Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Love...the Law...the Order

Year 4-Day 31: Today, I am grateful for for those in leadership who serve with love...under the law...and keep the order. 

Our world needs leaders with upstanding character and integrity. There are many places to serve. How often do we consider if we are serving where we are called to serve? How often are we placed in positions, by God's design and not our own, and find our sweet spot for service in unlikely places.  Living a life full of gratitude and thanksgiving fills us with a contentment that money and power cannot sustain. Money can provide moments of pleasure...but they cannot sustain peace. "No God, no peace. Know God, know peace."

Jesus, too, was born into turbulent times.  The Romans were in control. Not all were bad people.  Not all were good. 

At least 7 times, Centurions were mentioned in the New Testament. Each reference indicates that they are men of honor. In one recorded miracle, a Roman Centurion is involved.  Many Jews felt they had every reason to hate the Romans...especially the soldiers. They were all gentiles. They had experienced mistreatment and injustice. Still, as in every group of people, there are honorable men and women who want to do the right thing. Some do, even when it appears they might not.  

I love this passage from Matthew 8:5-13. Luke 7 records it, too, but Matthew (the former tax collector) records some details Luke (the physician) did not. Jesus calls to attention the faith of a Roman Centurion...and states that no one in Israel has displayed such faith.  Really?  His disciples are mostly Jews who believe.  Is it true that this Centurion's faith is bigger? 

I had to look a little closer at this passage.  

"When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 

This soldier led men. Commanded men. He carried a sword. He, also, answered to Pilate and other authority figures in government. He understood rank and order...he lived it daily. He understood that his decisions could impact those under his authority.  In fact, while others were pressing in on Jesus with their constant request for His time and His healing hands...this Centurion came humbly to his superior.

But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant,[c] ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 

He recognized the commanding Lordship of Christ. Wow!  Top ranking officers are approached with respect and requests. Persons of lower rank know that the answer might not always be the one they want. One request can impact many. This man understood Christ's authority, not just to heal but his divinity. He believed.  He was sincere in his faith and unusual in his understanding of addressing his Lord. Yes, he saw Jesus as "Lord and King" when others were seeing miracle worker. He had the whole picture others were missing.  

People mattered to this soldier. Action with honor and keeping order meant keeping people safe. Not an easy job. He,  likely,  encountered all kinds of corruption that goes with government. His request for Jesus to heal was noted because a slave no longer able to served due to illness could, under the Roman law, be put to death. This man obviously cared for the human...the relationship...the man...and was courageous enough to put love first. 

This soldier was pleading and appealing for the Lord to save someone that society and law considered disposable. He knew it put Jesus in an awkward position to ask him to the home of a Gentile.  He was not familiar enough with Jesus to know he didn't care about "what people might say". Still, he didn't ask anything of Jesus that would put him in more trouble with the Jews or the Gentiles.  This soldier seemed to grasp that "in Christ there is not East or West" and His power and love were for all who would choose to receive him.  

Perhaps, the ill slave was a believer in Jesus and had introduced him to Jesus.Perhaps the servant was loved but not a believer and the Centurion was desperate to prove Christ was who he believed him to be.  We don't know. I love to wonder at the rest of the story. 

Still...this sick servant mattered to the Centurion, enough to bring his concern to the feet of Jesus.He knew that it would only take a word from the lips of Jesus to breathe health back into the life of this man.  What faith and courage he displayed. Look what Jesus said next:    

" When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment." 

He said "Go"...the same way he would in later chapters...send out his disciples and other believers.  To carry the knowledge of who Christ is to those he encountered.  

Jesus did not instruct him to change careers.  He did not question his service to his country and the land he called home. I believe, he had need for him, right where he was.He could use him...his belief and integrity...where it was desperately needed. Among the leaders, among the gentiles who served under him and to all the places he was sent.  Another centurion at the foot of the cross, another man of character, declared "Truly, this man was the Son of God."  

Today, I am grateful for for those in leadership who serve with love...under the law...and keep the order. 


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