Lessons in Leadership: You Are That Man

Sunday’s Scripture ~ II Samuel 11:26-12:13a.

The story of David and Bathsheba is a story of uncontrolled lust.

Lust is not just an intense desire in the body; it is also a strong passion for something that does not belong to oneself. That which we lust after is something that must be learned, experienced, or acquired. It could be a lust for knowledge, laziness, or food. It could be a lust for power, pleasure, or possessions.

When we lust we do not think rationally. We are immune to counsel. We are driven by appetites that demand to be fulfilled – even if fulfilling them results in our own detriment or the detriment of others.

I believe we can all relate to struggles with lust; it is part of the human condition. We have experienced (or are experiencing) lust running rampant through exuberant eating or spending; through the pursuit of perfection; through judgment, promiscuity, or keeping up with the Jones. Likewise, we have been exposed (or are being exposed) to offerings of wisdom, arguments, and counsel from God, others, and our own selves in the midst of our struggles with lust.

At times, we have accepted.

At others, rejected.

That which we lust over – and may eventually achieve – does not satisfy. When our lust runs rampant, we are not the only ones that suffer. We may be oblivious to the suffering we cause because we are so consumed by our lust; even worse, we may turn a blind eye to the suffering or claim ignorance so we can persist in the enmeshment of our desire.

When lust runs rampant we harm

  • Those whom we share relationship,
  • Those who could benefit from the resources and assets (presence, time, funds, effort, and passions) we pour into our obsessions,
  • Those we use and abuse to achieve our own ends,
  • And last, but certainly not least, we harm our relationship with God as the items, persons, and/or pursuits of our lusts become idols that we seek to worship and serve.

The work of the ever-maturing child of God is to interrupt and disconnect from our lustful appetites. John Wesley, the founder of the people called Methodist, offers a method to do just that.

Wesley understands all Sin as having two components – inward and outward. Inward sin is not a loss of faith whereas Outward sin is. Lust begins as Inward sin; lust begins in thoughts alone. Wesley argues that these thoughts alone are not sinful, but actualizing them – acting them out, moving them from the abstract to the concrete, incarnating them from the ideal to the real – that is the sin. And Outward sin is a loss of faith.

We are all sinners. We have all “fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). We have all experienced losses of faith.

We are also redeemed by God’s grace. We are all “justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24). By God’s grace in justification we, who are sinners, are declared righteous before God. By God’s grace the power of sin over individuals breaks, causing an inward spiritual change that interrupts and disconnects the link between inward inclinations resulting in outward sins.

Our challenge – our invitation – is to growth in God’s grace and to seek the interruptions to and disconnections from lust. This happens through prayer, through being held accountable, and through implementing boundaries in your life that guard your heart from lust(s) and keep your heart attuned to God.

This work is needful. This work is on-going. This work is essential to our development as disciples.

Prayer: “Just as I am, thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come. Just as I am, thy love unknown  hath broken every barrier down; now, to be thine, yea thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”* Amen.

*”Just As I Am, Without One Plea,” The United Methodist Hymnal 357.

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Unrest: Hearing Shame

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Lamentations 1:11c-22

This Sunday marks our downhill descent towards Easter.  It’s week five of Lent.  We are drawing that much closer to Calvary.  As Jesus drew closer to Calvary his circumstances became more and more perilous with opposition mounting against him – it seemed – at every turn.

In the midst of Unrest I feel that opposition has been mounting against us as well.  We have explored injustices against God and injustices against our neighbor.  We are all guilty of both.  Romans 3:23 confirms that all have fallen short of God’s glory because of our sin.  Romans 6:23 states that the wages of sin is death.

For all the wrong we have done…for all the wrong we will ever do…the weight of that shame is crushing.

Daughter Zion explores that shame in the lament selected this week for the Scripture passage.  She is laid waste as consequence for her sin.  She is alone.  She is mourning.  She is longing for justice…even though justice may not bring her the comfort she desires.  Nevertheless, she spells it out.  She lays it all on the table.  She is vulnerable.  She expectantly awaits healing.

I believe Daughter Zion has an important lesson to offer us in her lament: to take care to spell out all the wrong in our lives – against both God and neighbor.  It’s important to name these wrongs – these sins – because we live in a culture that has perennial amnesia and blind eye towards sin.

Personal sin.  Communal sin.

It’s like we are immune to it…it happens and we shrug it off…no big deal.  Or it happens…but everyone else is doing it…no big deal.

Wrong.  It is a big deal.

The sin and the shame that accompanies it should be so much that we are crushed under its weight…that we find ourselves in a state of great loss…grasping at straws, grasping to stand before our God and ask forgiveness. But how do we know what to ask or seek forgiveness for if we refrain from consciously and intentionally exploring how we have wronged God and neighbor?

Now I realize this would, could, can be an exhaustive process.  I realize there are sins in my own life that happened and at this point I cannot recall them so as to list them all out: A….B….C….

But, I am conscious of my sin.  I am conscious of societal and systemic sin.

And even more so, I am conscious of God’s grace that is greater than all sin.

If I or any person were to enter into the vulnerable place of exploring our sin and shame before God, then I believe we also need to enter into the vulnerable place of receiving God’s grace.  God’s grace is the justice God extends to fallen humanity – fallen you and fallen me.

God’s grace, at times, is hard to receive, especially if we feel we are undeserving of such a magnanimous gift because of our sin.  Yet, God continues to give “grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within; grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!”*  God gives grace and God’s grace readies us to receive grace – wholly and perfectly.

Earlier we read Romans 3:23 and 6:23…but we cannot stop reading there…just like we cannot stop and wallow in our sin and shame.

  • “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory –> but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).
  • “The wages that sin pays are death –> but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23-24).

Our promise, our guarantee,  our salvation is that God is eternally moving us towards eternity – free of sin and shame – through the power of God’s amazing grace.

PrayerO God, just as we look into a mirror to see any soiled spots on our face, so let us look to you in order to understand the things we have done amiss.  We are like a reed shaken in the wind; we are inexpressibly weak.  Leave us not to ourselves, but dwell in our hearts and guide our thoughts and actions.  Amen.**

*”Grace Greater than Our Sin” United Methodist Hymnal, 365.

** “For Guidance” United Methodist Hymnal, 366.