? Do I justify my actions or do I really act justly towards others?
All of this brings me around to the topic of morals and ethics and the importance of proper teaching and proper leading. Seriously, if you follow the news pundits you'd think the world was coming to an end! I hate to burst your doom and gloom bubble but I have to tell ya, in my little corner of the world the sun is still shining and the birds are still singing! Yes, the stock market has tanked, yes there has been a loss of paper money but in the whole scheme of things, is making money the ultimate end all and goal of life? Is the "dash for cash" the key critical factor in life? Is getting ahead really what I should be working towards? I know money matters because it pays the bills, keeps a roof over your head and buys the food but it's meant to be a tool, not the controlling mechanism of your existence. Yet, for a lot of people it is the only thing to live for!
There in lies the problem. We have people leading and teaching who have made the accumulation of wealth the key component to our existence. Their moral compass is skewed and when the spirit of anarchy decided to jump in, the end result was fear and chaos! Panic peaked, fears drove widespread sell offs and the economic engine went splat! Who is driving the bus? Chicken little? Is the sky really falling? Isn't that what some people think? This thinking extends far beyond the financial markets. This extends in to government and business as well. When the moral compass is out of whack bad policy follows! Maybe, if those in power stopped and asked the question "is this how I would want my friends or family or neighbors to treat me" we might see some different results! Which bus are they driving, the fear mobile or the faith express?
All of this demonstrates why Discipleship is critical to teach and critical for those in leadership. Apprenticeship, proper training, providing a firm understanding of the foundation and teaching others how to go out and use what they have learned-all of these are key elements to learning how to be led by the Holy Spirit in all walks of life. It's the source-it's what feeds the deep river and it is what keeps you on track! Without that firm moral compass you end up with anarchy. Take a good hard look around you and ask yourself, is this really how I want to live? Isn't there something more? Yes, there is and now is the time to grab hold of that something more!
People of God, it's time to start raising up leaders of courage with the right moral compass to drive the bus! It's time to stop talking about Discipleship and instead start creating true apprenticeships in order to teach courageous individuals how to step forward and lead. We already have the blueprint, let's start using it! Fear and chaos need to become the exception, not the rule! It's time to grab the wheel!