Scripture – Beauty in the Struggle
The conversation at my men’s small-group Bible-study Wednesday evening was – as usual – “most excellent;” deep; verging on powerful.
We’re reading Philip Yancey’s classic book The Jesus I Never Knew. The discussion topic was The Beatitudes, from Matthew Chapter Five. The question I posed was: “There are so many varying interpretations of these foundational sayings of Jesus (most interpretations are very good); does that make studying these sayings more interesting, or more frustrating? Any thoughts?”
After several very helpful comments, Brad talked about how being forced to wrestle with the text rather than read it alongside an “It means exactly this” handy reference guide is often a reward in itself.
BEAUTY: “There’s a real beauty in the struggle, isn’t there?” I said. “Sometimes the deepest experiences I have with God come when I don’t understand, when I am driven to go back to God again and again looking for clarification, and when The Word lodges itself under my skin and works at me all through the day.”
This morning, as I think about this, I’m reminded of the night that Jacob “wrestled with God” at a place called Peniel (Genesis 32).
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
God’s Word always engages me, it puts me in a headlock sometimes, it puts things out of joint, it challenges, and it even pile-drives me into the sand. It is alive; it is living; it is animated by the very breath of the Creator.
BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE: That’s how we’re approaching Christ’s Beatitudes in my Men’s Room small group. The effect of 2,000 – 3,000 – 4,000 years (and more) of time, culture, interpretation, faith, translation, misunderstandings, politics, shifts in language…. AND…. a small group of Presbyterian men constantly hungry for what God has to teach us, today, is no watering down of scripture. NO, it’s quite the opposite, it’s the dynamic presence of the Living God!
We’re trying to open our minds, our hearts, our spirits – our very lives – to the leadership of God via the companionship of Jesus, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the dynamic truth of The Living Word.
And I’m talking about the WHOLE word of God, the cumulative narrative of our struggle to know our Creator… not just the parts that we like, or that back up our political preferences, or that we enjoy using to smack other people around!
So keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. (Jude)
So let’s keep on struggling – DEREK