WOULD JESUS APPROVE?
A Sermon by The Rev. Dr. John A. Dalles
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Proverbs 20:7. Luke 11:33-36
Some time ago I had someone say to me that they conducted their life along the lines of the title to this sermon, “Would Jesus Approve?” It is similar to but different from the famous initials on those rubber bracelets that say W W J D? What would Jesus do? Similar, but not exactly the same. We may—in fact— do some things that Jesus would never have done.
We may text a message on our cell phone; Jesus never did that. But he might approve. We may look up something on the Internet; Jesus never did that. But he might approve. Jesus never watched TV; or went to a movie; or drove a car. But that does not mean faithful Christians cannot do that. We just want to watch TV shows and movies and go places that Jesus would approve of. Right?
Jesus never flew in a plane, but that does not mean that Christians need to stay earth-bound. Jesus never joined a flash-mob! Whether Jesus would approve or not, I leave to your discernment. Jesus never had to decide about any number of medical or social issues that were either not even known in the year 30 AD, or not on anyone’s radar. By the way, speaking from the vantage point of 2000 years ago, what’s radar?
If we were to use the test “W W J D?” then we would never do any of those things. Cell phones and computers and electronic gadgets and cars and planes were never heard of in Jesus day. For some people, that makes Jesus obsolete. They say that Jesus is too remote to out of touch with who we are and how we live now. So his message is archaic. Irrelevant. And then they hop in their car, and text a message while driving, that they are going to be late for their plane.
All kidding aside though, even before the days of some of these things, cell phones and the Internet and the like, I can recall the chairperson of a major bank telling another member of the church that her family had belonged to for three generations that the church was irrelevant. To her… It didn’t matter what Jesus would or would not do. Not to her. But back to this other person who said to m e not all that long ago that her watch word was “Would Jesus Approve?” I think that is THE question.
Would Jesus approve of our thoughts? Would Jesus approve of our prayers? Would Jesus approve of our opinion of ourselves? Would Jesus approve of our opinion of others? Would Jesus approve of the choices we make? Would Jesus approve of the things we say? Would Jesus approve of the conclusions we draw? What about the conclusions we leap to? Would Jesus approve of THOSE?
The book of Proverbs says:
“The righteous lead blameless lives;
blessed are their children after them.”
blessed are their children after them.”
Blameless lives are the goal, then, for parents, and for those would mentor and lead the next generations. For Fathers, if you will, on this Father’s Day.
Fathers, what does it mean to lead blameless lives? You might say, if we are: considerate in our thoughts, sincere in our prayers, honest about ourselves, generous and gracious in our opinions about others, careful about the choices we make and whom they will affect and how they will affect others, scrupulously careful in what we say about others, purposeful and prayerful in the conclusions we draw, then indeed we are blameless. We are living blameless lives, and our children will be blessed, after us.
I can see, can't you? Why Jesus teaches as he does about the lamp on the stand.
33 “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light."
Jesus is talking about living blameless lives. When you do that, people are drawn to that kind of light. They can see more clearly by it. They can move through life with a more sure-footed pace, because of it. They know that the light is giving them what they need to be on the right track. There is a kind of intentionality about it. There is deep integrity about it. The kind of life of which Jesus would approve.
Naturally we are thinking about fathers today and Christians look to the Bible for examples of fathers who might either prove to be role models or serve as cautionary tales.
From the beginning, we look at Adam, who sort of failed as a provider and then was more or less absent when his two boys got into a tussle that ended very badly. We are not off to a good start, Biblically speaking, with Adam, the father of us all.
Moving along, we have Noah, who managed to take the boys along on the family cruise, so that is good. We are glad he did, no matter what other differences he may have had with them.
Abraham had two sons, one of whom he disinherited and banished from his presence and the other of which he did not. This ambivalent relationship between father and child proves to be an ongoing theme in his descendants. Just look at Isaac and Jacob and their relationship, and Esau. I have always felt a bit sorry for Esau.
So by the time we get to Joseph, and his many rousing adventures, we do remember that Jacob was a loving and caring father to him but pretty well set Jacob up for the troubles that came his way, prompted not only by his braggadocio dreams but also by the jealousy of his brothers over how much dear old dad favored him, many-colored coat and so forth. Yes, it all turned out well for them when the famine arose, and they were all united way down in Egypt's land, but at what emotional cost?
Are there any fathers so far that serve as role models for you? Let me know, if there are...
We could visit the fathers and sons of the twelve tribes, the relationships between the kings of Israel and Judah and their children, and if we did we would see more strife, struggle and stress and begin to wonder where will it all end.
Parenting is not easy, in the Old Testament. Here and there we find glimmers of love and support and tenderness but often it is like a bad soap opera in bathrobes and sandals.
All along the way, however, there is God. Our heavenly Father, who is ever-present and ever-willing to bring about changes for the better in the lives of His children. I suppose it is fair to say that even the best of the Old Testament fathers are really children--aren't they?--of God their Creator. For us to have some kind of understanding of what being a father is all about we must look to the One who is always ready to hear His children's prayers, always concerned about their well-being, always working in their lives in subtle or dramatic ways to bring about a better relationship between them and the other siblings of the world.
We see its fulfillment in Christ, our elder brother, who has taken all of our cares and concerns and made them His own.
How might we describe a Christian Father on this Father’s Day, I wonder? He is a man of integrity: He always speaks from the heart and is very sincere. He has the kind of sense of humor that builds people up. He is the kind of person who exemplifies The Golden Rule. His code of conduct is such that it conforms to an accepted standard of right and wrong. He takes full responsibility for his actions—without shifting into the excuses or blame mode. He would be the first to admit that he is not perfect, but is also the kind of person who has nothing to hide. He always works towards achieving a better way of life for others. Prayer is part of his everyday life. So is speaking a word in season that conforms to the teachings of Jesus. So is giving in a way that conforms to the life of Jesus. That’s kind of life of which Jesus would approve.
A nationwide survey found these actual results from fathers: - 94% feel building a family is the hardest thing a man can do. The same percentage say it is the most important thing a man can do. 71% say fatherhood is more demanding than they expected. 88% say fatherhood is more rewarding than they had hoped. 87% say the rewards of fatherhood trump those of career. 90% say becoming a father made them a better person.
Many of us are, today, blessing and thanking our fathers because they have stood for these things in our lives. And if we are fathers, we are trying our uttermost to stand for these things.
34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. 35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.
The Greek for healthy here implies generous. The Greek for unhealthy here implies stingy. When your eyes are “generous”, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are “stingy”, your body also is full of darkness.
Is Jesus saying we are to watch where we are going? I think so. Jesus wants us to watch where we are going, so that we can go where we are watching. So that we stay on track, in our daily living.
And Jesus tells us…
36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”
Jesus calls all who fallow Him to choose to be a godly influence on the society in which we live. Jesus calls us to change the world around us with our lives. Jesus doesn’t expect us to live apart from the world. Jesus expects us to shed light upon that part of the world in which we live.
So how are you doing with that? Would Jesus approve? Resolve to be the light upon its stand, so that those who come in may see the light!