Because life is a series of edits

Judged with Greater Strictness (gulp)

In Books, Calling, Education, Seminary on November 5, 2009 at 9:06 am

Leaders Journey “Rather than living a reflective life characterized by the classic spiritual disciplines, far too often we live a frantically busy life that occasionally has daily quiet time. As we try to get some control over all the things that pull at us, God is assigned to the ‘spiritual’ or ‘Sunday’ part of our lives, rather than permeating all that we do. Consider: Do you have a prayer life or a life of prayer? Occasions of fasting, or a lifestyle of fasting? Do you relegate Jesus to a quiet-time encounter early in the morning, or engage in a reflective lifestyle that seeks to know Jesus’ presence in every moment of the day?”
The Leader’s Journey, p. 11

One of the toughest challenges being a Bible teacher is this reminder from James 3:1: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” If there’s a verse that keeps me up late at night, it is this one.

Or is it? Let’s be honest: when was the last time I was actually up late fretting in holy fear over this Scripture passage? Or any Scripture passage? Based on my sleep habits (usually to bed around 9:45 and out as soon as my head hits the pillow), one might justifiably suggest that I’m not too bothered by the possibility of any stricter judgment to come. In fact, as one of my fellow teachers once concluded when he heard when and how I fall asleep, “You must have a clear conscience.” Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

Maybe it’s due to the subject matter (New Testament and Biblical Ethics) or the fact that I’m incredibly (unfortunately) gifted in “do as I say, not as I do” theology, the longer I teach, the more dangerous I see myself becoming as a teacher. My fear stems not from being a “bad” teacher theologically, nor from aspiring to be a “good” (or even “great”) teacher of the Scriptures. My fear is fooling everyone (including myself) into thinking that everything I teach is indeed everything I practice – precisely, particularly, perfectly. In my vocation as a Bible teacher, I worry as much about hypocrisy as I do hermeneutics, lest what I have learned and now teach as “truth” be possibly negated by not living all or any of it.

This feeling of hypocrisy – so graciously allowed by God’s Spirit to check me in the here and now – would seem to be part of that stricter judgment I normally reserve for a future date. Yet God is never content to let my inconsistent behavior go unaddressed and only (finally) to be judged at some cosmic Bema Seat; he is always at work by his Spirit (in conjunction with my conscience) to judge me in the present, that I may be made aware of my sin and repent.

Herrington, Creech, and Taylor write in their book, The Leader’s Journey, that “We often believe that the great difficulty in life is knowing the right thing to do. Sometimes it is. At other times, however, the difficult thing is simply having the inner resources to do what we believe is right.” (p. 17) I fully resonate with their statement, as so often the question for me is not what I am reading in the Bible, but if I’m reading enough so that the Bible can read me? Can I really address the subject of Sabbath with my students when my Sabbath is as subject to preference and schedule as theirs is? How is it my place to challenge my students on prayer when prayer has so little place in my own life? Once again, hypocrisy trumps hermeneutics.

The authors quote Dallas Willard in his book, The Divine Conspiracy, on “the futility of attempting to direct our lives by asking the question ‘What would Jesus do?’ when we are not practicing the spiritual disciplines that Jesus practiced regularly in his life. Attempting to ‘perform’ as Jesus did when we are under pressure to compromise only frustrates most of us.” (p. 23) Maybe the reason I so rarely ask the WWJD question is I so poorly practice the spiritual disciplines needed to discern any answer to it. Again, my conscience condemns me.

My only hope in all this is Jesus – the Great Teacher himself – who endured the strictest of judgments to be found righteous in what he taught and how he lived. Jesus did not practice “do as I say, not as I do” theology; no hypocrisy trumped his hermeneutics. It is this Teacher who calls and motivates me to teach, and it is this Teacher who must empower me if I am to do likewise.

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  1. I think I need to read this book. Your parents look great too. Hope you had a good visit with them.

  2. “Once again, hypocrisy trumps hermeneutics.”
    Yet grace triumphs over all.
    “My only hope in all this is Jesus – the Great Teacher himself – who endured the strictest of judgments to be found righteous in what he taught and how he lived. Jesus did not practice “do as I say, not as I do” theology; no hypocrisy trumped his hermeneutics. It is this Teacher who calls and motivates me to teach, and it is this Teacher who must empower me if I am to do likewise.”
    He endured that judgment for you, so He not only calls and motivates you, but He also protects you–from yourself, and from the Father’s wrath.

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