Friday, December 11, 2015

Freedom for Abba: Asking for What We Need to Live as Faithful Witnesses (Matthew 6:11-14)

When teaching us how to pray, Jesus tells us to always put Abba’s cause first (Matthew 6:9-10). We do this first by developing personal and communal ways of living that honor Abba. Next we need Abba to send Jesus to us with fresh words of liberating truth. Finally we need Abba to grant that the Holy Spirit might burn brightly in our hearts so that we might discern the always surprising words of Jesus and have the pluck to do them. In these ways we honor Abba, his kingdom comes through fresh words from Jesus, and we do his will as expressed through those words. In these ways we live as the faithful witnesses that Abba created, Jesus reconciled, and the Spirit redeems us to be.
Today Jesus teaches us to ask Abba for what we need to live as Christians who honor him by hearing and doing his will:

     11 “Give us today the food we need.
     12 Forgive us the wrongs we have done,
          as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.
     13 Do not bring us to hard testing,
          but keep us safe from the Evil One.

     14 If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done” (Matthew 6:11-15 Good News Translation, here and following).

Needing even the basics. Give us today the food we need. If Abba was anything like Bacchus, god of consumption, Jesus would teach us to ask for everything: permanent leisure, palaces, endless gourmet food, fast cars, technological gadgets, global travel, the works! Since he’s not, and since all that stuff just gets in the way of our developing a way of living that honors Abba, Jesus teaches us to pray simply for the basics. To live as faithful witnesses, we need to eat. Jesus teaches us to ask Abba for the food we need.
When thinking about praying for anything beyond that, we might want to keep two other biblical passages in mind. First, the apostle Paul witnesses to his freedom from Bacchus by assuring Christians in Philippi, I have learned to be content with whatever I have (Philippians 4:11). That’s a helpful thought to bear in mind this Bacchanalian season.
Another helpful passage: I ask you, God, to let me have two things before I die: keep me from lying, and let me be neither rich nor poor. So give me only as much food as I need. If I have more, I might say that I do not need you. But if I am poor, I might steal and bring disgrace on my God (Proverbs 30:7-9). It’s as if Jesus had read the book.
Do we want to be the clearest possible witnesses to all the freedom, truth, love, and vitality that are ours from Abba, through Jesus, by the Spirit? Jesus teaches us it takes few products and services. Ask for these and forget the rest. When we do receive what we need, we can then honor Abba by giving thanks.
Needing forgiveness. Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. We want to honor Abba by developing a hearty Christian personality that radiantly shares all the light of his truth, warmth of his love, and strength of his vitality with others. In dreadful contrast, we sin when our Olympian personality seeks in its own self-centered way to gain power through falsehood and indifference even though these lead to debilitation, despair, and death.
In the age to come, we will no longer have our Olympian personality. It will be destroyed as it passes through the judgment of God’s fiery love. For now, though, Jesus teaches our Christian personality to ask for forgiveness each time we fail to witness to Abba as we might. Even our asking for this forgiveness is only possible because the Spirit burns brightly in our little Christian heart.
When we do ask Abba for forgiveness, this gives Abba the opportunity to strengthen our Christian personality and weaken our Olympian one. This is good.
Our Olympian personality, however, hates the idea of asking forgiveness for anything. Our Olympian personality much prefers to resent any god, person, or creature who wrongs us—especially people close to us. Our Olympian personality finds tremendous satisfaction in emotional intensity and it finds that hatred is a much easier emotion to feel intensely over a long period of time than, say, love.
Jesus warns, however, that our Christian personality must intentionally forgive and refuse to resent others for the wrongs they do us. If it doesn’t, then Abba will not forgive our wrongs, which are plenty and grievous, against him. Our Christian personality will then shrivel even as our Olympian one expands.
Needing rescue. Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One. While we won’t be plagued by an Olympian personality in the age to come, we are now. Today’s Olympian societies and cultures are even more Olympian and therefore bent on leading us to destruction.
For decades now we churches have not been praying for salvation from the Evil One who stands behind the six false yet highly conventional gods of Olympianity. Instead, we have been adoring them to our hurt. Now we’re in for the period of hard testing that Jesus had long taught us to avoid. Now, more than ever, we need to hear his truth, stop devoting ourselves to the gods of our destruction, and pray that Abba might deliver us from the gathering doom.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven Farsaci.
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