"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'"
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Christ's Construction Is Best
Tuesday after the the Baptism of our Lord
12 January 2016
A good reputation is held in low esteem today. In fact, our media culture revolves around promoting the people who are doing increasingly outrageous things in public. Yesterday's taboo becomes today's latest cause of celebrity in the modern media circus. We are so desensitized to moral evil that we can generate moral outrage only for the most egregious breaches of our eroding moral levees. So notoriety and the financial rewards that accompany it are available for those willing to demean themselves and debase their reputations by spewing forth more morally repulsive filth into our community.
The meaning of the eighth commandment, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" comes under suspicion where reputation is a thing as light as a feather to be bartered away for a fist full of dollars. I believe this is what motivated Bruce Jenner's so-called sex change. He stood for a few more moments in the white-hot lights of our media "culture." We no longer care whether a statement about us is true or false, but whether or not it gives us a shot at being well-known. We no longer make the distinction between fame and notoriety. Words now only have meaning of a political sort, they are no longer weighed for their truthfulness, only for their public impact. We don't ask "are they true?" but only will they make our agenda (whatever it is) succeed. As long as we get what we want, we feel free to destroy the reputation of our neighbor or even our own!
The worst misuse of reputation occurs when God's Word is perverted for political ends. We may not manipulate the Word of God as we see fit. This is an attack on God's glory, His holy reputation. It calls into question the validity of His Word to us. It implies that He Himself does not stand behind His will toward us. Even when we doubt God's Word and besmirch his reputation He still faithfully stands behind it, for He is the Lord. This is what it means to have a good reputation. To be faithful even when others question your faithfulness and doubt that you are. It is God's covering through His holy reputation that gives us our standing in His presence. He covers our blemishes and infirmities, and through the precious blood putting the best construction on us.
"Now we have the sum and general understanding of the eighth commandment: Let no one do any harm to his neighbor with the tongue, whether to friend or foe. Do not speak evil of him, no matter whether it is true or false, unless it is done by commandment or for his reformation. Let everyone use his tongue and make it serve for the best of everyone else, to cover up his neighbor's sins and infirmities, to conceal them, and garnish them with his own reputation. The chief reason for this should be the one which Christ declares in the Gospel, where He includes all commandments about our neighbor, 'whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them' (Mt 7:12).
"Even nature teaches the same thing in our own bodies, as St. Paul says, 'On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty' (1Co 12:22-23). No one covers his face, eyes, nose, and mouth, for they are in themselves the most honorable parts that we have, and therefore do not require it. But the weakest parts, of which we are ashamed, we cover with all diligence. Hands, eyes, and the whole body, must help cover and conceal them.
So also among ourselves should we clothe whatever blemishes and infirmities we find in our neighbor, and serve and help him to promote his honor to the best of our ability. On the other hand, we should prevent whatever may be disgraceful to him. It is especially an excellent and noble virtue for someone to explain for his neighbor's advantage and to put the best construction on all he may hear about his neighbor (if it is not notoriously evil). Or at any rate, forgive the matter over against the poisonous tongues that are busy wherever they can pry out and discover something to blame in a neighbor (Ps 140:3). They explain and pervert the matter in the worst way, as is done now especially with God's precious Word and its preachers."
Lord God, You have defended Your reputation by seeing to it that Your Son bore our sins in His body on the tree, just as You had promised to Adam and Eve in the garden. Grant us in our day to seek a pure reputation tied to the truth of Your self-revelation in Christ, that we too would share in Your glory. Amen.
For all doctors, nurses, and other health professionals who are God's agents in the world bringing healing into the lives of those who are suffering
For all the gifts of the Creator, that we might faithfully acknowledge that all we have is a gift of His gracious hand
For Pastor Michael Albrecht and Pastor Sagar Pilli, that they would be kept safe in their travels and have a safe and joyous homecoming
Art: AERTSEN, Pieter Adoration of the Magi (c. 1560)
© Scott R. Murray, 2016