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I hate it when someone says to me, “Thank you for your patience.” It usually means that I have every reason to be impatient and that someone is trying to make me be patient when I have no desire to be.
Delayed at an airport at Christmas time, unable to do anything about it, faced with the incompetence of airline employees, I get impatient. Who wouldn’t? After all, isn’t impatience in the face of injustice a good thing?
In 1956, C.S. Lewis published a memoir of his early life, titled Surprised by Joy. As a young enthusiast of Lewis’ famed Chronicles of Narnia series, I devoured many of his other works once I got to college. Surprised by Joy was my favorite. In it, Lewis describes the bitter-sweet ache which would come over him as a youth sometimes during his encounters with beauty. It was a sweet stab–a mystery that pierced the heart with longing and desire. He called it joy.
As we think about the first fruit of the Spirit –– love –– there’s one small word in the gospels that is full of challenge for us. It’s a word has challenged me hugely in many relationships in both my family and in my church. It’s the word “as” in John 15:12: “Love one another ‘as’ I have loved you”, Jesus says. In this context, “as” means “in the same way”. “My love for you is the model. I want you to copy that model in your relationships with each other.”
The other day my wife brought home some vine-ripened tomatoes. There they were, red bubbles of fruit dangling from green but withering clumps of vines, boasting of true garden tomato flavor. Pavlov’s dog syndrome kicked in as I began to dream of fresh tomatoes in my haystacks (a hot taco salad) and sandwiches. Imagine our disappointment when we cut open our first tomato only to find it mushy and almost flavorless. Someone had severed that branch from the vine too early. To have good fruit requires being connected to a vine throughout the ripening stage.
This week's study guide makes an obvious point: that, like the Israelite cities of refuge, Christ is our City of Refuge. But while that is a popular analogy in evangelical theology, the establishment and operation of cities of refuge were very complex and life in Christ gets a lot more deep than just feeling better about being a sinner.
This particular Sabbath School Lesson triggered all kinds of memories for me. It focuses on two major incidents: A) The idolatrous and adulterous orgy at Shittim (Num. 25) that resulted in 23,000 deaths by plague; B) the slaughter of the Midianite women and young boys (Num. 31).
My problem is that when it comes to readers of the Old Testament – and I am speaking first of all of believers – I see at least four different reactions. How many of them can I satisfactorily address in one Spectrum article?
Every child who has had any Christian background knows the story of this strange, “mad prophet” and the embarrassing tongue-lashing his friendly donkey gave him. For too many, though, as the years go by, that’s all the story of Balaam they remember.
But Brother Balaam is so much in all of us — to ignore Balaam is to ignore areas in each of our lives that need attention. Hardly a person alive has not had to struggle with the challenges that Balaam struggled with. Many go on and play out Balaam’s life drama. Some play the same game but withdraw before the game overpowers them.