I miss tent camping! We used to go and stay a week or two in a tent near the ocean. You can’t beat the joy of sun, surf, sand and family! There is an expansiveness you never experience in a man-made structure. Man has never improved on the wonder of God’s creative design.
Staying in a fabric structure for any amount of time and sleeping on an air mattress may not appeal to some of you, but God has called us all to spend the days of our lives on this earth spiritually tent-camping! In 2 Corinthians 5, our body is likened to a tent, a temporary structure in which we now dwell. The image reminds us of the temporary nature of our current bodies in contrast to that which is eternal. There is something greater which ought to adjust our lifestyle to be sure we are pleasing God as much now as we will then (2 Cor. 5:9).
Leaving Paul’s metaphor of a tent, I would step slightly “outside” and remind us all of the wideness of the moral realm beyond the borders of our insulating and isolating commitment to self-righteousness. That moral house we all tend to build which always leaves us comfortable in our accomplishment and open only to spring cleaning, never radical reformation. In reality, our message is, “I’m OK, and you can be to if you live on my level!” Welcome to Pharisee Township, the community of those who use their own commandments as their instruction (Mat. 15:8-9).
There are two principle evidences that we are living in a man-made structure.
First, we see some as beneath us. Some do not live on our level and are to be looked down on, scorned and assumed to be virtually “untouchable” as we say, “I don’t know how to help them.” Our conscience is soothed by the commitment to help IF they will get their act together first.
Question: In light of Jesus’ interaction with beggars, mentally unstable, poor and total oddballs (gentiles like most of us), not to mention His teaching regarding people like “them,” can I really get comfortable with my ignorance about how to help? Doesn’t a disciple have an obligation to learn by experience how to help?
The reason we don’t is because these are assumed to be living below the floor of our manmade structure—the people “down there” who are not my concern.
This leads to the other evidence of a manmade moral domicile. We not only see others as living beneath us, but assume there is a ceiling on the growth Christ wants to foster in us. We seem to think that He could not actually require us to grow beyond our comfort zone and actually become the kind of person who impacts people like that, can He? As long as I am a “good” person who lives above the floor of minimum behaviors and beneath the ceiling of maximum expectations, I’m OK, right? There are people who live up there beyond what I have ever experienced, but they are exceptional and not normal, right?
Actually, I think that is exactly what He wants to do in every one of our lives—teach us to live at a level so far beyond human standards of righteousness that we can be useful in the lives of those beneath human contempt! Jesus was a friend of sinners who scandalized the self-righteous by associating with the outcasts. Are we His disciples or not? After all, we are among the weak, foolish, ignoble and despised who have become the recipients of grace (1 Cor. 1:26-29).
I am simply encouraging us all to exit the confines of our manmade structures and live in the wideness of God’s moral excellence. It is an excellence which calls the best to be servants of the worst for their benefit in Christ. The apostle Paul’s description of himself showed that he viewed no one as beneath him— “We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (1 Cor. 4:13b) “… Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Tim. 1:15b).
If any has been the recipient of good parenting, wise examples in finance and family, or skill development at an early age in housekeeping and home maintenance, thank God for that! But also let the grace of God in Jesus Christ, Who laid aside His advantages to overcome our lack (2 Cor. 8:9), lead us to see ourselves as stewards of grace, not hoarders of self-righteousness (1 Cor. 4:7).
This world is wandering from God with resulting devastation in the lives of people all around us. Most are being destroyed by their own foolish and sinful choices for which they have full culpability. Exactly like we would be without Christ and the protective work of God’s Providence! We owe it to God to learn by faith how to strip away the man made artificial floors and ceilings which leave many beyond our reach and learn afresh what it is to minister grace!
“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:11-13)