Practical Application of the Word of God
It never ceases to amaze me how we, the ekklesia, very often veer far away from the simplicity of scripture when it comes to what our practical Christian walk in everyday life looks like.
Like society around us and completely in step with our human nature which tends toward the ditches of extremes in thinking, speaking, and doing (or not doing), we are easily persuaded to neglect, avoid, or even deny the truth of scripture in how we live our lives and in who and what we are.
I have come to realize in the past several years that Revelation 21:4 doesn’t just apply to us humans, but to God and Jesus Christ as well.
How much pain have we inflicted on them because of our choices? How much sorrow have they suffered because of our disobedience? How many tears have they cried – God the Father over His children and Jesus Christ over His younger siblings – because of us?
And why have they had pain, felt sorrow, and cried tears over us?
Because, in many ways, we don’t believe them, even when we claim that we do. We don’t obey them, even though we give lip-service to obeying them. We don’t reflect their light in our lives in so many ways.
And we consistently break the 3rd Commandment and the 5th Commandment by causing their names to be profaned and misused as curses because we claim to be of them and then act anything but like them and because we bring dishonor on God the Father by our words and our actions.
One area where we as Christians routinely seem to go into the ditches of extremes is in our relationships with and toward all other humans.
One extreme is the hyperactive approach: going full-tilt into trying to solve all of humanity’s problems by signing petitions, joining protests, and dissing other parts of humanity in the process.
These problems are spiritual. You and I can’t even fix or solve these problems within ourselves, by ourselves. It literally takes the power of God, through His spirit, to work with our choices, our hearts, and our minds to remove our self-deception and Satan’s deception to first, see God’s way, second, understand God’s way, and third, to go God’s way.
And even with God’s everpresent help, it is still a war with battles we lose it seems more often than we win and it is a lifelong process that will not be completed by any other but Jesus Christ Himself when He returns.
So, in effect, by joining efforts to attempt to fix spiritual problems that only God and Jesus Christ are able to resolve is, in a sense, denying the word of God and the power of God and it is not a productive use of our energy, time, and effort.
But other Christians take the hyperpassive approach: doing nothing for others, ignoring real needs that we encounter in everyday living, and simply checking out of life by saying “Jesus Christ will fix it all, so I don’t need to do anything for anyone.”
Of the two ditches of extremes, this one seems to me to be the most egregious in denying the word of God, profaning God’s name, dishonoring God, and not living by every word that proceeds out of God’s mouth.
Sadly, this ditch seems to be one that is accompanied by pride, arrogance, and condescension (this is where the “we’re special and they’re not” ideas about the body of Christ in relationship to the rest of humanity that often get taught by religious organizations causes spiritual stumbling within the ekklesia because this erroneous thinking becomes indoctrinated in a lot of the body of Christ), while it is completely ignorant of the calling of God, which includes education, learning, and application of God’s word and law toward Him and toward others.
Much of God’s word deals with how we humans treat other humans and it’s not a pretty picture. Oppression, mistreating the poor, the fatherless, and the widows, not doing good when it’s within our ability to do so, ignoring the suffering around us, and ignoring the needs of others that are right in front of our faces.
God’s word plainly tells us that we as Christians should be outraged by this and as we are able within our limited, human scope and abilities we should be actively involved in practically helping anyone we can.
There is a balanced approach – walking the walk – between the hyperactive ditch that some Christians run headlong into and the hyperpassive ditch that other Christians run headlong into and that is also spelled out in God’s word.
I truly believe that there are many Christians who are simply not going to be ready to serve and help Jesus Christ in the world to come because they are not learning to do it now, where they can, when they can, and how they can.
These Christians lack the understanding that this life and this calling by God is an educational process in God’s way that requires us to learn by doing.
Head knowledge will not be enough. There is not some magic switch that will be flipped on when Christ returns that miraculously makes us experienced in empathy, in compassion, in serving, and in giving of ourselves to all of humanity.
Experience teaches us like no words ever can. We learn from our mistakes, our failures, and our successes. We understand ourselves better (and gain humility as we see the tremendous gap between our best human efforts and the perfect example of our Older Brother, Jesus Christ) and we understand other people better.
We become, through experience, more merciful toward others, even if we don’t think they deserve it, because we see more clearly how merciful God is with us and we don’t deserve it.
We become, as we get experience under our belts, more committed and more consistent in doing justly simply because it’s always the right thing to do (it doesn’t really matter what we think from a human perspective, because our perspective is extremely biased and extremely limited).
Jesus Christ, in several parables, talks about what walking the walk of this aspect of practical Christianity looks like.
Matthew 25:31-46 is one such parable. We see the hyperpassive Christian ditch on Christ’s left side and we see the walking-the-walk Christians on Christ’s right side.
But nowhere, at least for me, is walking the walk of practical Christianity in serving, helping, and being there for other people more clear than in Jesus Christ’s parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37.
This is one of those places where it seems we as Christians just disconnect completely from the word of God, because at the end of this parable Jesus Christ says to you and to me, “Go and do likewise.”
Yet as Christians in the hyperpassive ditch of “do nothing, see nothing, Christ will fix it so I can ignore it,” we are the priest and the Levite in this parable instead of the Samaritan (Samaritans were hated by the Jews, and were considered to be less than scum by them, which is exactly, I believe, why Christ used the Samaritan as the example of mercy).
We are supposed to be walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, following His example in our Christian walk.
Did Christ take a hands-off approach to people by saying, “I’ll take care of this mess the next time I come?” Did He just hang out with his disciples and ignore everybody else and their needs? Did He lack empathy? Did He lack compassion?
I sincerely hope that through God’s word we know that Christ did none of these things and that, in fact, He did the opposite. This is one of the tangible examples of mercy that Jesus Christ left for us to follow (mercy – or the lack of it – starts in our motives, our attitudes, our thoughts and extends through our words and our actions; in other words, we are either merciful or we’re not).
So what should this aspect of walking the walk of practical Christianity look like in our lives?
Look around your community for opportunities to extend mercy by serving and helping others in need. I’ll list a few examples in the hope that these will spur you to think of others:
This is a fraction of what’s around us every day in terms of opportunities for serving and helping other people. The reality is they take very little time for us to do and yet they mean so much to those who receive them.
There are many more things than I could possibly list here, but we have to be looking for opportunities to do good for all the others who are right in front of us as we are able.
I Peter 2:12 is uppermost in my mind continually as I live my life and I believe if we as Christians kept it uppermost in ours continually that we would be walking the walk of practical Christianity in terms of showing mercy and doing good for others – all others – around us.
The bottom line, then, is will my conduct and your conduct toward other people cause them to glorify God in the day of visitation or is our conduct causing God’s and Jesus Christ’s names to be profaned and bringing dishonor to our Father in heaven?