Uniquely Exclusive

uniquely elite

Acts 22:22 They listened to him up to this word. Then they raised their voices, shouting, “Wipe this person off the earth — it’s a disgrace for him to live! ”

Access to God for all doesn’t devalue personal uniqueness for the one.

With the help of several different people, I’ve finished a mentoring tool called Life Deck.  One of the Life categories in the Deck includes Economics and I pose the question, “If you had the last apple seed on earth, how much do you think it would be worth?” Consider that!  A very limited supply of a high demand product increases its value greatly.  Imagine you’re the owner of that seed.  World leaders, Ivy League universities, highly esteemed scientific institutes, not to mention every farmer would be knocking your door down to make an offer. What wealth and power you would hold in the palm of your hand!

The Bible tells us it was for envy that the Jews crucified Jesus.  Until He came, they controlled a commodity limited to a specific people.  It’s designation to the Jews and more specifically to the Jewish leaders created an elite group who had access to something of great value; God. When Christ arrived on the scene and offered access to God, once and for all, the Jews were maddened!  It was as if someone pulled up in your port with a freight-liner full of apple seeds.  Suddenly, the power and wealth you had in your hand is no longer revered as something invaluable.  A strange envy struck the hearts of the Pharisees and they crucified the Captain of that freight-liner with an intent to then sink the ship.

They couldn’t do it.

In this passage, Paul is addressing his people.  Although an angry mob, he settles them, capturing their attention in Hebrew. He shares his testimony, his encounter with the Messiah on the road to Damascus, the bright light that blinded him.  They’re all listening.  From their perspective, Paul, once a zealot for the Jewish-led persecution of Christians, seems full of a new light and passion. I wonder as he continued sharing the miraculous restoration of his vision at Ananias’ hand, did some in the crowd wonder if this new power might be for them? Could this transformed life be the next evolutionary phase for the exclusive seed they’d held in their hands since Abraham?

Paul wrecks that hope.

In verse 21, he’s clear. The apple seed is for everyone. The next verse? “They listened to him up to this word.”  The mob reverted, “Sink the ship!”

Really? Does access to God for all make the access less valuable? Basic economics would say so. But consider it this way:

All the world has headphones and music is piped in. Every person’s music is limited to percussion instruments. Pianos, drums, xylophones, and the like.  That’s it.  No strings, no horns, nothing synthesized. But yours are different. You’re the only one who has access to the full gamut. Your headphones are the only ones on earth that give the full range of music.  What you hear, no one else hears. It’s exclusively yours.  Back to that apple seed analogy, right?  The value of your headphones is through the roof.  Then, Pandora shows up with some cool app that transforms everyone’s headphones to be just like yours. Suddenly the uniqueness and value of your set bottoms out.

Now imagine you’re walking down the street listening to that Mozart score that used to jazz you up, except now your head is dropped, you’re directionless and apathetic, knowing that what you’re listening to – it’s nothing unique.

Then suddenly there’s a voice that comes in through the earpieces.  It’s one you’ve never heard before and the most shocking aspect is that it speaks your name.  The voice begins to talk with you about things of your past, times you had forgotten, issues of your heart you could never fully understand and reveals aspects of your future you’ve never even considered.  A stranger passes you and in the shock of the moment, you grab him by the shoulder, startling him.  He takes off his headphones.

“Whoa man! What the heck!”

“Sorry, sorry. I just started hearing a voice through my headphones and it said my name and told me…” You share the details of what you heard with this stranger before asking, “Do you hear the same thing in your headphones?” 

“No. Nothing like that. I hear my name, not yours. And the other things you mentioned? They don’t sound like anything I hear.  That’s incredibly unique.

You put your buds back in and bebop down the street with a new energy, realizing no one else has headphones like yours.  And as the Voice continues to dialogue with you, you realize there’s no amount that could ever be offered to cause you to give them up.

The Voice confirms it. You’re one of a kind, specially crafted, invaluable.

Access to God for all doesn’t devalue personal uniqueness for the one. That’s the beauty of a personal relationship with an omnipresent God; it’s priceless for every one even if everyone has it.

Uniquely exclusive.

 

 

 

Religious Freedom

religous freedom

Acts 21:26 Then the next day, Paul took the men, having purified himself along with them, and entered the temple, announcing the completion of the purification days when the offering for each of them would be made.

…whatever portion of life that is bound to some master, it is a portion that cannot be laid down for the sake of another.

Recently, my wife and I were in a catholic ceremony. What a difference from the typical protestant gathering we’re used to! Smoking incense, candles, holy water and a lot of kneeling reminded me I was really out of my element.  Then, communion time came.  As non-catholic protestants, we were instructed to simply come to the front and cross our hands over our chests to signal the priest to give a blessing rather than the bread and cup. The thoughts that raced through my mind were things like “Why should I? I’m a Christian, too! Never! I’m not going up there!” Truthfully, the relative legalism offended my carnal nature.  But if I’m really free from the law, should it have?

Paul had already made clear that he was free from the law, but in Acts 21 he adheres to it “to win the more.” Did he compromise principle in doing so? No. Compromising principle is to sin in one’s heart and for the one who is free from the law, there is no sin in freely adhering to it. How, in this new covenant in which all things are lawful (1 Cor 6:12) could the law be unlawful? How in this new covenant in which all things are lawful could worship with no instruments be unlawful? Or non-immersive baptism be unlawful? Or a kosher diet? Or for that matter, a protestant in a catholic ceremony?  If I am rigid that I will not do any of these things or any other practices that are not aligned with the new liberty in which I live, then my freedom has become dogma, a human tradition, an idol of sorts.  The sign of liberty idolized is its imposition on another by the one who claims to have it. But liberty can never be imposed. It can only be discovered. And only pride turns the discovery of liberty into dogma. Liberty is not to be worshiped nor imposed but discovered and embraced. It can never be enforced even in one’s own life for the mere posture of submission to liberty begins a process of altering its DNA, its essence, into law.

If we are not free to practice those things to which we are not bound, are we really free?

Now a discussion must be had concerning the connection between liberty and love for it is only in the fullness of liberty that we can choose to make ourselves slaves to men. If we are bound in any way, then we are not free and if we are not free, we are slaves to something and if slaves to one master then how free are we to choose another?  And if we willfully choose to become all things to only some men (but not those under the law), then we have certainly bound love by our own legalism!  So, the fullness of liberty becomes the power to love fully; for whatever portion of life that is bound to some master, it is a portion that cannot be laid down for the sake of another. Herein is revealed the mystery of the apparent paradox, “law of liberty” written twice by James. Both instances are in the context of love.  James is not arguing for liberty to be law any more than one standing under the sun expects to cast a white shadow.  No, his paradox is to bring attention to the religious reader that when law interferes with love, a new way must be sought. This new “law of liberty” is not a law at all, but rather the lawfulness of all things, the freedom of conscience from all guilt, shame, fear and everything else that is self. And there, in that place of absolute stark liberation, love abounds.

That’s the liberty that allowed us to approach the priest with our arms crossed over our chests.  That’s the liberty that worked in conjunction with our love for the Catholics who had invited us.

Those who tout they dawned upon liberty often make it a trophy showcased in spiritual pride, then justify it by demanding that everyone else have the same reward. But for those upon whom liberty dawned, they’re simply set free. There is no trophy, but only love.