The Groomsman’s Joy

A groom considers his groomsmen to be among his most faithful friends and supporters.  How would you feel if you heard about a best man running off with the bride a week before the wedding?  You’d feel disgusted.  The whole scenario seems like a vile betrayal.  However, a much deeper betrayal can be committed by ministers of the gospel.  In John 3:22-30, some of John the Baptizer’s disciples are concerned because Jesus is receiving more attention than John.  Without hesitating, John reminds them of his role as a witness to the Messiah and his joy over Jesus’ growing influence and his own fading influence.  He reminds his audience that he is but a groomsman who wants all the attention to be focused upon the groom and his bride.

It is so easy for those who minister in the limelight to begin to bask in the attention that they receive.  It is easy for those who speak of Christ to inadvertently take the attention that belongs alone to Him.  Christ is not interested in sharing the glory that belongs alone to Him.  We must be vigilant not to steal the attention of which He alone is worthy.  May our joy be that people’s focus on Him increases as their focus on us fades.  After all, we are but groomsmen, privileged to know and love the Groom.

 

A Reflection on Hunger and Thirst

When your stomach is empty or your mouth is parched, it’s hard to think of anything but food or water.  In John 4, Jesus and his disciples have been traveling for hours.  Around the noon hour they come to a well near Sychar in Samaria.  As you can imagine, they are all thirsty and hungry.  Therefore, Jesus sends his disciples to get some food.  While waiting, a Samaritan woman approaches to get some water from the well.  Naturally, Jesus asks for a drink of water.  Thus, the story begins with Jesus being thirsty and hungry. 

What’s intriguing in the story is that John never tells us that Jesus drank and ate in Sychar.  It’s not because He didn’t; it’s because John focuses on another appetite, which eclipses physical appetites.  Jesus was more concerned that the Samaritan woman would yearn for the water of eternal life than for a physical fountain of youth.  Unlike His disciples, Jesus was more concerned with obeying His Father’s will than with eating bread.  He models for the characters in the story the priority of spiritual necessities over physical necessities.  In our own lives, our physical needs are crucial.  However, our greatest needs are spiritual.  Above all, may we thirst to know Him and hunger to do His will in furthering His gospel in the world.   Along the way, remember the promise of Jesus, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

When Vice Sounds Nice

In our market-driven culture, slogans help make the world go around. We hear them on our radios and iPods. We see them on our TV and computer screens. Some of the slogans seem innocuous– “Think outside the bun” (Taco Bell) or “Like a Good Neighbor” (State Farm).  Other slogans could become problematic if they are applied too broadly– “Obey Your thirst” (Sprite) or “Have it your way” (Burger King). Unfortunately, some are morally insidious. Two billboards that I have seen alongside the road come to mind. One was advertising a gentlemen’s club (an oxymoron in itself)– “Feed your curiosity” and the other an adult bookstore–“Mature Fantasy.” Of course, it would have been more accurate to say, “Indulge your lust” and “Base perversity.”

What is a Christian to do? It is very difficult to avoid a world of slogans. Rather, God has called us to be in the world without being like the world. This is no easy task. One way forward, though, is to actively think. This was Paul’s advice to a Christian community in Philippi living in an unfriendly world. Paul does not prescribe isolation but rather insulation. He argues that God has called us to critically evaluate the mixed messages around us through the lens of Scripture and then to dwell on what pleases God (Phil. 4:8). Working in tandem with such discernment, Paul argues that we actively pursue the teachings from the Bible, which we know please God (Phil. 4:9). It is a call to be proactive rather than reactive or undiscriminating. If Paul were living today, perhaps he would say, “Just do it.”

Doug Finkbeiner

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