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Working With Inspired Details

Balaam's donkey?

What are we to make of Jesus’ warning that his Father will turn us over to prison and to torturers until we pay everything we owe if we do not forgive our brother and sister from our heart?  (Matt 18:34-35)

And is there any connection between this statement and the way (one chapter later) Jesus answers the rich man who asked what good thing he could do to inherit eternal life? In that instance, Jesus broke the heart of the young man by telling him to sell all that he had to help the poor  and then to come and follow him (Matt 19:16-22) (Mark 10:17-22).

More importantly is there a connection between these statements and the way Jesus’ public life came to a climax and end?

Here’s what I’m thinking:

1.  Such difficult passages, like so many others in Scripture, come into perspective only as we understand the very nature of the Bible:

2.  The Bible is, above all, the story of Jesus. In that sense, its Divine author, like the author of a well written mystery, wastes no detail while using every word to support the storyline.

3.  The storyline of Jesus’ life comes to a climax in his death and resurrection.

4.  The resulting Gospel connects the dots not only between every detail of the Bible, but also between every detail of our lives.

5.  That Gospel was anticipated in Jesus’ words, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), and reveals God not as an angry patriarch, but as a God of love (1John 4:8) (1John 4:16).

6.  This foundational thought leads me to believe that everything Jesus taught, whether to his disciples about forgiveness, or to the rich young man about selling all that he had to give to the poor, is rooted in his love (Mark 10:21).

7.  That means that even God’s anger, as explained by the Father’s attitude toward our refusal to forgive others as we have been forgiven, (Matt 18:34-35) is rooted in his perfect (holy) love.

8.  This is because (1) the Cross of Christ (including Jesus’ life, resurrection, and promise to return) gives perspective to every supporting detail of the Bible (whether in the Old Testament before, or the New Testament that follows)… just as (2) every supporting detail of Jesus’ story gives depth of meaning to the Cross.

9.  Apart from the cross of Christ none of us has any hope  (whether because of lingering unforgiveness toward those who have hurt us (Matt 18:34-35), or because of our obsessive attachment to our material world.

10.  The realization that what Jesus suffered for us is what welcomes us into the kingdom of Christ (now and forever); just as God’s love will, in this life and the life to come, show the losses that follow our lack of love (Matt 18:34-35) (Matt 19:21) (Mark 10:21).

So, in summary, even though we can barely begin to understand how the depth and breadth of such love works, we honor the Bible by realizing that (in behalf of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) (1) it is the story of the Living Word whose life, death, and resurrection put every other detail of the Bible in perspective, just as (2) every other detail of the Bible helps to give depth of meaning to the life, death, and resurrection of the Living Word.

Have tried to boil down a lot of issues into a few words. Will be interested to see how much of this makes sense– or doesn’t– to you.

Note: with this approach, am wondering whether “the torturers”of Matt 18:34-35 might be either (a) the pains of life that our Father uses to expose our lack of love, or (b) the “loving fires” of accountability  (1Cor 3:11-15).

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68 Responses to “Working With Inspired Details”

  1. SFDBWV says:

    I am drawn to the pictures you have Mart of the donkey, am wondering if they are to represent Balaam’s talking donkey or meant to represent man’s stubborn will. Either way both are connected.

    In attending to the concept that every word of scripture is there because the Holy Spirit put them there for a multitude as well as a simple, purpose; I am in total agreement.

    We often speak of the two distinctly different views of the nature of God from the OT to the NT, one being a killer God the other a self sacrificing God, yet both being the same God.

    We need first of all to remember that we are made like Him, even if only a shadow or image, we still possess the base character of our creator. Interestingly all concerning *emotions*, happy, sad, satisfied, unsatisfied, love and yes hate. All these emotions God has shown us are in His character, and we are privileged to also experience them.

    Not perfectly as He can but in part as we have come to experience them in our broken state.

    The story Jesus outlines in Matthew 18: 23-35 gives us a story of fair play. Of what is the right thing to do in such a circumstance in life, this following on the heels of Jesus telling of how to correct a problem between people and furthering the matter to show that what we do in here in this life on earth is also done in heaven and so has far reaching implications (Matthew 18: 7-20).

    The story of forgiveness and our place in it is not as simple as some may think. If someone offends us and we have done no wrong to have received such offence, we are to first try and settle the matter between ourselves and the other. If nothing is resolved by that matter then we must seek people unconnected in order to seek satisfaction and rest in the matter. If that doesn’t resolve the issue then we are to look upon the offender as a heathen and someone not worthy of our being upset over (Matthew 18: 17). Turn the matter over to God and have peace (Matthew 18: 18).

    However if the offender asks for forgiveness we are to forgive without reservation as often as ask (Matthew 18: 22).

    Finally if we ourselves don’t treat others with the same order of forgiveness God has given us, then we face the consequences of having such an unforgiving heart in us, both here on earth as well as in heaven. Heaven here being, in my opinion, the unseen spirit world around us. Allowing for the torment from spiritual beings placed upon us now as a result of unforgiveness.

    Saul was sent just such a tormentor 1 Samuel 16: 14. Forgiveness for Saul was certainly in God’s hands. The great difference now is that through Jesus Christ we can be forgiven of God for our trespasses against Him, but still must deal with other men with the same heart as God giving forgiveness when ask and seeking restitution when not ask, placing the matter upon God when restitution does not come.

    Complicated issues have complicated answers.


  • remarutho says:

    Good Morning Mart & Friends!

    Every mention you make, Mart, of foundations and accountability in your post today makes me think of who Jesus is. You wrote:

    “This foundational thought (John 3:16) leads me to believe that everything Jesus taught, whether to his disciples about forgiveness, or to the rich young man about selling all that he had to give to the poor, is rooted in his love (Mark 10:21).”

    Love spun the heavenly bodies into place out of the primordial chaos. Love crafted a planet where God’s imagination in diversity of possibilities of life could thrive and grow. I am reading the gospel of John these days – and so my mind and spirit turn to the prime themes of dark/light – chaos/order – unforgiveness/pardon – evil/good. (John 1:3, 4, 5)

    It seems everything is rooted in his love – or else it does not partake of his eternal life. Those who are alive are accountable to share this life. Nothing else matters materially or spiritually – ethically or morally.