Sometimes reading the Bible is INTENSE. Today is one of those days.
Elijah flees Jezebel’s wrath by escaping to the wilderness, where God asks him the same question again and again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” The Ephesians reading explores the practical suggestions for the new life, no longer living as Gentiles do, but clothed in a new way that renews the mind. In John, Jesus has just finished feeding the five thousand, only to realize that the authorities are about to come and take him by force. He escapes and is later seen walking on the water. The crowd follows him the next day, and he talks of “bread from heaven.”
I suppose on the surface they may not seem intense. Maybe it was just my contemplative prayer time, where one word kept popping up in my imagination: FLEE.
Elijah fled from the crowd. Jesus fled as well, seeking refuge in the wilderness, just as Elijah had. God had called them to rest. And yet, very quickly (that evening in fact) they were called back out to be with the people. Even Paul, in Ephesians, is separating from both the Jewish ways and the Gentile ways, blazing a new way forward for the Christian.
2018 has begun, and I wonder what God is calling us to?
Sometimes I feel like fleeing from the world’s problems too. Between our President’s ridiculous Twitter feed, which is mainly used to create confusion, a foreign policy mess never seen before by this country, and now ramping up threats of nuclear war, it is amazing this man is still in office. The challenges for the church in 2018 abound. Then there is climate change showing its ugly head, with another batch of extreme weather for Oklahoma and frozen pipes everywhere. And don’t get me started on the political mess in Oklahoma that almost rivals the national stage. Trust me, the temptation to flee is ever present.
The Bible reminds us today there are times to separate and times to engage.
The renewing of one’s mind seems to be an important ingredient. God isn’t talking about vacations here! There is more going on than simple “Sabbath” too, although that is an important ingredient. I believe we are called to separate ourselves at times, from the perspective of the world, in order to keep ourselves in check and make sure that we are “in the world, but not of the world.” The word self-differentiation comes to mind.
Perhaps my New Year’s Resolution should be to block the Donald on Twitter. I know I would feel better.
We are called to newness and difference, for the way of the Christian is often contrary to the ways of the world. Like Jesus, we feel the need to be separate at times, but we also love our neighbors so much, we cannot be separate for long – only long enough to gain a fresh new perspective.
May God renew us this day, and always.