May 1, 2013

In Which I May Have Slipped a Millstone Around my Neck


When I was twenty-nine I was asked to lead a Bible Study class. I had no business leading women who for the most part were older than me. I felt some hesitation. I feared misspelling words on a chalkboard where I would make lists for my class. I didn’t think about the fact that I might not know the truths that I was teaching. I reflect back twenty years ago and think, “What was I thinking?”

I wasn’t.

I read recently of the in-fighting going on in Christian communities online. People are lining up behind different writers (teachers) or against them. Some leaving snarky comments they probably would not say face-to-face. Could be wrong on that one?

Seth Haines addressed this issue on a post on his blog and did so in a vulnerable way that I appreciated. But I didn’t agree with him on every point---at least not fully. Though I don’t know Seth, I think it would be okay with him. If he knew me, and we sat down to talk this out, our conversation would probably lead us somewhere unexpectedly meaningful. I think he might be from my neck of the woods so maybe we might get the opportunity to have the conversation some day.

The Christian blogging world has set quite a table.

When I was a child, I came home from church to my grandmother’s table, an offering of all the bounty of her gardens. The other months the bounty came from the freezer and the canning jars. It was always a feast.

The Internet has opened a table set with food from all kinds of writers and teachers, a feast from teachers all across the world. Of course, there are differing opinions on the same subject. When I read two points of view, I don’t feel the need to set up camp with one or the other. And I don’t feel the need to cast snarky stones when I don’t agree.

When I read different points of view, I go to the Teacher and I wrestle them out with Him and not with people. He is the Truth Teller and ultimately, my allegiance is to God and God alone. I have learned much from Him since I was twenty-nine. The more I have learned, the more I know that I will never have a total grasp of God Almighty even though I seek Him everyday.

Jesus gave the command to teach in the Great Commission but it shouldn’t be entered into lightly. As Seth inferred in his post, those called to teach should do it with fear and trembling because there is a greater judgment for those who teach falsely.

"It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”

The millstone is a sober reminder not to teach if you are not called. This soberness is highlighted and underlined in light of the greater judgment that comes to those who teach. It is that reverence, that understanding of the consequences of leading others astray, that keeps me humble before a Holy God who has called me to write and speak—to teach in my generation (as a fisherman and not a theologian.)

My Sunday dinner plate at Grandma’s table was like filling a painting with color and texture. She offered up two meats, usually fried chicken and roast beef and a couple of desserts-- a banana pudding and often a Coke cake. I can remember scooping out a hole in the mashed potatoes and filling it with purple hull peas. All the other offerings laid side-by-side on the plate, corn and okra, fresh tomatoes, radishes and onions, some of the vegetables pulled from the garden minutes before the meal.

Before the meal was over, the food on the plate had mixed to make the few last bites a conglomeration of all the piles of deliciousness that had covered my plate. At the last, I would reach for a piece of light bread and sweep up the last bite, wipe my plate clean.

I know people who never let the food on their plate touch. And I know people who camp out with one teacher (or a few)---some that rely so heavily on them that one human teacher and never consider sitting at the feet of the Teacher. They bristle at anything on the plate becoming contaminated with something that didn’t come from the mouth of the one they believe has the last Word on God’s Word.

Human teachers are people God created who might have something to speak into my life. I ask for discernment and sometimes I add to the conversation. I realize the person writing is coming from somewhere--- somewhere true, untrue, or dare I say, somewhere in the middle. If I stumble onto someone who is dishing out “truth” with no grace, then I am out of there. That offering isn’t going on my plate. And no, I am not even going to try it.

The disciples were the first to receive the Great Commission (which included teaching.) I wonder how well prepared they were for what their calling would require of them---- take from them?

Jesus loved the disciples. He gave them the greatest opportunity ever to walk with Him, sit with Him, and eat with Him everyday as He accomplished God’s purposes on this dirt.

When Jesus called the disciples, He didn’t tell them they would die as martyrs ( all except for John and Judas.) He didn’t give them an out by saying, “Hey, you are going to see some unbelievable things in the next three years, your lives are going to be forever changed by following this call, but down the road, you are going to die just so you know and can weigh your options.”

Only God knows the end from the beginning.

Surely Jesus looked upon them in compassion at times thinking of the pain they would endure after He left to go and prepare our place.

When James stepped near him, did He grab hold of James’ shoulder swallow hard knowing that James, part of the inner circle, would be the first among the disciples to give his life for the Teacher?

Be sober-minded about being a teacher but don’t opt out of your calling because you fear the millstone. Remember its warning. Test your heart and lay it before Holiness.

I could grieve that I feared misspelling words when I was twenty-nine. I stepped up before a class of ladies full of pride, wanting to look like I had it all together. I did not. Yet, I know had I not stepped out that day and followed that call, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I would not love God like I do and I would not be awed by the fact I will never know all the mysteries of a God who is so big, so loving and so purposeful in His ways---ways that I will never fully grasp. He has never given up on me. I am so grateful that He didn't kick me to the corner because of my pride, my lack of knowledge, my naivety. He never gave up on me even when I gave up on myself.

I am grabbing hold of grace. I am sober-minded about the millstone. I don’t post snarky comments because how would that reflect the life that is mine in Christ Jesus--the life He has for all those who would receive his great love.

I remember this rebuke from Jesus to the accusers, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.”  

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 

This God, He leaves me wonderstruck and so very grateful to the One that tastes so very good, my God, full of grace and truth.

(Seth, if you read this I want to thank you for being used of God to prompt me to think through these things. I hope you don't mind me mentioning you here. If you do mind, let me know and I will happily take it down.)

Linking with Shelly Miller at Redemption's Beauty and Emily Wierenga at Imperfect Prose.

 

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