July 23, 2011

Prisoner For Christ XXII: What's The Frequency?

I guess I will send a parting shot over the bow before exiting the Prison Epistles and the series “Prisoner For Christ”. It again has to do with Philemon since it is so close to my heart. Maybe this is because I have myself been reconciled to Jesus and to some people in my life that I absolutely swore I would die hating (for no reason). God can do anything and my relationship with my neighbor that I didn’t even speak to for 13 years is now my brother in Christ is the perfect example. We have been reconciled so much so that he and his wife watched my children last night as I gave a sermon to a small Lutheran congregation on the Inerrancy of Scripture. A neighbor who is also a pastor (which I never realized because I was so reprobate and screwed-up) and preaches sermons that I now listen to. A neighbor who helps me study my Greek and makes sure my sermons do not contain hidden errors that the Devil or my sin help blind me to. A neighbor that has been reconciled to me in Christ. Philemon is a letter has taken on a new meaning for me. I will never see it the same on this side of eternity or the other side.

There is no way to type these insights without a little overlap with my previous posts for Philemon. I will attempt to draw out three more poignant original ideas though. First and foremost is the idea of reconciliation which I have already slogged through. It is the idea of reconciliation not only to Jesus but also through Jesus. In being reconciled to Christ it is then easier to reconcile ourselves to others also reconciled to Christ because we have a common denominator or start point. Jesus. All humor intended here, usually if both believe and have accepted Christ, those people have a lot to talk about (an infinite & glorious God) and they’ll have a long time to do it (eternity).

When we have been saved in Christ we owe our lives to Him as well. If we owe our lives to Him we are obliged to do what He has told us to do. We are to live out our faith and keeping a brother in bonds is not the way to do it. If we have Christ in us we should all be operating at the same frequency and the frequency is “Christ”. When we are not modulated and harmonious we will clearly be out-of-sync with our brothers in Christ. The better our relationship with Christ and the better our brother's relationship with Christ the better we as humans have a chance for harmony here and now. A piece of the Kingdom then enters this domain and we have peace and a glimpse of what this world should’ve and could’ve been. Unfortunately, even the most devoted stumble in their walk and this causes interference and distortion rather than harmony. They (or we) begin to tune into the worlds frequency and tune out God’s. Although it is possible to get a signal bleed over often we just get noise. This “white noise” surfaces in the form of sin and drowns out our sanctification, our brother's and in worst case scenarios…Jesus. We cannot allow this. We always need make sure we are tuned into the needs of others and when necessary work as their advocates and make pleas on their behalf when they’re not able, which leads to my next thought…

The second insight is the plea and advocacy of a Christian brother. When I wrote about Philemon in the past I superficially touched on this but it deserved more focus. Paul appeals to Philemon for at least leniency on Onesimus’ behalf if not outright release from his slavery and bonds. Paul asks as if he is asking for himself or as Paul says it in Greek accept “him as me”. We should pray this way also. We need to include intercessory prayer in our prayer life. This also tells me something about how Paul sees others in the Body of Christ and how he sees himself. Paul clearly sees his position as a sacrificing servant. He is imprisoned yet still looks out for the well-being of Onesimus who he now has as a servant of Christ. Paul is the quintessential servant of the servants. Paul knows Onesimus is a slave (runaway) and his social position is clearly low but this holds no bearing on how he treats him. How often do we do that? Looking at others that do not make as much as we do in terms of money? They do not drive the type of car we think they ought to drive. Perhaps it is a person that labors and is a blue collar worker rather than a white. Do we snub people because they do not meet the measure of our critical (often unbiblical) criteria? Paul doesn’t do this and come to think of it, neither did Jesus. There is a lesson to be learned here for those that have not already learned it as Christian. We are all equal under Christ.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

None is greater than any other regardless of how aloof or arrogantly they behave. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and Jesus died for all of us…blue collar or white collar, prisoner or freeman, slave or master, male or female, etc.

The final insight that I drew out of Philemon is this. It is an insight that I have seen throughout Paul’s writing. I know for a fact that I will see it outside of the Prison Epistles in his other letters because it is something that is part of Paul as a Christian. It should be part of us all. He has internalized it to the point of doing if purposefully and consciously in all his writings. He prays and gives thanks and seems to do it in equal measure. In this way he is emulating Jesus. We in turn should be doing the same. If there is a place my spiritual life falls off the cliff it’s here. I must have ADHD or some type of attention deficit disorder because I have serious problems stay focused on the task at hand when it comes to personal prayer. I believe this may be the devil seeping in through unguarded cracks trying to tear down my prayer time. I can do it and do it well for others but what I do behind closed doors in the twilight hours of God’s grace is *ahem* anemic…and I know it. I can and should learn from Paul. I believe praying through some of his prayers would be a good place to start. Perhaps if I have the Spirit upon me it will internalize and become part of who I am so that it more naturally flow out of what I am instead of feeling so forced and at times arduous. It isn’t odd for me to break a sweat before finishing an intense pleading to God because I need to work hard at it. What I can say with a positive tone is that many of my prayers get answered. Not always in the way I expect but I know they are being acknowledged by God. I guess sometimes it is by God's grace that He doesn't answer some of those stinkers I threw up is way in anger or haste much to my *chagrin*

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