Disciplemakers: Permissions and Blessings

 

            What is it about children that Jesus blesses them so?

            Above all, I feel it is because children still have the capacity to believe.  Their worldview is still developing so they have not yet formed boxes around reality.  They don’t yet live in boxes.  Children can still believe in Santa Clause.  They can believe that fairies and dragons and that unicorns are real.  They can also believe that God is someone they can talk to and who will also talk to them.  Children can believe in magic and miracles, and if they don’t recognize any serious distinction between those two things, I don’t believe it really matters.  The thing is, what is impossible for adults is still very possible for children.  We might say children still have an open mind and a willing heart, and most adults don’t, usually and especially those adults who claim the loudest that they do have open minds.

            Listen.  An open mind is not being tolerant of other people’s boxes.  It is being able to accept reality at face value in a universe where no boxes exist at all.

            So children have both open minds and willing hearts and they also have the capacity to believe in Angels and demons.  Children don’t mix good and bad.  They know nothing about nuances or however many shades of gray there may be.  Like puppy dogs, they can almost see inside of people and know the good and the bad.  And children cling to the good and are shocked and terribly hurt, internally, emotionally and psychologically when they are affected by the bad and bad people.

            It is true that children live in more of a black and white universe than we do, but Jesus blesses them in their capacity to believe.  Children have the capacity and the desire for all things good, right and true, especially when they are very young.  By contrast, adults construct boxes around themselves which limits their contact with face-value reality.  Adults decide for themselves what they will do, what is important to them, what they are willing to believe and what they are going to call crazy-talk.

            And here we get to permissions and blessings.  And it is very important to understand this, not simply to be offended by it because it pokes holes in the box.

            Jesus said divorce was permitted because of the hardness of our hearts.  And he spelled out for everyone what God’s intention and desire is: that a male leave his father and mother and be united with a female as one flesh, for a lifetime, not to be separated.  This is God’s plan, his desire for us and his intention.  Anything else is falling short. 

            Of course, we human beings have come up with a thousand different ideas from adultery, homosexuality, living together without being joined in the sight of God and witnesses, multiple divorces and multiple remarriages, multiple wives.  But just as God did not condemn Jacob for having multiple wives, so he is not going to condemn us for any of these other things – or more I haven’t named. 

            Jesus Christ did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the whole world might be saved through him.  And there is only one unforgiveable sin – to reject Jesus and the forgiveness he offers.  Otherwise, if you come to Jesus, he will forgive and accept you.  Period.  However, that does not mean he will bless you.  And that is the great bone of contention these days.

            People not only want acceptance and no condemnation, but they also don’t want to have to be forgiven.  Forgiveness rubs people the wrong way, because it is admitting that their lives are not consummate with God’s will.  Many people refuse to admit that.  And indeed, most want God’s blessing on their lifestyle – whether it is God’s design or not.  The attitude is if God doesn’t like it, God should change his mind.  I’m sorry, but God is not under any compulsion to bless anything that deviates from his will, his intentions for us, his desire and plan.

            Do you remember the rich man and the widow in the Temple?  How the rich man made a great show of putting all that money in the offering.  If that had been in our day, I imagine he would have held a press conference with plenty of cameras.  The widow, by contrast, put only two pennies in the offering, but Jesus praised the widow because the rich man, he said, gave out of his abundance while the widow gave all that she had.   That is what God wants from us: all that we have, and not only money, but our hands, our feet, our lives, our minds, our hearts.  And not just 10% of it either. 

            The point is, greed is permitted, but don’t expect God to ever praise or bless the greedy.  God is not under any compulsion to bless anything that deviates from his will, intentions for us, desire and plan. 

            Do you remember the slaughter of the innocents at Christmastime?  King Herod sent men to kill every newborn child in Bethlehem under the age of two.  Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled to Egypt.  Do you remember?  God did not strike down those men or Herod.  So in a sense he permitted it to happen, but don’t ever think he might bless such an action.  These days we have terrorists all around the world slaughtering the innocent.  Don’t for a minute believe God will bless those deluded souls.  He might not condemn them if they turn to Jesus.  He may forgive them and save them in Christ.  But God is under no compulsion to bless them. 

            God does not bless murder, stealing, covetousness, envy, jealousy, lying, bearing false witness (which is usually gossip or slander).  He will not bless the worship of other gods, or forgetting to take a day of rest, or dishonoring mother or father.  Why do you think he gave us the ten commandments?  You can make your own list, because I am sure you know what I am talking about.  But in Jesus, he will not condemn us for such things either.  God permits such things, he permits us to go our own way, but don’t ask for his blessing.  Indeed, generally we need to ask for his forgiveness.

            Jesus blessed the little children.  Why?  Because not only do they not live in self-made boxes, but they are not doing any of these things and so they are not asking or demanding that he bless them and bless their sin – their deviation from his will, intention, desire and plan.

            Too many these days like to imagine that Jesus, that God is wishy-washy.  They hope or even insist he will say things like this:  “Yes, I know the circumstances of your divorce and it was terrible, just terrible.  Of course I will bless you to kind of make up for it.”  Or, “I understand you two men love each other so of course I will bless your union.”  Or, “I understand you love him so you were right to run off with another woman’s husband.”  Or, “It’s okay if you took only what you needed from that store.  They make plenty of money and can afford it.”  Or, “It’s not a problem if you take books, movies, music off the internet for free.  After all, if it is on the internet it should be free, shouldn’t it?”  Or, “I understand you were mistreated.  I feel your anger and upset, and I think it is perfectly reasonable to steal their identity or post one little white lie on the internet to ruin their life.  Bless you.”  That is what too many people hope for.

            But God does not work that way.

            No is the answer.  To all of these things and more.  The answer is no – unacceptable.  Seek blessing elsewhere.  Fine.  But understand that God is not under any compulsion to bless anything that deviates from his will, intentions for us, desire and plan.  Children don’t deviate.  They don’t know how, yet.  The only thing children can be is victims of things like divorce, and they can be hurt terribly by it.

            True.  There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, as the Apostle said.  But if we would see God’s blessing in this life, a separate issue, we must first of all find our way out of the box we have made which blinds us to what God is doing and makes us deaf to what God is saying, which is to say, we must believe that God does reward those who diligently seek him and are called according to his purposes.  And then we must walk in his purposes:  His will, his intentions, according to his desires and his plan for our life.  The one who made us knows where our happiness is hidden.  He will show us and lead us to it and give it to us if we only believe and follow after him. 

 

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