What Do We Stress?

Wednesday night we spent some time discussing our tendency to play religious games while missing the whole point of discipleship. We looked at Mark 12 and how the Jewish religious leaders tried to "game" Jesus into saying something they could use against him. They sent a combined delegation of Pharisees and Herodians to ask him about paying taxes so that no matter what answer Jesus gave, half the crowd would be angered. Then some Sadducees asked him about the resurrection, using a concocted hypothetical story that had probably been stumping the Pharisees for years. Finally, a legal expert stepped up and asked Jesus a question about the law. The point we might miss is that these expert religious practitioners were playing games of trivia pursuit after already deciding to kill Jesus (Mark 3:6, 12:12). Playing religious games while missing the whole point of religion-- literally missing God Himself!

Do we play religious games today while missing the point of discipleship? Well, there are some things that we do seem to emphasize much more than does God. For example, while the New Testament talks about "the assembly" of Christians, the details are never really fleshed out with any detail at all. But that's OK because we are more than willing to supply the details. Think about all that has been said and written (and shouted) about the right style, form and format of church music when the New Testament barely has enough material on music to make a good paragraph. We seem to be much more interested in how we do worship than God is.

On the other hand, God seems so obviously interested in some things to which the church barely gives lip-service. How much does the Bible say about unity, peace and harmony among believers? But then we'd rather fight over church music!

God goes to great lengths to emphasize unity. Look at the rather unique imagery of Psalm 133 (today's daily Bible reading) where David extols the the beauty of fellowship and unity. He affirms that it is good and pleasant when God’s family lives together in peace and harmony. This little Psalm is dripping (pun intended) with metaphors that emphasize this message of harmony. There are two types of anointing here that stress the sweetness of unity:

  • Anointing of the Priest. Here the oil runs down Aaron’s beard and onto the collar his robe, joining the priest and the priestly robe. Though the sweetness of the oil isn't specifically mentioned, that seems to be the imagery here.

  • Anointing of the Mountain. Here the dew of Mt. Hermon, the highest of the mountains in Palestine and one known for its moisture, falls on (and thus anoints) little Mt. Zion, the hill upon which Jerusalem sits. So the two mountains are joined by the anointing.

Maybe the focus of the Psalm is seen in the second couplet of verse 3,  “For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” It is God who takes the initiative to make unity possible. It is on Mt. Zion, at the Temple, in the presence of God that this blessing of unity is given. This sweetness of harmony is not possible when based solely on human power alone. Just think about how well people get along today in the region of Mt. Hermon and Mt. Zion! It was God who made unity possible in Israel. It is God who makes unity possible today. And that is Paul’s point in Ephesians 2:17—

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.

Not only does God demand unity, He is working to bring it about in us. If we keep ourselves close to Him, then we will also stay close to all others who are seeking Him. When we come closer to the cross, we also come closer to each other! That’s why unity is no optional extra for those seeking the face of God. The closer you get to Him, the more you bump into to others seeking to get close to Him as well!