Messianic Jewish Community (Part 2 in a series)
In this continuing series about the development of the messianic communities, I want to consider two problems (there are many) we have in such development. One of the preventions to community is the stain of bad relationships. A believer in the US wrote me on Facebook yesterday, “It seems here in (city) to be too many communities starting their own small groups, and no one wanting to reach out to the other groups because they have been offended or taken a grudge about someone or something. I hope yours is successful!” We might call these problems Offended Brothers and New Works. We’ll look at the first one today and the second tomorrow.
The Bible says, “a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong (fortified) city.” (Prov 18.19). And the verse continues, “And contentions are like the bars of a castle.” A castle is a fortress, usually high on a hill, and the bars make the castle that much more impenetrable. So Solomon is saying that an offended brother is doubly difficult (think exponential, not arithmetic) to conquer, to win, to impress, to sit with. Contentiousness is defined in many arenas. In the IT world, we have three types (there could be more). First, the contention ratio which is competition that applies specifically to the number of people connected to an ISP who share a set amount of bandwidth. There is also lock contention which is a computer science term, in which a mutual exclusion lock reduces the throughput by hindering the concurrency of a program. Finally, in design, there is bus contention, where multiple devices on a computer bus attempt to use it at the same time. All up, there is one clear meaning, that is, there is a limited space and a limited access, and sometimes things vie for the use along with others. Those competitive battles are the bars of a castle.
Applying those outside IT to our real world, contention is a deep feeling. Consider the phrase “Bone of contention.” I think it’s likely first used by Homer in The Iliad in a conversation between Jove and Juno. There “the gods were sitting with Jove in council.” Then the son of Saturn stirred Juno saying, “shall we set them fighting anew or make peace between them? If you will agree to this last Menelaus can take back Helen and the city of Priam may remain still inhabited."
Homer records, “Minerva and Juno muttered their discontent as they sat side by side hatching mischief for the Trojans.” Finally Juno was really angry and replied, “Will nothing do for you but you must within their walls and eat Priam raw, with his sons and all the other Trojans to boot? Have it your own way then; for I would not have this matter become a bone of contention between us. I say further,…” The bone of contention was what some call the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” This is the final annoyance. This is the ultimate. It may not even be the biggest bother, but it’s a bother, and it’s the last one I’m going to take.
That sounds to me like what makes someone walk away from brothers. Contention is the word that describes the ‘battle’ between Abraham’s workers and Lot’s workers. It’s recorded in Genesis 13. They both had much livestock and plenty of room, but they wanted similar turf, so Abraham said, “Please let there be no strife (Meribah) between us.”.. You choose one direction, and I’ll go the other. Seemed fair. Abraham wanted peace and relationships in the family, not strife. That’s healthy and cost Abraham the First choice. And that’s the way it’s going to have to be if we are going to have peace in the Messianic Family also.
Do a search on ‘strife’ in the Bible concordance and you will find verses that remind you of your own sin. Or at least of my sins.
For instance, there “are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him.” So right away if you are serious about following God, you don’t want to do any of these, and the summary (the 7th) is the worst of all. Here they are: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers. (Prov. 6.16-19). The final is the summary of the rest. The apostle of strife is the worst, the one that God hates. Get it?
So, a person says, “I would join your community, but don’t you know I’ve had bad experiences in the past?” A brother offended is harder to be won that a barred castle. They have copped strife. They have been talked about and ridiculed behind their back. Some who probably are not even alive or certainly are not walking with the Lord are guilty of the bad-mouthing, yet the offended brother is not willing to try again.
This is a mistake and must be avoided.
I know; it’s hard to tell yourself that ‘next time will be different’ when you know the nature of man. But God wants us together and that means it will cost you. Again. I’m sorry. You have to keep trying. I have to keep trying. We need offended brothers and sisters as much as the ones who have not found out about that yet.
My Facebook friend said, “they have been offended or taken a grudge about someone or something.” The choice of being offended is yours. The choice of harboring a grudge is yours. The people against whom you held the grudge may be long gone. “Never harbor grudges; they sour your stomach and do no harm to anyone else.” (a quote by Robertson Davies.
Whoever Robertson Davies is I’m glad for his quote from the internet. It’s wisdom, to be sure. The grudge holder is the only one who really gets harm from this. Leviticus 19.18 (the year WW1 ended) says, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.”
Who’s with me?
Who’s with Moses?
Who’s with God on that one?