Christopher B. Harbin
Micah 6:1-8; Matthew 5:1-12; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
The New Baptist Covenant Celebration met this week in Atlanta. Some argued it would be a partisan political exercise, yet it gathered some 15,000 Baptists from over thirty Baptist denominational groups for the sake of unity after the call of Christ. Republican, Democrat, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, northern, southern, conservative, moderate, known, and unknown, it gathered diverse Baptists seeking unity under the commands of Christ Jesus to love the neglected. 162 years after Baptists fell apart over slavery, we broke new ground in recognizing our failure to live up to the call of Christ Jesus. Can we overcome our attitudes of comfort and sufficiency to face the real challenges of faith?
Once Jesus called the disciples, he began his ministry. His teaching directly connected with needs around him. He spoke of God's eternal care and met the pressing needs of those in his midst. In healing the spirit, he healed the body. In feeding the soul, he fed hungry mouths. He coupled the spiritual and the physical in a way that would surprise us. He brushed away categories used to classify people and showered God's love upon all.
The way Matthew tells it, he did not worry so much with the temple and synagogues. He took his primary teaching further afield in the Judean countryside. Sure, he taught in the synagogues, but he did not limit his message to such a structure. He met the crowds in the marketplace, touched them on the road, spoke at the lakeshore, and in the outer hills, as well. The distinctiveness of Jesus' teaching, however, was not the venue, it was message. Jesus lived what he preached, but in that he was not alone. Others did not preach and teach what Jesus taught. They certainly did not live it.
For the most part, people were concerned with discovering how to get around God's instructions without jeopardizing their standing before God. It was similar to th ...
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