Situational Obedience; April 6, 2020


Luke 22:35-36 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.

In my Bible, verse 36 is underlined in English but neither verse is underlined in Japanese. There is so much else that is important and famous in this section that these verses get overlooked, and that is unfortunate. The remark about buying a sword is used by gun rights advocates, reasonably enough, but the thing that speaks to me right now is that different circumstances call for different actions. That’s not to call for “situational ethics,” which are in general an abomination, but rather to say that we aren’t to act the same way all the time. God’s truth is unchanging, but how it is applied isn’t. Paul picks that up in Romans, when he says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15) Keep in mind this is the same Paul who said, “Be joyful always.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) We need to let the Holy Spirit guide us and not be rigid. That’s not at all to say that some sins are OK in some circumstances; the 10 Commandments don’t change. However, even there we need to remember that the 6th Commandment is “You shall not murder,” (Exodus 20:13) rather than the more traditional, “Thou shalt not kill.” The Hebrew words are distinct, and a police sniper who takes out someone who has a knife to someone’s throat isn’t committing murder. We need to let the Holy Spirit have full access to our hearts and minds, because otherwise we will be rigid on issues where we should be flexible and wobbly on issues where we should stand firm. Frankly, this is what spiritual maturity is all about. We need to let God be God, whatever that means to our preconceptions.

I was raised with the concept of absolute truth, and for that I am very grateful. It is no accident that the idea of absolute truth is under constant attack these days, because the devil knows that with no absolute truth there is no absolute God, and he wants to steal God’s place in people’s hearts and minds. My father lived by the principle of absolute honesty, and I have tried to do the same. However, I have learned (or rather, I am still learning) that absolute honesty doesn’t necessarily mean always saying everything you know, however true it might be. I have hurt people needlessly many times doing that. I am to speak the truth in love, and sometimes that means being quiet. The question of what would Jesus do (WWJD) was a fad and then a cliché, but it’s still a good principle. That said, I can’t reliably know what Jesus would do by my own intellect; I’ve got to let the Spirit of Jesus guide me. Today will not be identical to yesterday, so I need to seek, hear, and obey God’s instructions for today.

Father, thank You for this Word. The lack of underlining shows I haven’t really heard it before. Thank You for generating in me the habit of daily devotions. I pray that I wouldn’t just go through the motions, but actively fellowship with you, not just in these morning times but throughout each day, so that I may know Your will and do it, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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