Be strong, be courageous, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn. – 1 Kings 2
A few weeks ago I first wrote about the new Adult-education class I’m facilitating at WFPC. The class – “Practical Christianity” – is designed to focus on the distinction between church membership and being a disciple of Jesus.
This past Sunday we discussed some of the implications of discipleship for a family. In other words, “How will my decision to follow Jesus impact day-to-day life?”
SCRIPTURE: We referenced, primarily, three scriptures, starting with the 1 Kings passage excerpted above. Next, and this turned out to be the “biggie” for the conversation, we read the Great Shema and following in Deuteronomy 6. And finally a complementary passage from Philippians Chapter Two.
The Shema – “Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad” – is, essentially, a call to listen; it’s a statement about who God is, and the relationship of the Creator to Israel. Then, and this is really cool, the next few verses outline what this all means for family life.
So I handed out a copy of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and asked the class to circle each strong verb in the passage. “What are the action words,” I said. Then we talked about them.
Here is the passage. Action words appear in all-caps and bold type:
HEAR, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. KEEP these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. RECITE them to your children and TALK about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. BIND them as a sign on your hand, FIX them as an emblem on your forehead, and WRITE them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Hear; Love; Keep; Recite; Talk; Bind; Fix; Write.
We don’t have time – or space – for how the entire lesson unfolded; but I do want to highlight a couple of ideas that emerged during the conversation.
“KEEP”: We talked extensively about what it means to keep God’s words in our hearts. First, I asked where is it that we keep the Bible in our homes? For many people, it’s on some obscure shelf. You know, the place where dust accumulates and nothing has been moved since maybe 1999!
“We don’t want to keep God’s word there,” I said. “So where – and “how” – do we keep it?”
Well it turns out that the passage offers a lot of help with the “how,” and we can see that “keeping” implies recitation (out loud, memorizing, re-hearing), and talking with others, and literally carrying the word with us into our day-by-day.
INCONVENIENCE: Imagine taking a fragment of parchment, placing it in a box, and then tying it to your forehead? Or putting a section of the Bible in a leather sleeve, and attaching it to your wrist? It would really get in the way, huh?
“What if we found a way to carry around a memory verse so it didn’t bother us, and so it didn’t get in the way?” I asked.
“Good idea,” someone responded, walking right into my trap, “then it wouldn’t be so awkward.”
Of course, he realized what he’d said the moment he said it. The whole point of literally carrying God’s word around is to make sure that it gets in the way.
“If we are going to talk seriously about being disciples,” I summarized, “then being inconvenienced by God’s word is exactly what we want.”
How else are we going to follow Paul’s advice in Philippians? “Hold fast to the word of life,” and “shine like stars in the world.”
Or, as The Message paraphrases the idea: “Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night.” – Philippians 2:14-16