Sundays With St. Paul: “Covenant Blood” Similarities…

This is part of a series I’m writing for Near Emmaus. Feel free to read it there or read other posts by other bloggers.

During my reading for this week, I was struck by this passage from Frank Thielman:

“[Jesus’] reference to covenantal blood in Matthew and Mark takes the form ‘this is my covenant blood’ (Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24) and in Luke, ‘this cup is the new covenant in my blood’ (Lk 22:20). Paul’s version of the statement in [1 Cor.] 11:25 is so close to Luke’s that the slight differences cannot be detected in translation. The version in Luke and Paul make explicit what the one in Mark and Matthew imply: Jesus interpreted his death as the establishment of the new covenant predicted in Jeremiah 31:31 and understood the blood shed in his death as analogous to the blood that, according to Exodus 24:8, Moses sprinkled on the people at the establishment of the Sinaitic covenant.”[1]

For one thing, I had never thought of Jesus’ “covenant blood” as mimicking or relating to Moses’ sprinkling of blood as a mark of the covenant. I think I tend to focus too much on the vampire-like aspect of drinking blood for communion.

For another thing, I haven’t studied the similarities between Luke and Paul before and I found Thielman’s insight interesting. I have heard before that, according to tradition and a mention in one of Paul’s letters (I forget which one), Luke was a traveling companion to Paul (at least at one point). What I’m wondering, though, is why, as Thielman says, Mark and Matthew would imply this analogy of Jesus?

Ever since college, I’ve been fascinated by the subtle, yet significant differences between the Gospels. Or, rather, the Synoptic Problem (so similar, yet so different). Any time the first three gospels (and occasionally John) flow stride-for-stride and then one deviates slightly, I’m compelled to wonder what might be implied. Yet at the same time, I know that not every difference within the Synoptics is for a specific, significant reason – an underlying message, if you will.

So that’s why I’m posing the question to you all: Do you think something’s intended by Luke’s subtle deviation from Mark and Matthew or is it the other way around; are Mark and Matthew intentionally distinguishing their account of the Lord’s Supper from that of Luke? If either of those is the case, what might be the reason? And do you think Paul had a strong influence on Luke’s account?


[1] Frank Thielman, Paul & the Law: A Contextual Approach (InterVarsity Press, 1994), 105

Advertisements

On Being a Seminarian: Power of Nuance…

This is my first post as a part of Near Emmaus. Feel free to view it there or view other posts by the other bloggers.

Three years ago around this same time I was in Eugene finishing up my final year at the University of Oregon. Since my final two required courses I needed for my communication studies minor weren’t offered until the spring, I was spending the winter term taking a couple electives from Dr. Daniel Falk. One was Early Christian Religion and the other was Dead Sea Sectarian, an area of expertise for Falk.

In both classes we were required to write 10-12 page research papers and the topics were relatively open-ended. For an English major who was used to one or two prompts to choose from for a 4-5 page argumentative essay, finding a topic was a bit of a challenge. However, after reading the Community Rule from the Dead Sea Scrolls, something caught my eye:

“And when these become members of the Community in Israel according to all these rules, they shall separate from the habitation of unjust men and shall go into the wilderness to prepare there the way of Him; as it is written, Prepare in the wilderness the way of … make straight in the desert a path for our God,’ [Isa. 40:3]. This (path) is the study of the Law which He commanded by the hand of Moses, that they may do according to all that has been revealed from age to age, and as the Prophets have revealed by His Holy Spirit.” – Column VIII, lines 14-17 (about)[1]

Recognize anything – particularly from Isaiah? This same exact verse is found in the Gospels: Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 3:4; and John 1:23 (John’s own version, of course). However, the Gospels obviously interpret this verse differently. Instead of beginning a new community out in the wilderness, it is John who is already in the wilderness “crying out.” And instead of launching God’s movement through a stronger devotion to the Sinaitic Law (“by the hand of Moses”), it was announcing the arrival of Jesus, the Christ.

Such a slight variation in interpretation is a prime example of what’s called “nuance.” Regular readers of Near Emmaus probably know this word quite well, but for the newcomers (kind of like myself), its literal definition is “a subtle difference or distinction in expression, meaning, response, etc.”[2] This particular nuance in utilizing Isaiah 40:3, the focal point for both my research papers that winter term, was what really piqued my interest in the academic side of seminary – and in the world of biblical literature beyond the Bible. Barely over one semester into George Fox, I find myself fully immersed into that academic world.

Yet, and I imagine many have similar stories from their respective seminaries, I have also found nuances in the spiritual side of life here. Hearing all the stories I have from my classmates, I often find myself amazed at the diversity of life experiences that brought everyone here. Many of them similar; not quite satisfied with the “real world,” so trying their hand at something more fulfilling to them. And yet there is such rich flavor in their various ways of perceiving their world.

I mentioned something along these lines in my reflection over fall term at George Fox; that my perspective isn’t yours and that our real challenge in the midst of such diversity is to find the beauty in each other’s point of view, each other’s nuance. Whether it be the text of Scripture or our own personal stories, the power of nuance – of a slight, subtle difference in expression – speaks volumes to the expanse (and complexity) of our God. And what’s driving my studies through my second semester (coincidentally enough with two 10-12 page research papers, also) is every little nuance I find. They’re kind of like breadcrumbs.

Tomorrow I’ll share a few notes from my class’ discussion of Paul and the nuances in the way he uses “law.” I’ve already begun that series over on my own blog, but I’ll share that post here as well.

What are some nuances you’ve discovered in your own studies? Your community? How have they guided your life?


[1] Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (Penguin Classics, 2004), 109

[2] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nuance?s=t (emphasis mine)

Own Your Pain…

Late night TV has been a recent guilty pleasure of mine. I mean, when they lead off with old episodes of HIMYM (you know, the better episodes), and follow up with Friends, how can you turn away? A few nights ago, they followed Friends with a few episodes of Monk. In one of those episodes, I learned something about pain.

Honestly, I’ve always known this about pain, but always struggled to see it in a positive light. This episode of Monk started out in typical fashion: crime scene that demands Monk’s detective powers, something weird triggers Monk’s OCD tendencies (a double rainbow and they weren’t equal in size), and some teasing or jokes from Monk’s fellow detectives. This time, however, his assistant, Natalie, told him that she was sorry for him and everything he misses out on (such as the beauty of a double rainbow).

It stuck with Monk and when he ran into someone else who used to see the same psychiatrist as he did and once Monk saw how happy this other guy was, he felt jealous. He later told Natalie that he wanted to be better – that he wanted to see the beauty in a double rainbow and be as happy as the other guy. And so, when Natalie couldn’t stop him, he went to see the hypnotist that the other guy had recommended.

This hypnotist “treated” Monk by having him relax and think back to a time before things started going traumatically wrong – losing his wife Trudy and getting made fun of for being unable to climb a rope in a middle school gym class. Monk had gone back in his memory to a stage in his life when he was happy. Or at least, that’s what the hypnotist wanted him to think. What it actually was, as Monk’s regular psychiatrist pointed out, was a wishful happiness – a happiness he wanted to be true, but wasn’t. Not when he was seven years old, nor in his current day. He was trying to live a false reality.

By avoiding his own traumatic experiences, Monk felt happy. But, as the other detectives and Natalie quickly realized, he wasn’t able to help them solve the crime. He still paid attention to the fine details and could sense when some things weren’t lining up, but because he was so focused on living his false reality, he couldn’t bring all the pieces together. In other words, without the painful reality of losing his wife, Monk wasn’t himself. Parts of his personality and abilities were still there, but only in brief glimpses. Without that trauma, Monk wasn’t whole. Monk was a pretend version of his seven-year-old self in a middle-aged body.

No, this isn’t my way of explaining why bad things happen to good people. Instead, I’m saying if/when that bad stuff happens, it becomes a part of who we are. We can run from it and play in whatever imaginary world we want to, but until we embrace that pain and thereby acknowledge reality, we will never be whole. We will never be able to do what we were meant to.

Our pain, as terrible and unjust as it is or was, is a part of who we are. It isn’t the whole of us or even the most important, but without it – without dealing with it and accepting the scars – we aren’t complete. Whatever we might do from that point forward depends on what we do with what’s happened to us – even if it’s something we may have caused.

Monk eventually came back to reality. Oddly enough, he did so when the murderer pointed out to him that he had been chewing a piece of gum that had been on someone’s shoe. But, nevertheless, he abandoned the false, “happy” reality and accepted the painful one. When that happened, he was able to piece things together and solve the case.

“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” – Luke 22:41-44

Jesus was so petrified of what he would eventually experience that he begged God to remove it from him. Yet, by deferring his will to God’s, he enabled himself to achieve that which he was meant to: lay down his life for the sake his friends so God could raise him up. Had he pursued the route everyone else wanted him to take, he would have pursued an imaginary one – one that would allow neither him, nor God to do what they were meant to: rescue creation.

Whether we’re solving crimes or telling our kids a nine-year story of how we met their mother, we will never be complete without addressing our own trauma. Some experience more traumatic things than others, but we all experience something that hurts – be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Until we acknowledge that pain, we will be chasing after false realities.

May we all face our hurt and let God help us through it.

God bless.

“Biblioblogging” through Seminary…

Something interesting happened on Thursday night during my Old Testament 1 class. We had just finished our last ten minute break (it’s a three hour class) and were each given a copy of a blog post.

Yup.

A blog post.

In a graduate-level seminary class.

Who wrote the post?

Peter Enns.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve become a big fan of Enns’ work. Whether or not one agrees with him, he at least has the courage to be honest in his posts. But more than that, he’s engaging. He’s a biblical scholar who teaches at Eastern University in Pennsylvania and yet he regularly writes blog posts that, more often than not, relate his academic work and studies with his faith in Jesus.

We discussed what Dr. Enns wrote in his post, which can be found here, and toward the end of the discussion, my professor mentioned how there ought to be more professors (and by extension pastors and seminarians) blogging. Of course this is no problem for me; I love to blog. But what it does mean is that the purpose of this blog may shift slightly.

A scholar like Dr. Enns writing blogs might not seem ridiculous, but, for those of you still in college, how many of your professors blog? How many people do you know blog? Chances are, not a whole lot of people.

Of course, blogs vary in style and content. There are fashion blogs, food blogs, Star Trek blogs, and especially sports blogs. This small space on the Internet acts as our place of intellectual refuge where we can share our thoughts and opinions without ever interacting with anyone who might think or feel differently. One blog written by a prominent pastor here in the Northwest has all comments closed. No questions. No discussions. Peter Enns, however, not only has the comment section open; he replies to a lot of them.

It was a little over a year and a half ago when he wrote a particular blog that spoke to me in a way that I needed. I was still in the middle of dealing with Calvary’s closure and Enns’ post, of which I forget the title, went a long way to help. I remember commenting on it, thanking him for writing it, and then asking him which seminary in the Northwest he would recommend for further studies. Not only did he reply within the hour, but he recommended George Fox (where I’m currently studying).

What does all of this mean for my blog? It isn’t a fashion, food, Star Trek, or sports blog, although I do occasionally write something on each (maybe not fashion; my sense of fashion sort of speaks for itself). For the most part, it’s a blog where I share about my faith. But what it’ll have to become, at least for this seminary season (but hopefully beyond), is what’s called a “biblioblog.”

A biblioblog is a fun word to say. It’s also a blog wherein biblical studies (and anything related) are discussed. What I’ve admired the most about Peter Enns’ blog is that he doesn’t try to separate his faith from his academic work. In fact, much of his faith comes from his academic studies – not that he never goes to church and only resides in his office, but that it is thought-driven. As he dives deeper into his study of the Scriptures, he draws closer to God.

My walk with God operates in a very similar fashion. If the doctrine of inerrancy hadn’t caused such a stir for Calvary Fellowship several years ago, then I don’t imagine my faith in God would have delved very deeply. In fact, I don’t know if I’d still be much of a believer. I’m sure I’d still be attending church and listening to sermons and Christian songs. But there wouldn’t be much beyond that. My “faith” would become like the seed that fell on rocky ground; it grew up quickly, but withered away when trouble came (Matt. 13:20-22).

In essence, I hope to share my thoughts and feelings as I draw closer to God by way of study. So as I work through my classes (“Indigenous Spirituality,” “Knowing Self, Knowing God,” “Introduction to Biblical Hebrew,” and “Old Testament 1”) I hope to share how God’s working through it all. What I really hope for, though, is to a create an online space of discussion where questions are asked and faith is shared.

I may not post as often as I would like  or really with any consistency (school and work come first). And I may write something you disagree with. But that’s a major part of this blog: To discuss faith in Jesus.

As the Road to Emmaus story (Luke 24:13-27) shows us, faith in God is every bit of an intellectual journey as it is a physical, emotional, and spiritual one. The tough part is to keep walking.

God bless.

“It’s the little things…”

“If you do this, you’re going to keep doing it.”

Minutes ago, I canceled my Netflix membership. I know that it won’t take much to start it back up, but with my first day of classes at George Fox Evangelical Seminary coming up, I figured it’d help not to have immediate distractions. Between work and school, I won’t have much time to enjoy the shows I’ve enjoyed over the summer. I won’t have much time for anything.

I have a fear of responsibility. Okay, much of that “fear” is actually a habit of procrastination, but there is a portion of it that is fear. I’m not afraid of paying bills, showing up to work or school, or even keeping my room clean. I’m afraid of moving off to a city to attend seminary only to find that I’m not cut out for it.

There is no logical reasoning for this fear; my favorite professor recommended me for this school, a professor at George Fox awarded me six credits based upon my undergraduate work, and deep down I love a good challenge. But ever since I was a kid, despite receiving good grades, I always had this fear that I wasn’t smart enough. In a society that tended to value young men based upon their athletic abilities, I was afraid I wouldn’t measure up intellectually.

Over the years, though, this fear has almost dissipated entirely.

Almost.

It creeps up every now and then – especially when I’m faced with a subject I know nothing about.

And maybe we all have some degree of this kind of fear?

Maybe many of our athletic or extra-curricular achievements are really our efforts to compensate for what we think are our academic shortcomings?

I can’t answer for anyone else, but thinking through my scholastic history I can see plenty of times where I used sports, new clothes, or even my Lego creations to cover up areas where I believed I was less than intelligent in. I can recall plenty of times where I was afraid someone might think of me as stupid.

Obviously this fear of mine has less to do with my level of intelligence and more to do with my image problem. Thankfully enough, we talked about hypocrisy last night.

“We” being a few members of Emmaus Life meeting at Scott’s place for our Villages group – it’s kind of like a Bible study. Scott had us read through Luke 12:1-12 and we discussed various verses we liked, didn’t like, or didn’t understand. We ended the night by talking about an application from the passage (and by eating ice cream).

What stood out to me were Jesus’ words in the opening passage of chapter 12:

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” (vv. 1-3)

My immediate reaction was not to think about the things I’ve said when no one else is around, but rather what I’ve thought. People can sometimes guess what you’re thinking, but more often than not, they have no clue. So if you’re thinking about how funny looking they are, they won’t have a clue (of course, they could be thinking of how funny looking you are). Yet what Scott pointed out was the importance of context: What did Jesus say before verses 2 and 3?

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

Jesus was warning his disciples about the Pharisees because they epitomized what it means to be afraid of how people view you. Jesus says the religious elite are making long prayers, taking the best seats in the synagogues, and always positioning themselves in places of power. And what is social power? Isn’t it entirely public opinion? Isn’t it entirely based upon how others see you?

Jesus is telling his disciples that what others think of them doesn’t matter. Instead what does matter is being a genuine person by simply being honest. Be honest when you mess up. Be honest when you don’t know something.

Be honest.

Plain and simple.

Obviously it’s not that simple – otherwise wouldn’t more people be honest? But what makes it so difficult? What hinders us from being honest? Maybe our friends will think less of us? Maybe our employers won’t think we’re capable? Maybe we experience every bit of social rejection there is to experience?

And that’s Jesus’ point.

“At the end of the day, what can man really do to me?” Scott asked us in rhetorical fashion last night. If, like the very next passage teaches us, we’re supposed to fear God because of His ability to cast us into hell, then why would we ever want to fear man? And yet Jesus says, “Fear not.”

Our reaction to God should be that of awe, yet not to the point of being terrified over everything we do because of what God might do to us. Why is that? God loves us. He cares enough for us to count the number of hairs on our head. If He knows how many hairs on our heads and has the ability to cast us into hell, then why hasn’t He? If we’re truly honest with ourselves, we know that we deserve something much less than heaven.

God keeps us around not for His own personal gain, but for every bit of our own gain. God is delighted in the act of giving, especially to those of us who cannot do anything by our own power, which includes all of us because we can’t make our own hearts beat or our lungs breathe. And the lives we’ve been given are watered down and stifled by our fear of anything other than God – in a word, hypocrisy. After all, isn’t hypocrisy merely a reflection of our fear of social rejection?

How do we stop it, then?

Jon Derby, a member of Emmaus Life and someone I’ve known for about a decade, gave us a wonderful piece of insight last night. He said that it’s the little things we do that change how we live and who we become. A little fib here, a little misrepresentation there and all of a sudden we have people believing we’re someone other than our actual selves. As Paul says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump,” (Gal. 5:9).

Yet Jon – or as we call him, “Derb” – said it’s the same thing to counter our bad habits: the little things. When we encounter those moments where we have a choice to act in a way that reflects God or act in a way that reflects an image we want for ourselves, if we choose God’s way, little by little, we’ll have the habit of choosing God’s way more often than not.

In last week’s episode of Suits a scene came up that was also brought up in last night’s discussion on hypocrisy. It was a flashback to when Harvey Specter and Donna Paulsen were working at the District Attorney’s office. They were talking about how Harvey’s boss made him bury evidence that might have set two criminals free (burying evidence is against the law):

“Now why don’t you tell me why you didn’t tell me?” (Donna)

“Because you hated me when I was working in the gray; this is the black.” (Harvey)

“I didn’t hate you; I was trying to stop you… If you do this, you’re going to keep doing it.”

What Donna told Harvey that day saved his entire career as an attorney. And all she advised him to do was not to do this once. Not even once. Since that day, Harvey Specter developed a sterling reputation as an undefeated lawyer. If we make up our minds not to do the sinful things once – not even once – and to do the God things instead, imagine what kind of lives we’ll be living.

At the end of the day, we may not have very many friends, a job, or really anything when we choose to act out God’s ways in the little things. But we’ll have a much easier time standing before Him attesting for all the things we did and didn’t do. And we’ll have Jesus to back us up.

“And wisdom will honor everyone who will learn,

To listen, to love, and to pray and discern,

And to do the right thing even when it burns

And to live in the light through treacherous turns.” – Josh Garrels, “Beyond the Blue”

God bless.

Worry’s Wound…

On this coming Friday, I’ll be driving up to Portland for orientation at George Fox Evangelical Seminary. When I had my interview with George Fox back in June, August 23rd was the date they told us to remember because it’s the mandatory orientation: It’s where we get registered for our classes. So, I put it in the back of my mind and made sure I requested for that day off from work. Ever since then I had thought of it as something “down the road” and I told myself that “I haven’t crossed that bridge yet.” Well, I’m at that bridge on that part of the road.

Realizing that your life is about to dramatically change oftentimes has an overwhelming weight to it. When I moved down to Eugene for college seven years ago, the weight of the realization felt a bit lighter. I had no debt, no car pay off (insurance included), and the University had a place for me to live. None of those things happened this time around, which changed the dynamic of the weight to this realization. Instead of nothing but delighted excitement, I often have bouts with worry.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m more than excited about exploring Portland one day at a time, experiencing a new school, and studying subjects that I actually care about. But underneath that excitement is a heavy sense of anxiety trying to bind me to fear – fear of bankruptcy, disease, and endless vehicular mishaps. I fear I won’t be able to make payments on my car, that I’ll develop some type of cancer, and that I’ll never find a car that doesn’t break down within 30 days of driving it (quite a legitimate fear, given my recent experiences). And while I’m planning on how to cross bridges that aren’t even in my eye-sight, God is waiting for me to cross the bridges right before me.

As I’ve written about earlier, I have friendships to invest in while I’m still here in Eugene. And when I wrap my mind around things that may never even happen, I can’t invest in those friendships. Those are the bridges before me; how to leave my church family, friends, and coworkers that live here in Eugene in such a way that when we see each other again some days, months, or years down the road, it’ll be as though I had never left. Such a bridge requires every bit of my attention. And yet I’ve been concerned with what lies ahead.

On Monday evening, my Villages group (through Emmaus Life) got together again. Instead of doing a barbecue, we read a passage of Scripture. And of course, just as these worries about months and years from now were raging through my mind and heart, we were reading through Luke 12:22-34, where Jesus tells us to “Seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to [us].” But what does He mean here, exactly?

We touched on it on Monday, but what Jesus is really getting at here has less to do with material possessions and more to do with living with the peace of God’s provision. As Americans, we often hear a different message from Jesus’ words. When He says that God will provide for us, we start thinking of cars, houses, computers, or jet skis because, as we often say to ourselves to justify buying things, we’ve earned it. We’re entitled to it. God’s just the one making sure we get what we’re owed. Yet what we often don’t consider is that God is withholding what we are owed (death) and giving us what we could never earn on our own (life).

Here is where I’m floored. All my worries regarding my future revolve around the question “What am I going to do?” What am I going to do about my student loan debt? My car payments? My lack of health insurance? My grades? And while I begin to sweat and pull my hair out, Jesus is saying, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Touché, Jesus. Touché.

Jesus also says, after talking about “treasure in heaven,” that “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” (Luke 12:34). In the particular passage this verse is grouped in, I believe Jesus means these words in the positive sense – that He wants us to be consumed by the things of heaven; not the worries of earth. But I also think He wants us to focus so much on the positive sense because He knows the negative sense – that if our “treasure” is in the material possessions, money, and notoriety, then our hearts will sadly be there as well. We cannot have peace in God if we’re not even paying attention to Him.

Last Monday’s discussion about this passage also brought something else to light, something about God’s desire. We often treat this passage or the similar passage in Matthew as if Jesus is simply saying, “God provides.” Yet, as my pastor Scott pointed out, we don’t let the weight of verse 32 hit us: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

We often pour so much blood, sweat, and tears into our careers, families, and personal well-beings only to realize we can’t create a world in which nothing goes wrong. And every time our efforts fail we wonder where God was and why He didn’t provide. Turns out He’s waiting for us to turn around. He’s waiting to give us a robe, ring, and the fattened calf – every symbol that defines us as heirs to His kingdom. He doesn’t want to provide for us so that we flourish in this life; He wants to provide for us so that we flourish beyond this earthly stage of life.

Again, it’s less about things that fade away and more about things that last. And what lasts is His life – it defeated our death. He wants us to have His life so that we need not worry about death. And if we don’t need to worry about that, then what good are we doing by worrying about money, possessions, and how long we live?

No, I’m not saying we should neglect our finances, possessions, and health; God wants us to take responsibility for what we’re given. But He does not want us to worry about it. After all, He gave it to us, so He most certainly could take it away. And if we’re wrapped up with His Life and filled with the peace that comes with it, then why should we ever be bothered if or when He takes back what He’s given? It’s His already; we’re just caretakers.

Worry’s wound is a belief in a lie; that we’re able to make our own heavens and be our own gods. Yet none of us can live longer by anything we do. We might be the healthiest person in the world one day and die of an aneurism the next. So, what we actually should be focused on is stewarding what we’ve been given until we’re asked to give it back. And if what we treasure in what we’ve been given is the Life God freely and richly supplies, then we should have no problem in giving it back.

When Jesus tells us “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” He’s not just teaching His followers to have treasures in heaven; He’s telling us about where God’s treasure and heart are: us. Jesus is telling us that God risked everything for us because He loves us that much.

God bless.

Cost of Contact…

Several weeks ago, we were hanging out at Scott and Charissa’s place for our Villages group. We had just finished working through an eight week devotional, The Tangible Kingdom Primer (highly recommend it if you’re looking for a challenge), and Scott wanted to introduce his discipleship training program that he had worked on several months ago.

Initially, we are being trained in learning the model he’s laid out for us. Eventually, though, we’ll be trained to train others; as disciples and disciplers (not a word, I know – just roll with it). For now, though, we’re learning a simple way to approach and engage the people around us in an intentional and meaningful way.

Like in college, it’s all about the C’s. Scott’s model is broken down to four C’s: Contact, Connect, Close to Christ, and Christ-like (that fourth one may be something else; can’t remember exactly – sorry Scott). Where he started with the “Contact” is where my mind and heart have been for the past few weeks.

In John 4 we come across a rather controversial story. Jesus talks with a woman at the well of Jacob, which, as Scott pointed out to us, was a commonplace for gossip and the talk of the town. Notice that the woman came to the well when she thought no one would be there. Why might this be? It’s quite possible she was avoiding public ridicule.

As we come to find out in verse 18, she had had five husbands and the man she was staying with wasn’t one of them. In ancient times, she would have been a social outcast, regarded much like prostitutes. Something as simple as drawing water from the well could be utterly humiliating. “Sir, give me this water,” she tells Jesus, “so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water,” (4:15).

Scott highlighted this story as a prime example of making contact with someone else. Jesus asked for a drink of water and talked with her for a little bit. And look how dramatically her life was changed by a simple, single conversation. Yet what happened after that encounter is what moved me.

I am oftentimes moved more by the human reactions of others rather than the divine actions of Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, what Jesus does and says throughout Scripture is profound and I wish to exemplify them in every way. But I relate much more closely to the people who react around Him because, like them, I am far from perfect.

After talking with Jesus, the woman goes into her hometown and tells everyone about Him. She says, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (4:29). She went to the people who gossiped about her and slandered her name and told them they were right. She used the fodder for their gossip, her testimony, to tell them about Jesus. When it comes to making contact with other people – especially when we’re telling them about Jesus – there is a cost.

Granted, much of this is speculation. The text itself does not say that her town gossiped about her, but these speculations aren’t arbitrary. People gossip, especially in small towns. What kills gossip? Truth. And yet instead of attempting to deny what they said, she used it to talk about Jesus. She spent much because, in a short conversation with the Man, she received much.

“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did,’” (4:39).

In one chat with a woman at the well, the entire town comes to know Jesus. Jesus showed us that contact can be as easy as asking for some water. The Samaritan woman, however, showed us that contact can be extremely costly. And yet I think Jesus looks at this woman proudly; I think He sees what she did – that she humbled herself before her neighbors in order to tell them about Him. If she hadn’t, would the town ever have known that Jesus had come by?

I don’t intend to imply that we should share are deepest, darkest secrets when making contact with people. What I am saying, though, is that we ought to consider how far we are willing to go – are we really willing, if the opportunity presents itself, to share something about ourselves that not everyone knows just so someone new can experience Jesus? It’s a nerve-wracking question, but what does it mean to bear one’s cross?

Count the cost, Jesus says (Luke 14:33). Are the lives of others worth more than your pride? If I’m really trying to follow Jesus, then I’m going to answer “Yes,” even if I don’t want to.

God bless.