At times in Scripture, such as in the book of Revelation, God’s wrath is indeed pictured dramatically as an experience of natural horrors, such as fire and brimstone. But in this theatrical imagery, we can miss the point of God’s wrath. It isn’t just about God’s anger. Rather, the wrath of God is his righteous judgment of sin and sinners. God’s wrath hates evil, despises injustice, and holds all of us accountable for the sin in our lives, our systems, and our world.
In today’s scripture passage… [Paul] admonishes these believers to consider the differences between lawfulness and expediency—in other words “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should, nor that it is the best course of action.” As leaders, we often have the right and the ability to do whatever we choose. However, when a team is involved, our actions affect every member of our team.
In Christian circles, there are a lot of conversations about holding each other accountable. But, as my friend Walter Wright, former Executive Director of the De Pree Center, has said, you can only hold people accountable if they desire it, and if they are willing to articulate that for which they want to be held accountable. Vows are the ultimate biblical means for formalizing that process.
Psalm 107 reminds us to “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good” (107:1). The bulk of the psalm consists of four vignettes that illustrate God’s saving grace. Each one calls for our response of thanks and praise. Whether people were lost and hungry, chained in gloom, suffering from sin-induced illness, or tossed about in a stormy sea, the Lord demonstrated his “unfailing love” by delivering them.
Through his grace in Jesus Christ, God is at work in us, renewing our minds so that our thoughts might be full of truth and goodness. The renewal of our minds can make a difference every day in all that we do, including our daily work. As you face difficult challenges in your workplace, God will help you think rightly and wisely about them. The Spirit of God will lead you if you seek God’s guidance and truth. Taking time to pray, even quietly for a few moments in your workplace, can make all the difference.
Do you ever feel as if your body is on the other side, fighting against you? Perhaps you’re trying to lose weight but your cravings always get the better of you. Or perhaps, as you age, you begin to feel aches and pains that you never had before. Or, more seriously, maybe you’re fighting a disease that threatens to take your life. Your body just doesn’t seem to be on your side. According to Ephesians 2, our bodies are indeed fighting against us in a way… Yet we must not forget that God created human bodies as good.
No matter the specifics, it’s no fun to have a bad boss. According to Ephesians 2:1-3, we have all had a bad boss, one more worrisome and pernicious than what I’ve just described. Here’s how Ephesians 2 begins: “As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air…”
When Paul speaks of “this world,” he is not thinking about the physical earth: rocks, trees, water, and so forth. Rather, he is thinking about what we might call culture, worldview, or the spirit of the age. He is envisioning the world as a system of powers that pulls us in the direction of sin and death. When we were dead in our trespasses and sins, we were living according to the ways of the world, a world that entraps us and entices us to live contrary to God. We were living behind enemy lines.
This is what it means to hear someone else’s story and honor it, value it, and treasure it. This is what it means to enter into relationship with another person, another group of people. Of course, Jesus was our best example of this. He moved into our neighborhood (as Eugene Peterson has paraphrased it), and did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Instead, Jesus made himself nothing so that he could draw near to us, and heal us.
Brave spaces are transformational. Brave spaces draw a person out and give them the opportunity to be transformed. Alternatively, safe spaces often make it safe for me to stay the way I am. Brave spaces invite vulnerability, while safe spaces often keep me shielded from growth. David’s brothers and the rest of Saul’s army chose safety when facing Goliath. But God calls us out of hiding and into the light, where we are invited to partner with God in miraculous acts that bring a new way of living.