“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Gal 4:4-5
Advent: He is coming.
That tenuous thread. A tie that binds. Leaning, with the whole weight of being.
Faith. Assurance of things hoped for. Conviction of things unseen.
Faith, that God has stepped into our story, that Christ will come again, that what has begun will be completed.
In the fullness of time all will be made right. In the fullness of time darkness gives way to light.
A pause, a catch of the breath, pregnant with longing.
Immanuel. God with us. Father – who formed and fashioned us, Christ – who died for us, Spirit – who with new life quickens us.
Immensity cloistered in a womb. Divinity swaddled in a cloth. Eternity planted in our hearts.
Now and not yet. Salvation has come. Whispers of faith. Tendrils of hope. Hope and faith.
Oh, Holy God, everlasting and full of compassion, shine your light on our weary hearts. Fill us with faith. Help our unbelief. Save us from stagnation. Draw us ever closer and pierce us again with your truth. Penetrate the noise of our excuses and the busyness of our traditions. Center us on you this Christmas season. Remind us again, of the greatness of your love and the perfection of your plan.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:11
Advent: Anticipation. An invitation – to pause, to reflect, to consider, to feel. He is coming.
Slow your racing mind. Quiet your weary heart.
In a season that means to celebrates connection we whip our bones into a frenzy of frivolity while forgetting…
Hope. A many feathered thing. Bright. And soft, like the flicker of a candle or the far-off glinting of a beckoning star. Reminding us to look forward, of what has already been done. Now and not yet, our salvation has come.
Immanuel. God with us. We have not been left here on our own.
Hope. Like a baby that grows and cries, that stretches out his arms to save us, covering us.
Hope. Like a swelling of clouds on the horizon with the promise of much-needed, life-giving rain.
Hope. Like the tender touch, encircling our whole hearts.
He has come to save us from our sin, our isolation, our hiding. He has come to make new, to unite, to fulfill. To build up, to connect, to bring justice and light.
Almighty God, who stepped into history to save us, stir us with your Spirit and fill us to the brim with hope as we celebrate the coming of your long-awaited Son. Remove from us the burdens that weigh us down and keep us from you. Kindle the flame of anticipation in our hearts as we start this season of Advent. Let our light, our hope in you, shine before others like a city on a hill, that they may see our good works and give glory to You, who art in heaven and who art our Hope.
I’m struggling to write this week. My heart is a little raw. We are the body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, yet, we are still broken and human. We still cut and jab and lash out and wound and then hide, take sides, and assign the blame elsewhere. We shout so loudly when we pronounce judgement on the decisions and reactions of others but act so achingly slowly to take up our own cross and life the cruciform life of giving our time when it’s inconvenient and speaking truth with enough love to cut through webs of stubbornness and walls of insecurity.
Where is God in all this? We push him to the sidelines and scream over his Word for silence so we can spread our feelings like a pestilence and our doubts like a plague. We revel in the muddy mess of self-righteousness. We rage against the injustice of others’ actions and unbearable consequences of our own.
Sin, sin always separates. It always creeps in and whispers in our ears that no one else understands our struggle and that no one else can bear our burden. It’s insidious and isolating. It tells us we are on our own and drowning. Fear of vulnerability keeps us from freedom and chained in the shadows of our own shame and inadequacy.
But listen, restless soul, never once does his Word agree with our flippant, traitor hearts that God is holding out on us. Not once. Instead, it plays a symphony for us of how he woos us as his bride, the desire of his heart. He pursues us with passion and vehemence. All of us – even the ones I’m struggling to forgive, the ones I’m so angry at, the ones I can’t understand so I pull away, the ones that tore my heart right into pieces. Community. One bride. One Church. “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4:4-6)
There is a valid reason that the Bible tells us two are better than one (Eccl. 4:9-12) and that it is not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18). “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27). The triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – formed us in his own likeness, specifically designed for togetherness. Great mystery shrouds how one God can be three separate and distinct Persons, but my intellect gives way to faith as I set aside the baseness and absurdity of the idea of a finite and definable deity of my own limited construct.
And so, God, infinite and ineffable, gives life to the dead and calls that which is not as though it were. (Rom 4:17) He brings us together in Christ – whether we can ever agree or not. Our differences become a beautiful mosaic when held together up to the light. We are so much less without them.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “That which you hope to change, you must first love.” Let us love each other, then, before we have any hope of change.
And we are not called to flounder or even to just survive. If we are not growing we are wasting away and atrophying. Spiritual maturity encompasses both my relationship with God and with others. I cannot grow if I am not in community. Yet, I also cannot rely on others to do what I ought to do myself. Simply going to the gym and watching a workout does not make me healthier. I must do the work myself and learn the nuances of meeting my own physical and spiritual needs. It is discipline and sustained daily effort. It is constant realignment and refocusing on the Word. It is rerouting my feelings in the truth – the truth that begins with God and ends at what he has done for me, for us, in Christ. One body. One Church.
Once upon a time I did the stuff just because it was the good and right thing to do. As a perfectionist, two things happen. One, I constantly scan the world for things to fix and put in place. Two, my motive behind everything ultimately boils down to this desire to get it right and be perfect. Growing up in church, that is how I approached service. There was a hole and I could fill it. Not only did this allow me to right a wrong in the world, but it also let me add it to my little pile of good works I unconsciously tried to accumulate in my favor.
Fast forward several years past giving up on God, desperate for the solidity of the faith I once had, I knew Christ was the only firm foundation. I also knew I had to sort through what I believed and what was true. I wanted to get back into regular church attendance but anxiety and emotion dictated only brief appearances on Sunday mornings. I would slide into a back row somewhere on Sunday morning and run for the hills as soon as the service concluded. I even joined a Bible study, but my real journey back to faith in God didn’t start until I began doing again.
Friends from the gym invited me to their Sunday service. My first time attending, I hung around after to talk to them. And since I needed something for my hands to do to keep my feet from running, I volunteered to roll AV cables. Immediately, I felt the shift. Service gave me purpose. It connected me and grounded me and gave me a task oriented outlet for my anxiety. Here I could observe and absorb. Here I could start benign conversations with others that would eventually blossom into life affirming relationships without having to explain my new attendance or my spotty church past.
Before I deemed myself ready, I was asked to commit to more than rolling cables and start singing on the worship team. My rawness terrified me. If there be any clear, transitional moment in my life to point to, it is that one. In the past, I had always associated service and leadership with a certain level of spiritual maturity.
But the gospel is what qualifies me and transforms me, not a clean track record.
In service, I began to understand the magnitude of grace, unmerited favor. For the first time, my doing a task and filling a hole became pouring back out gratitude for what Christ had done for me back when I wanted nothing to do with him. It was no longer doing the stuff to do the stuff, but an offering back of my two hands, my talents. I no longer try to tip the balance in my favor but work to honor the One who looked at my mess and scooped me up in his arms anyway. And I no longer serve because I want to be a good Christian, but because I want to be like Christ.
I’ve seen maturity in my life as I have learned to do my part. As Ephesians 4:15-16 tells us, we grow when we all do the little parts we were made and designed to do in love. Maturity in service? Maturity through service? Either way, it’s essential. I started doing again because I was growing but I also started growing because I just started doing it. That’s the very illustration of sanctification, I guess. Rolling cables opened the doors to so much else. This blog is part of my story and my service. God has given me talent with the written word and my goal is to turn it back to his glory. I didn’t start here. But I also didn’t say no to the steps that stretched me and grew me to the point where I could do this.
And service isn’t just about a dedicated time in the four walls of a church building. The point of it all isn’t to go to a building or meeting and oil the machine once a week. The point of it all is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Ephesians 4:11-16 reminds us that God gave us preachers and teachers and gifted orators, not to reach out to the world, but to equip the rest of us to do so. Until we are all mature, until we all work together properly, until we all grow so that we are building up the body of Christ in love.
What a provocative thought! Those we deem in the “ministry” only serve to train and help prepare the rest of us for ministry. Why do I make it so complicated? Ministry is simply to live like Christ in my daily life. Every day from waking to sleeping is service or ministry. Every second of my work day, every word to another person. How do I work to build others up in Christ, in love? The little things then take on a whole new existence and gravity. Christ, who was fully God, didn’t count that as a thing. He served. He became the lowest, he poured out in humility. And he did it in the quiet times where he touched one and called another. His greatest lessons were not to the crowds but to the men he modeled a humble life to day after faithful day.
So, it involves us and requires our involvement. We learn, we do, we reach out in and endless cycle on repeat, ever growing in love, in Christ.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whole the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:11-16)
In 1624 John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself…” I used to wish that wasn’t true. I even spent several years isolating myself to try to prove it wrong and to keep my actions from affecting anyone else. Not surprisingly, I found myself bitter, disillusioned, broken, and oh, so lonely. And by pushing away those who loved me, I left them, bereft, vulnerable, and wounded, too.
Man is not an island. We are created in community, not isolation. We cannot thrive on our own. Like the giant sequoias – regardless of our size, age, position, social status – we need the branches and arms of others to continue to hold us up and keep us grounded.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (AMP) puts it this way, “And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.”
Consider this. This is worth a pause, mulling over. This is worth my contemplation and study and reflection. I can’t do this thing, this faith on my own. I need other people to encourage me and to sharpen me. Now, that’s a huge admission for strong-willed, perfectionist introvert (read: stubborn loner). I want to think that I’ve got this and that I’m doing fine over here on my own. I don’t want to acknowledge that I need help or that someone else might have a better understanding than me.
But then someone comes along passionate about a cause or with a need that I would have never would have considered on my own. Or someone crosses my path with the very viewpoint or background or path that I had always judged harshly in my ignorance. Or the Sunday message challenges one of my long-held views with the truth of the Gospel. My obliviousness and antipathy appall me. Oh, how I need to be incited and provoked to love and good deeds! How I need to be spurred and jolted out of complacency and into action!
It takes more than a click of a button to participate in life around me. My attendance is more than my online presence and my engagement is more than a ‘like’ on social media. My local Church needs more of me than spotty appearances when I feel like going. Meeting together is a pivotal, spiritual discipline. When I neglect it I abandon my neighbors, I desert them, and forsake them. Quite a departure from “love your neighbor as yourself”.
How does growth happen without consistency? What is consistency without regular attendance? My body would atrophy if I ate only one out of six meals. Forget thriving at that point. Survival would be my body’s only concern.
Similarly, my growth and transformation in Christ are directly proportional to my consistency in both private meditation in the Word and the active engagement with a community of other believers to hold me accountable and edify me with their insights and unique giftings.
Hebrews urges me to more than spectating and mere attendance. This gathering of God’s people is designed for more than a box to check off or a general association with the right kind of people – our Sunday compartment. I must come ready to both give and receive. I need to be all here, right now – not stuck halfway in yesterday or barreling on to tomorrow’s worry.
Let Paul’s words in Philippians 1:27 be our exhortation, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I man hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, and with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” And we can only be of one spirit and mind if we gather together frequently enough to know the minds and spirits of each other.
When we commit to Christ, we commit to each other.
If we are honest, our modern church looks a little like the Roman church did at its zenith – flush with resources and clout but miserably lacking in spiritual potency. Why do more and more Americans opt out of church attendance? Perhaps, we fight more for political control and dominance instead of fighting to meet the needs of our neighbors and communities. We have succumbed to spiritual pallor and feebleness because we no longer see the Church as Jesus did nor love the Church like Jesus did. Legislature will not save us from sin and death, only Christ has that power. His death and resurrection conquered it once for all. And new life in Him is now what restores and transforms us from our spiritual poverty and condemnation. “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:11)
So, what then is the purpose of the church? Why did Jesus build it? What are we supposed to be doing if not this futile masquerade or this duty wrought from compunction and moral obligation? What is this more that we long to be a part of?
Jesus summed up all the commandments for us in Matthew 22:37. Love God with all that we have and love our neighbor as ourselves. And in Matthew 28: 19-20, he exits his time on earth in the flesh by telling his followers to go and make disciples. Don’t keep it to yourselves. Do something with it! Change the world. Live for the greater good!
That compels me to stop staring inwardly at the narrowness of my own needs and desires. Look up! Look around. Move and live and love like I care!
The Church is called to embody so much more than a social justice campaign or conversion of a lost soul or a singular spiritual epiphany or a country club meeting. And while many of these initiatives are good and necessary, I cannot get sidetracked by just one of them. I must make a great commitment to the great commandment and the great commission.
Worship. We are not just made to worship, but we are created worshiping. What has my attention and my commitments? I will end up worshiping something whether it be success or appearance or money or love or God. I must actively choose what amasses my devotion.
Service. Love my neighbor. But who is my neighbor and what does that even mean? The world seems rife with bad news and tragedy beyond what I can bear. How can I make a difference?
Who is in front of me or behind me in the checkout line? Do they really deserve my impatience or have I simply inflated my view of my own time above theirs? Who is my server, my landlord, my mechanic, my cashier? Do I really listen when they speak or am I looking out for my own self-interest?
What if loving my neighbor is as simple and looking them in the eye and meaning it when I ask, “How are you?” Or listening to different point of view without formulating any sort of response beyond acknowledging that I truly hear them?
Outreach. Identifying as a follower of Christ shouldn’t make me a card carrying, religious-jargon-spouting hypocrite. Instead, it should fill me with such empathy and compassion for the unique struggle of others that I seek them out and show them they are known and loved. You are seen and known and loved just as I have come to find that I am seen and known and loved in Christ! While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. There is no prerequisite on grace.
Community. We are in this together. I heard someone say this week that a person can love their country and loathe their government. Similarly, we can love the Church and resent the institution. But regardless of background and gender and ethnicity and political views and all the stuff that divides us, we are one body in Christ. So much so that even Paul reminds us to look past those very things in his letters to the Church. And looking back on my own journey, I see that I have grown more from friction through the company of others than I ever did in my own solitude. “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Prov. 27:17)
Growth. And thank God that his work in us is not yet complete! What sweet relief that I am not left here in my brokenness to muddle through the wreckage on my own! The life of a believer is one of continual transformation and growth. The Spirit does the work that we cannot do in our own power. But for the grace of God! I am not the same as I once was. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10)
So let us go then, and walk together as the Church.
Church. Close your eyes. Yeah, you reading this. Close your eyes and think about church. Now, welcome back. I’ll start with the honesty.
My mental picture of church is fuzzy with disappointment and fraught with anxiety, judgement, and discomfort. The connotation in my head makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs to be seen and hide under a pew or chair from prying eyes at the same time. The association of the word for me is nails on a chalkboard, attempting to dance with disapproving statues, and showing up naked to a masquerade.
So, why in the hell do I scrape the last ounces of my free time together each week, fighting through the cobwebs of demons and minefields of uneasy feelings, to attend a gathering in the name of a 2000-year-old Messiah? Because my feelings and undertones have it all wrong.
The church was Jesus’ idea. It is his church. In the literal shadow of the might of the Roman empire, Jesus breathed this idea of his church to his twelve ordinary followers who couldn’t even keep themselves together. “I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Mat 16:18) The Greek word Jesus uses here, ekklesia, indicated a group of people gathered for a specific purpose. The Jewish usage of the word added a sacred purpose to the gathering and he uses this intentional reference.
WE are the church! Not the denomination, not the list of by-laws and rules, not the rituals and traditions of confession and prayer and study and communion, not the building, not the location, not the liturgy, nor the call and response, not the music, not the wording, not the acts of penitence and contrition, not the institution, nor the entity of “they”.
Me. You. Broken, messed up, angry, hurting, imperfect, self-righteous, flawed, judgmental, in desperate need of grace. Me. You. We are the church.
Jesus didn’t call us to spend an hour a week in a building, trading platitudes, and perpetuating a sub-culture for religious insiders. He called us to critically look at what we believe about him. Who do I say that he is? Does my life reflect a trust and reliance that he is the Messiah? The long-awaited, prophesied One? Does that alter me daily?
Do I confuse Jesus’ mission on earth like the Jews did? Do I expect him to take political power and save me from inequality and violence? Or do I trust that he came to save the world from sin and death? That this power to save me from death and my own sin is the same power to transform the life I live every day to make me more like him?
When did “church” stop meaning the people and become the building? When did it become a weapon instead of a refuge? When did it turn into cop out instead of a movement? When did we all fade into spectators instead of front line boots? We have gone so far as to not only get lost in translation but also to plunk down a poor and feeble substitution in answer to the community and purpose to which we are called. We observe a ritual at an institution instead of respond to a call to arms and action and love.
The church is not an afterthought. It’s not a crowd-sourced, kickstarter campaign. It was and is and integral and essential part of Jesus’ plan for gaining ultimate victory over hell and death. And it involves me and you! Why settle for such soul sucking mediocrity? This is a prophecy that we have an active part in fulfilling! This gives purpose and clarity.
We, the church, are the hope of the world, not politics. The Body of Christ is what changes the world, not arguing and legislating. This living, breathing, messy congregation of sinners is what he has called us to for a sacred purpose. It is hard, but it is worth it to grow together in Him. We, the church – the beautiful chaos, the perfect picture of His grace overflowing, making us new.
Why was Abraham called the father of faith? What makes him stand apart from the rest? Twelve of the forty verses in Hebrews 11 feature him.
To start, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Heb. 11:8) …Not knowing where he was going – now that part I can relate to. That I can understand. I bob and sputter in this terribly messy, beautiful time of life where most days I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s usually a struggle just to keep my head above water.
And yet, like Abraham leaving behind the land where his family name meant wealth and security to follow where God led, I know that out here in the middle of this ocean – past all my planning and control – is exactly where God has me. God called Abraham up and out of wealth and security into complete dependence, out of houses into tents, out of the established into the unknown. And he blessed him there. Here, in today’s uncertainty, my self-reliance ends and God’s provision begins. Out here, the rope of works falls achingly short while the anchor of grace holds me fast.
Abraham’s enduring faith, his continual response to God’s tests, radiates through history. It wasn’t an all-out sacrificial martyrdom for the sake of rote obedience. It was an unshakable mindset that moved him, a reasoning in sync with his faith in a boundlessly powerful God. Even in the blessing and bounty of previous obedience, God asks him again to sacrifice everything. Take his son of promise, his answer to prayer, this hinge of dreams, and kill it and burn it on an altar. Give it up and hand it over. Completely. (Gen 22)
And early the next morning Abraham sets out. He doesn’t wait for another confirmation. He doesn’t ask his friends and family if he heard God correctly. And for three days he walks under the staggering weight of this new turn of events. We aren’t privy to the tumult in his heart and head during those three days. All we see is that obedience was never a question and disobedience was never an option.
Somewhere on that journey, Abraham reached the point where he had to choose between seeing the fulfilment of God’s promises and God himself. He had to place his faith in the unwavering goodness of God instead of what God had done for him in the past. His faith did not limit God. Faith never requires full understanding, only full surrender. Authentic faith holds nothing back – especially that which He has given us in the first place.
Faith never requires full understanding, only full surrender.
And the son and the sacrifice and the three long, dark days foreshadowed the Son and the once-for-all sacrifice and the three days that changed everything. But God, rich in grace and mercy, provided the ram for the burnt offering and the Lamb for the offering that washes away our sins. And by faith, Abraham receives his son back from the dead and Son rose from the dead so we can receive this gift only by faith.
I sift through my own heart and think hard about the things I need to put on my own altar like my desire to be married and have a family. And I don’t want to admit the struggling and the longing and the wrestling to hold on to the things I already have and count as blessings. In an ongoing battle, I put my dreams and treasures on the altar and over and over they somehow end up back in my hands. Do I want God or do I want what I wish he would do for me?
God cares more about my heart than my comfort level. Vintage faith calls me out of ease and into the unknown. It requires everything. I can hold nothing back. It’s a hard lean, a long obedience in the same direction. It’s my first, my best, my all, my reserves.
And I lean on Abraham’s example as I try to let go of the promises I pin my hope and look instead to the God who makes them. “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’” (Rom 4:20-21). By faith. Fully convinced.
I like to think that I’m totally good with believing the entirety of the Bible. It’s the living and active, inspired Word of God and all, but then I read stories like Noah’s over again and I’m challenged so much more deeply than I thought possible. It’s another strange one. Yet, I must trust all of the Word if I trust any of it.
If we think the world right now is broken and scary, imagine the darkest time in the history of mankind where every thought and action was bent with selfishness, malice, and deceit. Imagine living in war-torn slums filled with violence and murder and openly witnessing every horrifying, disturbing practice under the sun. There was no peace. There was no restful slumber. There was no justice, no mercy. All was fear and retaliation. All was desperate aggression and wantonness. It didn’t peter out at the edge of a bad neighborhood or on the way up the societal ladder. All was smothering panic and dangerous reality.
This is the world Noah lived in. This is the backdrop of his dogged obedience. This is the setting during which God told him to build a cruise liner when he had only ever seen a canoe. “Noah did this; he did all that the Lord had commanded him.” (Gen 6:22) For 120 years he toiled in backbreaking diligence to a directive that must have seemed insane. It didn’t even rain in that pre-flood era of time! How could the entire world flood?
Did he ever doubt? Did he ever question God? I have no idea how he knew what God was telling him because it seems straight up utterly and completely crazy. We aren’t afforded any more details. But we are told again, “And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.” (Gen 7:5).
Faith = obedience to God. Can it be that simple? A long obedience in the same direction? A low trajectory towards a distant goal? Noah did what God told him. And it took him 120 years to do it. That’s a long time of faithfulness. That’s a long time of going against the grain. That’s a long time of being alone and trusting that God has a purpose and a plan beyond what he could see or understand. I have a hard time with a few days of trusting God with no tangible results to justify.
But God has not called us to anything more nor less drastic. By faith, Noah did what God directed. In that, my life calling is not so different. Faith equals obedience. Faith spells itself out in daily showing up and putting in the work God has set before me. There is no shortcut or FastTrack. Faith shows up in only long obedience and a constant turning towards Him.
By faith, out of reverent fear of God, Noah constructed an ark. By faith, this obedience saved his household. By faith, he lived and breathed obedience in a thousand daily moments over thousands and thousands of days. By faith, those long unwritten moments gained him righteousness and teach us still. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Gal 6:9)
First, Abel simply gave God his first, best offering and now Enoch’s entry only mentions that he walked with God. Why Enoch? Why single him out? Like the ancestors before and the sons that follow we know his lineage and how long he lived. That’s pretty much it. Four verses in Genesis 5 don’t shed a wealth of background about his life.
The chapter drones through pedigrees. The line of Cain: lived, fathered, died. At seven generations, the line decays into destruction and brokenness with Lamech’ arrogant defiance of God. The line of Seth: lived, fathered, died. But at seven generations, the line reaches full bloom in Enoch’s walk with God. He lived, he fathered, he did not see death. Still, the lack of context wouldn’t exactly make it my first choice for weaving a convincing story or making a firm point.
Enoch didn’t die. God took him away. Impossible. Strange. Outrageous. Why am I more apt to discount the validity of the good in this story than the wickedness? Why is it harder to believe that God took Enoch without dying after less than half of a lifetime of his contemporaries than it is to grasp that Lamech stirred up new depths of sin with polygamy and murder and pride that had not previously existed in the world? Do I have more faith in man’s depravity than in God’s mercy and goodness?
In the long recitation of rote genealogy –living, fathering, dying – the words surrounding Enoch’s life jump out with jarring distinction from the rest of his family tree. “Enoch walked with God…” (Gen 5:22). In this second illustration from the Hall of Fame of Faith we see: faith = walking with God. God was so delighted in this faithful, daily communion that he went ahead and took Enoch from life.
Call me crazy, but there’s got to be more to it than that, right? Aren’t there some examples from Enoch’s life from which I can glean? Didn’t he drop some wisdom nuggets I can put up on my mirror and memorize? But Genesis 5 only tells us that while everyone else was busy with the trivialities of living, Enoch walked with God.
“Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” (Amos 3:3) When you walk with someone you are in agreement with them. Your goals align for that moment. Your tasks are in tandem. And the longer this goes on the more intimacy it creates. Prolonged intimacy births love.
Life is so funny, isn’t it? I get so worried and agonize over doing the “right” thing as if life is a giant multiple choice test and each question has only one right answer. I still feel like my salvation and justification are pass/fail and it depends entirely on my ability to perform.
But what is faith if it isn’t just a daily walk in step with the Father? How do we please God if not by constantly leaning towards him and walking through our life along with him? And not only believing in him, but with action propelling us onward. Jesus walked with his disciples after he called them to him. He taught them as they walked and shared that daily life.
Our culture celebrates either slothful stagnation or whirlwind weariness. In the former, we atrophy with disuse and what we once may have had we find gone. In the latter, achievement doesn’t fulfill but only leads to higher and further goals, leaving us unable to find true contentment in the moment.
Oftentimes, the reality of faith is just a daily realignment and search for truth, a deliberate attentiveness to the Spirit speaking through his Word. Not a sprint, not a fall, not a picnic in the park. A walk; sustained and consistent movement. A constant communion.
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic 6:8).