The Gospels are so full of great teachings and examples. I’m grateful for four of them as I write this blog, because it means that as I skip over some really good things, I know I’ll come back to them again in a future post and get to talk about them. So let’s check out a few interesting things in today’s reading.
Listen to Him
There are a number of things that we could talk about in the story of the Transfiguration — lots of interesting tidbits and question like “Why Moses and Elijah?” or the meaning of the discussion about Elijah and John the Baptist. But it is the response of God that I thought was most important for consideration: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” More than just a revelation of Jesus’ identity, this was a command on the basis of Jesus’ identity — “Listen to Him.”
Not to the latest popular philosophy. Not the newest rock and roll song. Not our friends. Not our family. Not the latest book. Not the most interesting preacher in town or on TV. Not the most attractive new theology. Listen to Him.
Not your ordinary kind of leadership
Leadership Jesus’ way is not the same as leadership the world’s way. The disciples of Jesus came to Him asking about who was greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. To illustrate it to His disciples, Jesus called a child to Himself. Leadership involves a willingness to come and obey — and serve. These sorts of things are not the things that people first think of when they think of leadership — come, obey, and serve. But leadership in God’s Kingdom is never done right until the leader can first learn to come to the Lord, obey the Master faithfully, and humbly serve God’s people. This is is real greatness.
Binding and loosing — Matthew 18:18
There’s a fairly important Greek issue that is often overlooked in most translations here and in Matthew 16:19. I deferred commenting on it until today, because there was so much in Matthew 14-16. The usual translation runs along these lines: “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (NIV). This implies that Heaven follows the lead of the apostles (or Peter in particular in Matt. 16), however, the more accurate translation actually runs: “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (NASB). Technically, the verbs are “future perfect passive” for bind and loose, and they specifically point to the apostles (and Peter) following Heaven’s lead — a huge difference. We must always, always take our lead from the Lord.
The critical matter of forgiveness — Matthew 18:21ff
Forgiveness is usually understood to be kind of important to human relationships, but it is not often practiced. So many troubled marriages could be not just fixed but greatly improved with some forgiveness. So many friendships have been destroyed, by a refusal to forgive. And Jesus tells us in a very powerful parable that we can even negate an otherwise perfectly righteous life by failing to forgive. When it comes to others forgiving us, we certainly expect it, but somehow, “The thing that was done to me was just beyond the pale; I just can’t forgive that!”
The problem is that we often have a bad definition of forgiveness; we equate it with forgetting. But they’re not the same things. Forgetting something really bad or traumatic is really hard to do; our brains are actually “wired” to remember things that are emotionally charged. So, if forgiveness is not forgetting, what is it? Looking at the parable of the Prodigal Son we get a wonderful insight into how God forgives (I’ll discuss it in more detail, when we get to Luke); forgiveness is really treating the other person as if it had never happened. It acts as if the broken relationship had never been broken.
Having said this, however, you should also realize that forgiveness is dependent — from Genesis through Revelation — on repentance. If one’s enemy repents, we are obligated to forgive; but if one’s enemy does not repent (change the heart and mind), we aren’t obligated to treat them as if the offense had never happened. Having said that, however, we should also realize that Christians are never, ever allowed to carry grudges or get our own revenge. We’ll talk more of this in later posts.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing