Monday, August 25, 2014

Good Conduct, Good Deeds, Good Works (part 16)

While Christ was glorified in His Resurrection, one must never forget that the near-constant rejoinder to any mention of said Resurrection is that “God raised Him.”  Jesus humbled Himself, broke religious and political custom and tradition in His shared breaking of bread, touched the outcasts, taught openly to men, women, and children, washed feet, endured rejection and persecution, and willingly went to the cross in His demonstration of the appearance that would be taken on by the kingdom of His God.  These types of things would not have been defined as “glory-seeking”.  There was no honor to be gained here. 

So though glory and authority eventually came to Him, it was not sought.  It came to Him after He had gone to the lowest place of cursing and shame.  Truly, He showed hospitality (acted out the messianic banquet) without complaining, and even more truly, served all as a good steward of the grace of the Creator God.  Indeed, the very language here employed calls attention to that which is expected of those that bear the divine covenant.  Peter writes of serving and stewardship.  These terms are only separated from the meal table with great difficulty, while the grace of the covenant God, as He calls a people to Himself without regard to race or class, is rightly put on display at the Christian meal table as it celebrates their Lord Jesus.          

To talk of service and stewardship, and in considering the setting, Peter joins together “Whoever speaks, let it be with God’s words.  Whoever serves, do so with the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ” (4:11a).  This is then punctuated with a declaration of the Lordship of Jesus, as Peter writes “To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever” (4:11b). 

While one would certainly agree that there is a burden on the one that speaks, and that service can be tiring, one must not drift too far from the setting into which these words were delivered and for which they provide a controlling authority and dare not become too far removed from the meal table, as it is the meal table that keeps an observer in the proper interpretive context, instead of drifting off into anachronistic ideas about what is implied by speaking and serving. 

Modern conceptions should not be thrust on the text in a way that creates an artificial division of labor between preachers that preach and those that go about serving.  This is not an attempt to draw a dichotomy between the person that occupies the pulpit on Sunday morning and those that are then charged with visiting hospitals or distributing food to shut-ins.  Rather, we these words are to be understood in relation to that which defines the community of Christ-followers, which is their table fellowship.  When one speaks, he or she must do so with a heart of love, as well as grace, conscious of the demand for harmony at a table that could rightly, because of the variety and disparity of those that are coming together to share equally, have a bit of awkwardness associated with it. 

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