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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Entry 10: Three Questions


April 1, 2014

Dear Friends

Re:  Entry 10

For I am obligated to both Greeks and non-Greeks, to the wise and the foolish.” Paul wrote that to the Romans. Obligated.  That means to be indebted to.  We all understand debt in America. We have the most advanced financial markets established in the history of the world.  We trades pieces of paper—heck, they’re not even paper any longer—and call them stocks.  We own bonds, which are promises to pay from others passed through middlemen and washed until they seem sterile and become “investments”.  I once thought about every stock I ever owned or wanted to that it only represented something so long as the person obligated to keep up their end of the bargain remain obligated.

Obligated. We saw that definition stretched in 2008, during the financial crisis.  Most people were oblivious, but how many people could have lived with the money they had on them, or in their houses, if the payments systems melted down  (as an aside to this, how many of you reading this really know what almost happened in September, 2008?  Imagine if no one could pay anyone, and it cascaded across the economy, causing waves of people not paying not because they didn’t want to but because they couldn’t get access to assets or cash to do so.  It is better to remain oblivious).  We rely on the obligations of others, have such great faith in them, use them as stores of wealth, measures of promises pending or kept, and underneath all along the dark little secret is that they are just that…promises. Promises to fulfill and obligation.  Have you ever looked at a dollar bill?  It is basically a piece of paper. Nice paper, no doubt, but paper.  What it represents is someone’s promise to pay you.  And there are lots of those promises out there. Every month we print billions more!  Some day those obligations may overwhelm all of us.  Sometimes people borrow having no intention of ever repaying, but I would imagine that is very rare.  Most people take on obligations—promises—ever optimistic that someday some way it will all work out.

God has obligated us.  Our salvation, his Son, has made us debtors, obligated to Him.  But this obligation is to spread the gospel; it is the only way we can satisfy the obligation.  I suppose we could die as debtors never having lifted a finger to acknowledge, let alone stand in awe of the Obligation.  How then, have we managed to flip around the obligation on God?  It is often said that the best way to avoid ever seeing anyone again is to lend them money (make them an obligor).

And if God has made me an obligor to the extent of the Gospel, to everyone—as the famous movie line goes—E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E!—fools, non-fools, haters, the Good, The Bad and the Ugly (Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach, respectively!), how do I fulfill that obligation?  

That was the first question.

“Judge not that you shall not be judged.”  Most of us have always used that as a defense, as in “don’t you judge me!”  But there is another side of it, if you walk around to the back of the mirror and gaze into it, it becomes something to use on the offensive as in “I don’t have to judge you”.  I have always thought they were both true—especially since the second part of that verse (the part in Luke that isn’t in Matthew) where it says “Do not condemn and you will not be condemned”.  How easy it is to judge with the intent of condemnation!  Now, lest any of you scurry off to report me to the higher authorities that I don’t believe in discernment, I do.  I think judging is particularly appropriate, because we are constantly asked to judge people or situations—I consider that more discerning than judging.  Judging implies condemnation.  And that is a very, very easy to do and a slip slippery slope.  I imagine we go through most days unconsciously judging those around us based on all sorts of things never taking into account the command—lets call it advice, its better advice even if it is a command.  I hear Christians all the time wanting “fire and brimstone” preached, and I doubt their intent is not much more than to condemn someone for their sin.  Jesus made it so simple and we complicate it so.

The behind-the-mirror view that you don’t have to judge—now that is what Jesus demonstrated, when he ate, sat, gathered, otherwise hobnobbed with the lowest of the low (as we would call them today).  If you want someone to go to Hell, it’s a little hard to preach the gospel to them (remember Jonah), at least with any kind of conviction on your part.  That kind of Christianity is often, and unfortunately, the only kind the world sees.

Can you judge not?  That is the second question, and do so in a way that fulfills your obligation to the Lord?  That is the third.

I remain,
Fessler