“Don’t be afraid.” That sounds absurd, doesn’t it? But Jesus said this all the time––it was one of his favorite commands for his followers. Is it even possible though? We all try and want this to be true of us, but life is all kinds of scary. That said, it’s unlikely Jesus would have said it if it weren’t possible. And one day, Jesus would make sure we knew that.
When you hear the word “commandments,” what comes to mind? For most people it’s probably a number: 10. Even if you haven’t been to church in a long time, you remember hearing about The Ten Commandments at an early age. And while they, and the other 600+ commands in the Old Testament are important, seeing the connection to Jesus and the New Testament can prove difficult. Is there any connection at all? What does the Old Testament have to do with us today? The answer may seem complicated, but it’s simpler than you think.
Ding! Another notification comes through on your phone, reminding you of the appointment that starts in fifteen minutes. Helpful? Yes. Harmful? Yes, too. Because for the next fifteen minutes, what are you thinking about? It’s probably not the person or task that’s right in front of you. This plays out on a much larger scale in almost every facet of our lives...and we…are...tired. In the City on a Hill however, tomorrow can wait. Not because we don’t care, but because we know who’s there.
“They’re so spiritual.” “They’re so deep.” Many of us long for words like those to be said of us. We’re hungry for that sort of recognition and appreciation. The trouble is that someone someday is going to out-spiritualize us and steal our glory, leaving us with a hollow and longing feeling inside. In the City on a Hill, though, there’s a deeper reward; a longer lasting reward. It just doesn’t come from the other people in town…
It’s a common assumption that anyone without enemies must have defeated all of them. They proved their value by winning. This assumption is baked into our sports, our movies, and even our churches. In the City on a Hill however, there are no enemies. Not because they’re defeated, but because they’re loved. And when an enemy is loved like a neighbor, it changes them... and you.
Play fair. That’s what we all grew up believing was the cardinal rule of friendship and citizenship. What’s interesting then, is that the play is irrelevant...it’s all about fair. So if they’re nice, you’re nice. If they’re mean, you’re mean. As long as everything is even, everything is excusable. In the City on a Hill however, the rules of friendship and citizenship are a little different. And fair? Not really part of the equation.
The accent gives it away. If it doesn’t reveal where you’re from, it at least shows that you’re not from “here.” It really has nothing to do with what you say, just how you say it. And for most, that’s okay. We have a sense of pride when it comes to our hometown. We might wear a t-shirt or hang a flag to make sure everyone knows it. How about when it comes to your faith though? Does the world know where you come from? Where you live? Do you represent your city?
We might spend all our lives trying to be like the families we see on television. We try to mimic their practices, their relationships and their way of life. And for most of that life we’ll be frustrated because those families are fictitious and literally live in a fairytale world. The good news is there’s a model out their that if followed well, makes for an unbelievable family dynamic. The challenge is in how to get a group of people to imitate just one.
Valuing the idea of family and doing family well do not always go hand-in-hand do they? Most people will say they think family is important and good, but those same people may struggle with how they’re actually supposed to get their family to live up to the hype. Regardless of the components that make your family up, how are you supposed to function? What makes a family thrive?
If you’ve ever wished you came from a different family tree, you’re certainly not alone. And if you’ve ever found yourself feeling abandoned, unloved and hurt by the people in that tree, you don’t have to stay there. You may not be able to change your biology, but you can redefine your family. Change the definition and suddenly the “who” in your family might look drastically different.