Jude 1-2

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Jude

1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

I love famous opening lines of novels. Many of these opening lines are so well known that after hearing just one or two words of them you not only can finish the line but you are also immediately carried away into the world of the entire book, with all of its feelings, and intrigue, and twists, and turns.

An opening line can grab you and not let you go! It can bring a whole mood. An opening line can confound or amuse or irritate you. For instance, how many of these famous opening lines grab you and take you somewhere else:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

“All children, except one, grow up.” J.M Barrie, Peter Pan

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“‘Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.” E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” George Orwell, 1984

“It was a pleasure to burn.” Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

“This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.” William Goldman, The Princess Bride

“Call me Ishmael.” Herman Melville, Moby Dick

I love it! I love a good opening line! I want to argue that this opening line should be considered among the greats. Here it is:

1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

I really mean it: that is an amazing opening line! It may sound fairly typical of ancient letters, of biblical letters, but it is actually laden with meaning and a fascinating backstory. It is an opening line that provokes, both in what it says and what it does not say. It is an author’s identification, but an identification that is rich with purpose and intent and weight.

Let us consider this great opening line of the ancient letter we refer to as “Jude.”

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Hebrews 13:7-25

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Hebrews 13

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 22 I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23 You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. 25 Grace be with all of you.

 

Is the church still needed in the world today?

In 1934, the poet T.S. Eliot wrote his “Choruses from ‘The Rock’” in which are included these jarring words:

     I journeyed to London, to the timekept City,

Where the River flows, with foreign flotations.

There I was told:  we have too many churches,

And too few chop-houses.  There I was told:

Let the vicars retire.  Men do not need the Church

In the place where they work, but where they spend their Sundays.

In the City, we need no bells:

Let them waken the suburbs.

I journeyed to the suburbs, and there I was told:

We toil for six days, on the seventh we must motor

To Hindhead, or Maidenhead.

If the weather is foul we stay at home and read the papers.

In industrial districts, there I was told

Of economic laws.

In the pleasant countryside, there it seemed

That the Church does not seem to be wanted

In country or in suburbs; and in the town

Only for important weddings.[1]

It is fascinating to me that the writer of Hebrews concludes his letter by saying, in essence, “Yes! The church is still needed and so it is critically important that the church actually be the church!” Then, toward that end, he shows us how the church can be the church.

I very much agree with David VanDrunen who wrote, “The church ought to be central to the Christian life because the church is the only earthly community that manifests the redemptive kingdom and grants us the fellowship of our true home, the world-to-come.”[2]

That is so. Let us consider, then, the conclusion of Hebrews and how it calls us to be the church.

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Hebrews 13:1-6

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Hebrews 13

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

 When I was a kid I heard a pastor pass along a story that Dwight L. Moody shared during his amazing ministry in the 19thcentury in Chicago.

In Chicago a few years ago a little boy attended a Sun­day school I know of. When his parents moved to another part of the city the little fellow still attended the same Sunday school, although it meant a long, tiresome walk each way. A friend asked him why he went so far, and told him that there were plenty of others just as good nearer his home.

“They may be as good for others, but not for me,” was his reply.

“Why not?” she asked.

“Because they love a fellow over there,” he replied.

I heard that a long time ago and I have never forgotten it: “Because they love a fellow over there.” And I think the reason I have remembered this is not the quaint phrasing of it—“Because they love a fellow over there.”—but because it is so self-evidently true.

When the church demonstrates the love of Christ, the church has the power of God in its midst.

We are most like Christ when we love, and the love of Christ draws people in.

It is telling indeed that as the writer of Hebrew begins His letter’s conclusion He offers a number of challenges, a number of charges, a number of commissions. And the first of these is the commission to love.

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Matthew 18:21-35

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Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

I have mentioned before Peter Mommsen’s beautiful book about his grandfather, J. Heinrich Arnold, one of the leaders of the Bruderhof Christian communities before his passing. The book is entitled Homage to a Broken Man: The Life of J. Heinrich Arnold – A true story of faith, forgiveness, sacrifice, and community. Mommsen writes of his grandfather:

Trust was an article of faith for him. Newcomers and old-timers alike sometimes shook their heads at his endless insistence on forgiving. Why, after such and such a person had stabbed him in the back time after time, did he insist on trusting him yet again? It went against all common sense. But Heiner saw it differently. As he once explained to Christoph, “I would much rather trust and be betrayed a thousand times than live in mistrust for a single day.”[1]

This is most interesting, is it not? I wonder if we too would consider this constant posture of forgiveness as unwise? And yet there is something very gospel about lavish forgiveness.

In our text, Peter comes to Jesus to discuss the matter. How much should we forgive? Jesus’ response is powerful and convicting and perspective-bringing. He tells him a story about a forgiven man refusing to forgive, and about the judgment that such haughtiness invites.

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Hebrews 12:18-29

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Hebrews 12:18-29

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

 

A friend recently told me something that I cannot stop thinking about. Sadly, I have heard this kind of thing before and I would be willing to wager you have too. But I keep thinking about this, perhaps because I have met this child before.

A lifelong friend and his wife have recently taken in a young relative, a young girl. They took her into their home out of a highly dysfunctional situation involving drugs and neglect. My friend was telling me about the little girl’s attempts to adapt to a normal home life having come out of a home of drug abuse and neglect. My friend shared with me that after a few nights in her new home it occurred to my friend and his wife that the child was taking food from the kitchen and hiding it in her bedroom.

The reason for this is obvious enough. All she knew was want and a terrifying uncertainty about one of the basic needs of life: food. Never having lived in a supportive and healthy home, the child could not conceive of the goodness of her new reality, namely, that the she would not be neglected, that she would not go to bed hungry, that she would never again have to wonder if there would be food tomorrow.

It is hard to imagine the better thing when all you have known is fear. Fear is a powerfully debilitating force and it walks hand in hand with uncertainty, with unknowing.

“We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them,” said Livy. H.P. Lovecraft agreed: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” This is true.

The writer of Hebrews is beginning to approach the end of his amazing letter. He has one more chapter after this one and we can feel him pulling the ties together here in the second half of chapter 12. And what he wants the people of God to know—indeed, what he needs for them to understand—is that in Christ we have a better home: a better sacrifice, a better priest, a better deliverer, a better covenant, and a better understanding of the nature of God.

Let us be careful: Jesus did not come to say we have a better God! Perish the thought! The Father of Jesus is the God of the Old Testament. God has not changed. God was as compassionate and loving in Genesis as He is in Revelation and God is as awe-inspiring and wrathful in Revelation as He is in Genesis. God has not changed.

But our experience of God, and our understanding of God, and the means employed to reveal God are greater and better now that Jesus has come. We have more light, so we need not fear.

We need not hide food in the bedroom just in case our Father turns out to be evil. No, that is not how the Kingdom works and that is not who our great God is! We must understand this, so we must heed carefully the words of this amazing chapter.

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Hebrews 12:1-17

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Hebrews 12:1-17

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

I do so love the “Just for Laughs” show out of Canada. Sometimes it is a bit much, granted, but sometimes it is just side-splittingly funny. Basically, it is a show of gags and pranks in which unsuspecting people find themselves in crazy or strange or scary circumstances that have been orchestrated by the producers in the show. There is a recurring cast of characters who are “in the know” and they lead these poor folks into and through the funniest of scenarios. The reactions of the victims of the pranks are the greatest!

One of my favorites is the prank pulled on bicyclers. Hidden cameras capture citizens casually riding their bikes down sidewalks. After they pass a U-Haul truck parked to the side, the back of the truck opens and a number of fully-decked-out and geared-up bicyclists come out of the truck, down the ramp, and up behind the person riding his or her back. That person then looks behind and realizes to his or her great shock that they appear to be in a race with this pack of cyclists closing on them. Their reactions are great: shock, horror, confusion, peddling faster! Then, as if that is not enough, a finish line complete with cheering crowd and line ribbon appears before them! They all pass the line and win the “race,” only to be applauded and cheered by the raucous crowd. Then, to top it all off, they are ushered to the first place spot on the platform, given flowers, a medal, and a kiss, all the while being photographed.

You can see the look of panic in their eyes. They are all saying variations of the same thing: “I am not in this race! I did not win any race! I do not know what just happened! What on earth just happened?!

It must be a surreal experience to find oneself in a race that one did not realize he or she was a part of! Such was the experience of those tricked on this show and such too, if we are honest, are some of us. For Hebrews 12 tells us that we actually are in a race, whether we realize it or not, and that we had better come to terms with this fact so that we can be all that God has called us to be!

Yes, it is true! We are in a race, and, like all great races, this means we have an audience, we have a finish line, we have training, and we have a coach.

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Matthew 18:15-20

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Matthew 18:15-20

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

I used to enjoy reading the old minutes of the last church I pastored. They were full of fascinating characters and stories! Consider Hiram Wadsworth, who joined the First Baptist Church of Dawson, Georgia, on the first Saturday of November 1849, by transfer of letter. The minutes would go on to reveal that Mr. Wadsworth apparently struggled with alcohol and was repeatedly summoned before the church to answer for his behavior in the community.

In fact, Hiram Wadsworth was called to stand before the church and answer for his conduct on February 1852, November 1852, May 3, 1856, March 1857. These repeated summons to Mr. Wadsworth will sound alien to our foreign ears, and we might think that such actions were harsh on behalf of the church. However, in the minds of these Baptist Christians from long ago, the name of Christ and the witness of the church was at stake when a member lived an ungodly life. Furthermore, the church’s intentions become clear when we read on and see the verdict of the church once Mr. Wadsworth repented of his actions:

Date                Offense            Offender’s Response        Church’s Response

Feb. 1852        intoxication      repentance                            “forgiven”

Nov. 1852       intoxication      repentance                            “forgiven”

May 1856        intoxication      repentance                            “forgiven”

Mar. 1857       intoxication      repentance                            “forgiven”

This sounds so strange to us, does it not? What were these earlier Christians up to? What is this? They referred to this as “church discipline” and they looked to our text as the key text that led them through this process.

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Hebrews 11

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Hebrews 11

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones. 23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. 29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. 32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

“Faith” is one of those words that is part of church culture but also very much a part of secular culture as well. It is ubiquitous in inspirational media, religious or not, and it frequently shows up in the culture detached from any explicitly Christian moorings. One famous example would be George Michael’s 1987 song, “Faith,” with its catchy chorus:

‘Cause I gotta have faith
I gotta’ have faith
Because I gotta have faith, faith, faith
I got to have faith, faith, faith

That is a lot of faith, and, yet, that song quite clearly has nothing to do with the biblical idea. One might even say that our culture appears to have faith…in faith! And that is basically meaningless.

What is faith? And what is the proper object of faith? And why does it matter?

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Matthew 18:10-14

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Matthew 18:10-14

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

A month or so back I saw a seminary president online announcing the Fall chapel lineup for their school. He announced with pleasure how happy the school was to have so many “leading pastors” in the nation coming to speak. Last year a pastor friend of mind heard one pastor speak of another pastor as “a high impact leader.” And just recently I heard two larger church pastors speaking of another pastor as being “a small church” pastor and “unsophisticated.”

This is just a brief list off the top of my head. Examples could be multiplied considerably.

It is interesting, is it not, these power words we use?

Sophisticated.

Leading.

High impact.

Heard charitably, I suppose it might be a kind of compliment to those being discussed. And yet, I wonder. What is this check in many of our guts at this kind of language, these kinds of descriptors? I would propose that this check in our guts has to do with the way Jesus spoke about the Kingdom. His words sounded very different from these.

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Matthew 18:1-6

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Matthew 18

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Psychologist Paul T.P. Wong has listed three “hindrances to humility” in his article, “I’m glad that I’m a nobody: A positive psychology of humility.”

Competition is clearly the No.1 hindrance. Humility is probably the most difficult virtue to achieve, mostly because egotistic pride works so much better than humility in a competitive society. Think of all the star players in major-league sports; how many really stand out as a good role model of personal humility?

Success is another hindrance. Feeling good about success can easily lapse into pride, especially when others heap praises on you. Pastor Brett has this to say about the temptation of pride: “Of all the problems Pastors face, this is one of the hardest. On the one hand, you have to completely die to yourself and be a humble servant, and on the other you feel God’s power flow through you and experience His inspiration and begin to feel like God uses you because you are special. This is where pride sneaks in and your head begins to swell.”

Thirdly, even reflecting on one’s own humility can be a hindrance. Humility thrives only when one’s attention is directed away from it towards serving others. It withers away whenever attention is directed toward its presence. When I congratulate myself for making progress in humility, or when “I thank my God for my humility” (Shakespeare), I actually hinder its development.[1]

In many ways Wong’s three hindrances to humility are all present in the audacious question some of the disciples ask Jesus in Matthew 18:1. In response, Jesus uses the occasion to attack arrogance and point out what true greatness looks like. He defines greatness, tellingly, in terms of humility.

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