"Coping Techniques" vs "Living Life Abundantly"
Matthew 6:31-34 (New American Standard Bible)
31"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' 32For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. "
Religion is so often about all the ways we try to cope with the realities of our lives and with the realities of the coping techniques of the people around us. It takes courage to move past the "accumulated wisdom" of all of those before us and of all of those around us, and risk being wrong with all those real consequences, or to risk alienating oneself from those one loves. But real religion does take that risk.
Real religion is fixed on Jesus and His kingdom and His righteousness, which is rooted in the realities of life that emerge as we are willing to be honest about reality. It is in the context of the real world that we can experience the real God and His real abundant life. When we submit to each other in love, we nurture that reality . . . but when we submit to each other out of a fear of each other that is greater than our fear of God and of our fear of living in anything other than His kingdom rooted in reality, we give up the things He eagerly desires to give to us, and we also give up the opportunity to be used in powerful ways in the lives of those we so greatly fear.
It does take guts to step out based on what I see and feel when others tell me in many ways to just keep quiet and stay in line. By 43 I have enough experience with both alternatives to have gained a greater fear of ignoring reality as it appears to me than of being rejected or penalized by those who want so badly to control and manage reality.
I love Paul's writings to the churches at Corinth and Galatia and Colossae. In them we get a glimpse of what it was like to live out agape love for each other together as Christ's disciples in the real world of cultures that clashed and consciences that differed. That is what we still are called to do!
I live in a world where I don't worry all that much about adequate clothes or food or the basic provisions for life. But I do worry about people and their willingness to walk with me as I want to walk with them. So "seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness" and "don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow has enough trouble of its own" is a different call to me than to those in much of history and much of the world. To me it says this: let your religion be lived out in community, but your obedience be personal and intimate, not communal. I call you to follow me, and that means obedience even with your take on obedience isn't supported by others. Sometimes you'll have consequences for that, but the consequences will be the right ones in my plan. The consequences of ignoring what I show you and pursuing the love and acceptance of others will be total loss -- loss of my abundant life, loss of the authentic love of your community, and loss of what I would do through you for them."
So I am walking on, learning . . .
Sometimes "submit ye one to another" means a simple submission to the reality of who I am and who they are, and a decision to walk on in the way Jesus calls me to walk on, even at their displeasure or punishment or threats. Real agape always is rooted in a submission to reality as God created it and as daily life increasingly reveals it.