What are the concerns of God? What are the concerns of human beings? As we continue to work our way through Mark at SPL Church and look at the Spirit of Jesus “Inside Out,” I am struck by the poignancy of Mark 8:33. The sermon last Sunday laid the groundwork really well for this post. Jesus is telling of his coming death and resurrection, and Peter pulls him aside and “rebukes” him.
And Jesus replies with, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
How do we set our minds on divine things? What are the divine causes that we ought to set our minds on? A few verses in the Bible remind me of a bigger picture.
Micah 6:8, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This is a God-concern. In Matthew 22, Jesus describes the Greatest Commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…And Love your neighbour as yourself.” He even follows it up with, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” This is a God-sized matter. And finally, the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, where Jesus says to his disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Jesus provides a God-sized vision for what the disciple’s ministry will look like moving forward.
But as humans we often get caught up in the minutia of life. And, as humans, we inherently (and even to an extent biologically) want to know that we will be taken care of—some of this strikes at crucial core longings that God placed in our hearts, and other parts of it strike at the rampant narcissism of the first world. But as humans, we often get caught up in what Jesus calls “human things.”
This is a difficult topic, because nobody wants to admit when they have been caught up in human matters. If it’s something that does matter to us, then by definition, we have skin in the game and get heated about the outcome we want.
So, I am going to admit some of the human matters that I get caught up in and you can do it for yourself: 1-my husband throws his laundry at the hamper, not in the hamper. I don’t know how much time I have wasted trying to educate him on the necessity of this, but I still haven’t won.
2-What should I wear to church on Sunday? I know that people will not actually remember what I wear and probably don’t care at all what I wear (within reason), but I still spend invaluable time trying on outfits for Sunday. *In fairness, as a female pastor I do get comments about my hair and my shoes and the fit of my dress, but these are human matters that I allow myself to play into.
3-money: This one is a biggie! Money stress and concerns are some of the biggest arguments and conversations with many couples/families. Money causes stress in many forms: whether not having enough, or how to spend it wisely, or how to save, are high-stakes conversations. But often, they are at the level of human concerns.
And frankly, none of these three things are the greatest conversation. Sometimes I (maybe some of you can relate) allow myself to get all raveled up in these human concerns, as if they are the be-all and end-all of life, or of church, or of living out faith. Now some of these issues are connected with God’s concerns—like money; and some of them are totally unrelated—like hampers. Though I would like to say “cleanliness is next to godliness,” that is not actually in the Bible.
But we sometimes waste so much of our time on human concerns, that we miss opportunities to be living out God’s will in the world.
And one of the result of this is disengagement and cynicism on the part of unbelievers, who see believers wasting their time arguing over petty issues instead of engaging with their communities and the world.
So, how to break the cycle…well for starters, I think each person needs to recognize the myriad of ways they look to human concerns over and above God concerns. For instance, every time I nag my husband over his dirty socks, I miss an opportunity to enrich my marriage in some more beneficial way. And consciously recognizing this pattern is the first step in the right direction.
Each week I said I would provide some sort of practice to go alongside the blog to delve deeper into the “Inside Out” series. And here is where that practice comes into play. I think that if our lives were truly centered on God, we would not be so focused on our own concerns, and be more focused on God-sized dreams, visions, and plans.
So, what I plan to do each day this week is a meditation exercise called lectio divina. Some of may have done this before, but for those who haven’t, it simply means “divine reading,” in Latin. It is a process of meditating upon a scripture and allowing God to speak to you through it. In lectio divina you read a passage through several times, asking the Holy Spirit to stir something in you during the reading. There are somewhat varied ways to do it, but this is the version I prefer.
The first time just read the passage out loud. The second time, as you read, think of a word or a couple of words that speak to you. The third time through, think of a phrase that stands out. Write down what this experience is like and any takeaways you have from it throughout the week. The Psalms are an excellent place to start this. Read one per day, or even part of one per day.
As you do this throughout the week, notice how your heart changes, how you receive things, how you hear things, how you interact with others. See if getting in the scripture each day changes how you perceive human concerns versus God concerns. It helps me to align myself with God early in the morning, before the barrage of human concerns (mine, as well as others) come pouring in. It is an exercise in discerning God’s will over our will.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hear Jesus ever say to me, “Get behind me Satan!” Harsh words! But the part of the story that this misses, is that Jesus also told Peter he would build his church upon him. Even imperfect people like me, who don’t always have the big picture in mind, and sometimes get caught up in the petty, are called God’s beloved children.
- What human concerns do you pour over on a regular basis?
- What concerns do you most frequently argue about with loved ones? Are they human things or God things?
- Even as you think through the God concerns in your life, are there unhelpful ways you sometimes talk through them or miss the boat?
- What did you experience through the lectio divina exercise?
- Write in your journal about the experience of pouring over scripture, and what you felt God put on your heart through that.