Good morning and Happy May 22 2011. We’re all still here right? Raise your hand if you got raptured.
Now that it’s clear that the rapture didn’t occur it’s time to get back to the business of living. Not just marking time and waiting for Jesus to come and take us “home” but really living as Jesus himself commanded us to.
On the day Jesus ascended into heaven he gave one final command to his disciples;
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20, TNIV]
Jesus commanded many things but everything he taught can be summed up in one word – Love.
I know, I know; sounds cheesy but think about it. When a Pharisee asked Jesus to tell them the greatest of all the commandments, the one thing that if he had to sum it all up, the trump card of commands, that’s what Jesus told him.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” [Mark 12:28-31, TNIV]
The apostle John, who gave us the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation also gave us a couple of letters. In one of those letters John sums up God succinctly; “God is Love.” [1 John 4:16].
Many conservative evangelical Christians balk at placing love in such a central position in God’s nature. They will say that love is no substitute for right doctrine and site passages like Ephesians chapter 4 pointing out that love sometimes takes a back seat to truth.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. [Ephesians 4:15, TNIV]
Just because truth comes before love in that sentence doesn’t make it superior.
What many people fail to realize is that in a world where human institutions and human achievements have come to define everything about our lives God has been relegated to nothing more than a feeling. Saying that God is Love without truly understanding what Godly love looks like only serves to reinforce that incomplete picture of Him and makes it possible for people to sincerely say that love by itself isn’t enough. True; worldly love, human love, warm fuzzy love, isn’t enough but Godly love is so much more than that.
Right after Jesus tells the Pharisee that it’s all about Love that man very sincerely, starts looking for a loop hole, he’s thinking in terms of worldly love, so he asks a follow up question; “but who is my neighbour?” The Pharisee wants to know who is in the love circle and who is out. Jesus answers with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Godly love prompted the Samaritan, an outsider, an oppressed person, probably someone who had been hurt and ostracized by the Jews all his life to say to a Jewish traveller; “you are my neighbour.”
Which brings me back to the topic of the rapture.
I didn’t get raptured yesterday and neither did you. What are we supposed to take from that? Are we supposed to go back and redo the math and adjust the dates and start proclaiming some new date in the future as the irrefutable second coming of Christ? No, our job is to remain here and teach the world to obey His commands. That begins with the greatest commandment of all. Love!
Apart from Jesus and the apostles my favourite bible character from the Old Testament has to be the prophet Micah. Micah lived in a time when secular opinion dominated not only the political arena but had also managed to infiltrate much of the church. He saw a world in ruin a world corrupted by human misdeeds and good intentions gone awry and a world that had shunted God to the sidelines. (Sound familiar?)
Through a masterful use of metaphor mixed with a bluntness that would make any good politician squirm Micah demanded that people wake up to the presence of God in the world all around them. That presence is manifest through the reality of love, compassion, justice, faithfulness and even sin and evil. According to Micah, who lived 800 years before Jesus and like all Jews was waiting for the Messiah, God’s physical presence wasn’t what was missing; what was missing, what’s always been in short supply, are people willing to do God’s physical work.
At the end of his book which I would subtitle “how to find God’s presence” Micah issues a challenge to believers that still rings true today. It’s not a challenge to go out and preach the word, or a challenge to evangelize the masses, it is a challenge to simply be aware of God’s presence and do what he commands. There is no greater witness than this.
So today, on the day after the rapture that wasn’t I can think of no better way for Christ-followers to re-establish our credibility and re-focus our mission on earth than to remember what Micah told the Jews who were waiting for Christ the first time:
The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands: “See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.” [Micah 6:8, CEV]
This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.[Psalm 118:24, ESV]