DayBreaks for 08/01/13 – Outside the Formula
I read recently about an explosion in a college university chemistry lab where some students accidentally blew up a chemistry lab. It’s the kind of thing that you see on cartoons all the time, but you don’t really expect it to happen in a college classroom for some reason. Yet it did. Why? How did it happen? It apparently was an honest mistake – the students didn’t check the formula carefully, or they got the wrong materials and – BOOM! – the place was reduced to splinters, smoke and glass. I don’t recall that anyone was harmed, which was incredibly lucky.
We like to think that there are nice, simple formulas that are safe and which will get us through life. I don’t think it’s quite that easy, based on this passage of scripture: (Matthew 19:16-21) “Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” the man inquired. Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'” 20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (NIV)
It appears, on the surface, that the young man had an admirable interest in things of God – or at least, what he thought God could go for him (he wanted eternal life – there’s no statement that he really cared about serving God for God’s sake). So he asked Jesus what to do, and Jesus told him – at least in the beginning – all the formulaic stuff that you would expect. “Keep the commandments.” The young man proudly replied that he had done all those things – so was there anything else that Jesus would require of him? Oh, yes, said Jesus. There is much more. If you’ve kept the commandments, you’ve only started – you are by no means done. BOOM! All of a sudden the formula exploded in the face of the young man – for what Jesus was asking him was now “outside the formula”. No one had ever asked him to do that before…and it wasn’t what he wanted to hear.
The simple truth is that God/Jesus want to take us beyond the simple, predictable and easy formula into what following Jesus is really all about. Bottom line: the question was what do I have to do to have eternal life. The bottom line answer: be like me, follow me – into poverty, into selflessness, into generosity – but mostly “follow me”. Jesus was the most radical person who ever lived. His answers denied the formulas of the religions leaders. We want it simple with pat answers – Jesus is not a simple Master. He wants people who will dare to be like him – people who operate outside the simple formula of “religious life” and obeying of a list of rules. Radical commitment – that’s the name of the game.
PRAYER: We want everything reduced to a simple formula, Lord, looking for easy answers and easy formulas. Help us realize that what you want from us is radical discipleship and commitment! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2013 by Galen C. Dalrymple.
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