Good Friday to You,
There is a fun story told of a mother who taught her daughter to cut off the end of the ham before cooking it for Thanksgiving dinner. Year after year, the end was cut off and discarded. After years of mindless compliance, one Thanksgiving the daughter asked, “Why?” The mother suddenly realized she had no idea why throwing good meat in the trash was part of the preparation process. After a quick call to “Grandma,” she was embarrassed to discover that her mother simply didn’t have a pan large enough to hold a “whole ham.”
Watching and helping another person is one of the best ways to learn a skill, but repeating the behaviors of others without some critical thinking is foolish. This same principle applies when we read stories about people in God’s Word. We can’t simply aspire to do what they did without recognizing the unique circumstances associated with each story. To do so would lead us to many errant conclusions, such as:
When I get really close to God, my face will glow. (Moses)
People of great faith can walk on water. (Peter)
Attacking giants with a slingshot is the real test of courage. (David)
My love for God is best seen when I am ready to kill my kid. (Abraham)
Bible scholars use the terms “descriptive” and “prescriptive” to help us better understand and apply concepts from scripture. Prescriptive texts prescribe actions to be taken (ex. Jesus: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”) or NOT to be taken (ex. Jesus: “When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet.”). Descriptive texts simply describe what happened. When we are reading accounts of the unfolding story of God and His people, we must discern the difference. We should not just do it because that’s what the followers of Jesus did that one time …or back then.
In this final week of The Church series, we will consider what it looks like to be The Church in Southern Illinois by reflecting on what it looked like to be The Church in Jerusalem. We won’t be blindly learning how to repeat what they did “back in the day”, but we will be inspired by what God through them. We will be looking for principles and prescriptives. Seeing what it looked like to be an authentic church “there” gives us some important cues for being it “here.”
This weekend, we are on a hunt for those foundational principles. We will look for what Jesus prescribed (“You shall be my witnesses…”) and what his followers did in response.
…And we have a special treat for you.
Hope to see you this weekend,