Defining “neighbour”

The parable of the Good Samaritan

The parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 is well known to us all. The Lord followed the practice of the day using questions to draw out his challenger and set up the point he wished to make. What was the issue? In response to Christ, the lawyer gave the standard response of the Shema from Deut 6:5 but merges it with Lev 19:8 – something the Lord approved. Having a knowledge of the truth requires a response. Loving God means expressing that love to others – otherwise it is not real love 1 John 4:20.

This blunted the lawyer’s challenge, so he seeks to justify himself with the further question “who is my neighbour?Continue reading “Defining “neighbour””

Choose your own adventure

Responding to the short ending of the Gospel of Mark

What next? This is the challenge, the opportunity and the requirement. What next.

When I was young. To my children of course this means sometime in the late 1800s and to others richer in years the phrase is nonsense since I clearly am still young (I like this opinion more). When I was young, there was a brief period in which ‘choose your own adventure books’ become popular. These books made the reader the hero of the story and offered them choices on which their success of failure would depend. E.g. when confronted by the three-headed fish monster should they fight? (turn to page 5), run away? (turn to page 74) or jump back in the pond? (turn to page 134). The reader was invited to work their way through different paths to save the day, get the treasure or whatever. The experience, and the story line, depended on logical choices and occasionally chance. The objective was reader engagement as you essentially became the story.

The gospel of Mark has a very peculiar feature. Like Schubert’s 8th symphony it a masterpiece, but one missing a fairly normal, fairly important bit. The end. Or so it appears. Continue reading “Choose your own adventure”

Help my unbelief

Christ is the bridge between our needs and our capacity

In Mark 9 we read about the healing of the epileptic boy (there are parallel accounts in Matt 17 and Luke 9). This record powerfully demonstrates not only the importance of faith for a disciple but more – the willingness of the Lord to bridge the gap when our own resources are inadequate. Continue reading “Help my unbelief”

Murder, Anger, and Reconciliation

To insult someone is to insult the God who created them

The section of the Sermon on the Mount subtitled “Anger” (ESV), “Concerning Anger” (NRSV), or “Murder” (NIV) in Matthew 5:21-27 is both familiar and strange. We understand what it means to insult someone and to be angry with someone, but we may not be sure what “raca” means, nor possibly would we understand why the punishment for doing so is to be “in danger of hell fire”. What is the difference between the “judgement” and the “council”? How does one pay a debt to the last penny when one is stuck in a debtors’ prison? Like much in the Sermon on the Mount, there’s some digging to do before the passage is as clear to us as it would have been to the Galilean fishermen who first hear it. Continue reading “Murder, Anger, and Reconciliation”

Ten lepers and one man saved

Just shuffle. Ideally together.

As believers, we have received the miracle of life, healing from death. How will we respond? Will we show gratitude? Will we turn to learn more from the master and make him our teacher? Will we demonstrate he is our Lord and superior? Or will we not think, not let him affect our lives and maintain an external unthinking compliance which minimizes the power of the gospel? Continue reading “Ten lepers and one man saved”

Triumphant prisoners

We are captives of Christ and should see our lives through this lens

Do reversals, failures and inconsistencies disqualify us as disciples? No. On the contrary they are consistent with the challenges associated with discipleship, they are part and parcel of the life of a believer. Rather than denigrate those who lives are seemingly full of reversals, or question God’s work with us due the burden of our own lives, we need to contextualise these experiences as normal for the faithful. Continue reading “Triumphant prisoners”

The necessity of study

Should everyone be a Bible student?

A recent conversation shocked me. I was talking to a believer I had always admired, one who in my limited judgement, not only possesses the gifts of grace and service, but regularly applies them. However they confessed to me they felt a failure as they were not a bible student. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” 2 Tim 2:15 was the passage brought forward as evidence of their deficiency and lack of self-worth. Continue reading “The necessity of study”

Paul’s despair and consolation

“…we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself.”

Paul begins his second letter to the Corinthians by mentioning the trials he’d been suffering. He links a few ideas up by the repeated use of some keywords in 2 Cor 1:3-11:

  • Affliction
  • Suffering
  • Consolation

Paul wasn’t hiding the fact that he’d been suffering; instead he was using his experience to make a point  – God had consoled Paul in his suffering, and because of that Paul was now able to console others in the same position. Continue reading “Paul’s despair and consolation”

Let justice roll down like waters

It’s easy for people who consider themselves chosen to forget the basic principles of justice and and mercy

When we think of prophets, it is common to see them primarily in terms of those who make predictions. This is however only part of the story. A common way in which to remember the purpose of prophecy is to see them as forth-tellers, rather than foretellers. A prophet certainly would predict doom, or future restoration, but this was usually in the context of berating the nation for failing to adhere to the terms of the covenant with God. When we look at it this way, one prophet certainly comes to mind, and that is Amos. Continue reading “Let justice roll down like waters”