In todays look at the scriptures I’d like to look at what I like to call The Other Parable of Two Sons. When most people think of a parable with two sons they immediately think of the familiar parable of the prodigal son. That is indeed a great parable and perhaps we’ll dive in another day. Today I want to look in stead at the parable of the two sons in Matthew 21.
The last few weeks we’ve been looking at the parable of the Samaritan. We talked about what it meant in context, some reasons we don’t stop to help others, what some of the church fathers thought of it, and the implications for us and how we navigate cross culturally.
One of the things that is clear throughout is that we are called to love everyone. Which leads us to today’s scripture. Matthew 5:43-48. Jesus is working His way through the sermon on the mount.** He says:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may [a]be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and theunrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?48 Therefore [b]you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
On its surface this idea does make sense, at least theologically. After all we are called to love everyone. God loves everyone. God loves your enemy. The one who persecutes you was created in God’s image. Jesus died for your enemy. Jesus prayed for and loved His enemies while He was here, even while they were crucifying Him. We’re supposed to follow Jesus.
This is the final of a five part study on the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We started out by looking at the context to the parable and noting that we are not the hero (Samaritan) of the story. We then looked at why it is that we pass by those in need. Next we looked at some of the early Church Father’s take on the parable. Last time we looked at how this parable might impact how we are to “Be Jesus” to others and what it might look like to minister to people as if we are ministering To Jesus.
As if all of that wasn’t enough to face, today I want to talk about what we in the Western Church are probably the worst at. That is letting others “Be Jesus” to us.
I’ve decided to start a weekly look at scripture, or bible study here at the blog. For the next five weeks I’d like to take a look at one of the most recognized parables of Jesus. The parable of the good samaritan.
Jesus tells the parable in Luke 10:25-37. Here is a brief rundown:
A religious lawyer comes to Jesus and asks what must he do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replies by asking the teacher what the scriptures say. He replies that with the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind (in other words make God number one) and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus agrees and says go and do this, and you will have eternal life.
One of the questions that comes up in different ways is as follows: Is being a virtuous man attractive to women?
Before I answer that let’s clear up a few things.
First of all it should be noted that attractiveness itself is not a virtue. Being attractive to women is not a virtue. Being “hot” is not a virtue. There are plenty of non-virtuous men who are attractive to women. We see this all the time. Heck a common complaint is that women are attracted to the “bad boys”. It’s a common complaint because it’s often true.
There are men who don’t treat women well who are attractive to women. There are men who are mean and insensitive who are attractive to women. There are men who live dangerously in one form or another who are attractive to women.
The other day I was happened on a video win which Dave Ramsey was talking with Anthony ONeal about a recent dating experience he had. First a quick background in case you are not familiar with Ramsey and his people. The short version is that they help people get out of and stay out of debt. Anthony works with younger folks and is a young single man. One of the keys to getting and staying out of debt is having a budget . . . that you actually follow. I’ve talked before about as a single person having a “dating” line item in your budget. Suffice it to say that if you are single and want to date, then why not have a budget for that.
At any rate, here’s the story. Anthony goes out with a young woman on a date. They have a good time. At the end of the date they both want there to be a second date. The woman suggested that she would really like to go to a particular restaurant in town. Anthony says he will look into it.
The last couple of blogs I’ve been writing about the idea of not lying. It’s funny even to type that. But as we’ve been discussing, this is not always as simple as it seems. We’ve talked about not lying to ourselves, not lying to others, and not lying to other singles.
In the world of Christian singleness there are a ton of lies. There are lies that the church has told singles, lies the enemy has told singles, lies that singles tell themselves, and lies that our current culture tells them. I’ve written a lot about these over the years. Rather than try to sum up that many posts in one new one I’m going to just list some and link to places where I’ve tried to be more honest and straightforward with the truth. The list is not exhaustive and in fact if you think of more put it in the comments. I’d love to see what I’m missing. So here we go. Lies singles have been told, thought and/or believed:
I’ve been writing some posts about how to stop lying, why it’s important starting with not lying to ourselves and to others in general. Today I want to bring this back into the topic of singleness for a couple of posts. Today I want to talk about how to not lie as a single and next time I’ll list some lies that single are told and often believe.
Before I dive in I want to say that I’m writing from a Christian context but that basically all I’m going to say here is just basic morality and good emotional health. The fact is that God created us to be emotionally and mentally healthy and to be in right relationship with each other in all circumstances. Sin of any kind wrecks that. Which is why we are in the world that we are. Lying is one of those sins.
Here are some lies I think singles tell each other.
In my last post I tried to set up some thoughts about lying. Toward the end of that post, I talked about two people that I know we often lie to: God and ourselves. Today I want to think about how we lie to others and how to stop doing that.
Before I dive in, let me talk about a couple of reasons this is important. First, it’s important because lying is a sin. Thou shalt not lie is one of the ten commandments. The second thing is that while lying to someone may seem like it helps us in that circumstance it almost always backfires in some way. But even if it doesn’t seem to it does at least two things. It erodes trust and it impacts my ability to love that person – because I’ll know I lied to them – even if they never know it.
We are obviously in an unprecedented time right now. We have a pandemic striking the world, and in response we have asked most people to stay at home.
To be sure this is a strain on everyone in every marital context. This is not to mention that there are some people in horrible situations. I think of kids who live in abusive homes or those that don’t have enough to eat. People who had enough to eat three weeks ago and now don’t. There are those who struggle with addiction, those who were struggling with mental illness before this all started.
But I want to acknowledge a particular group here today. Not because they are the only ones suffering, but because their suffering is surely different and I’ve not seen it talked about much anywhere. That is those that are single and live alone.
Now there are all kinds of unmarried people. Many live with friends. Some are in cohabitation arrangements. Some who maybe live with their parents. But I want to specifically address those who live by themselves.
I was single until I was nearly 41 years old. Mostly I lived with friends or for a short time had renters in the house I owned. I’m an extravert and I learned from six months of living by myself that it was an unhealthy setting for me.
25%-28% of Americans live alone. If nearly 50% of Americans are unmarried that means that about half of unmarried people live alone. This includes all versions of unmarried that we’ve talked about here over the years. Not yet married. Divorced. Widowed. Those who are called to Celibacy for the Kingdom. Those celibate because of the fall of man. Those born in a way that keeps them from getting married.
Let’s remember that no one, even those called to Celibacy for the Kingdom, are called to live their life alone. And yet there are millions of them doing that exact thing right now.
I’ve debated whether or not to write this post. Not because I don’t think it’s important, but because what unmarried folks are facing right now I never had to face in my 23 years of adult singleness. Almost everything on this blog about singleness I’ve written either from personal experience or from the study of the scriptures, church history and other studies. This is different. So I can’t write with the same authority that I normally do.
However, it needs to be talked about.
First we should acknowledge that it’s hard. And that would be my first piece of advice to everyone unmarried and married. To recognize the unique challenges that this context confronts unmarried folks with.
I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting that married folks should feel especially sorry for single people. But I think it might be good to be aware that they aren’t experiencing this the same way you are.
Church leaders often seem to forget the unmarried. We’ve discussed this ad nasuem on this blog. There are churches doing great things right now. Helping with the poor. Helping provide food for kids. Doing online things not just on Sunday but every day. I applaud so much of the effort. I’m asking you, regardless of how your church views singleness: Please remember your single members right now. They could probably use a phone call, text, email or whatever. Simply acknowledging and checking in would be appreciated by many I would think. There are some who are fine. But there are some who could use a live voice.
If I go on facebook right now I see all the families on bike rides, in the yard together, taking porchtraits. Nothing wrong with that. But if I were single and wishing I was married, this would make even more aware than usual that I’m alone. I couldn’t go out with friends. I couldn’t see my co workers. I couldn’t even sit next to some people at church.
Here are a few thoughts if you are home alone as an unmarried person right now. Remember I’m not speaking with the authority of having lived it here, just offering some things that might help based on 23 years of unmarried life.
- Give yourself the freedom to feel what you feel. You’re not bad because the porchtraits make you feel more alone. You aren’t a bad Christian because Jesus doesn’t seem like enough right now. Acknowledge your feelings and emotions. Don’t just tough it out. And for sure don’t condemn yourself for thinking it. Give yourself grace.
- Fight to engage others. If someone does reach out to you, take advantage of it. Use all the technology you have. Reach out to others.
- If helping others and ministering to others typically energizes you, do it now. Leadership is lonely but it’s less lonely than sitting there missing leadership.
- Engage your mind. Study something. Read something. Learn something. Fight the urge to dwell on darkness.
- Know your weaknesses. There is a reason porn sites are offering specials right now. Liquor stores are essential apparently. Do you already struggle with depression or other mental illnesses. Don’t pretend right now. Don’t just sit there and get crushed. Acknowledge these things
- Get help with the above if you need it. Call someone. Anyone. Tell someone. Don’t suffer in silence.
- To that end, hold onto the truth. The people that love you and usually hang out with you still love you. Maybe they haven’t called. I wish they would have. But everyone is in free fall in some way right now. Just because they haven’t called you, doesn’t mean they don’t care.
- Hold on to the truths of our faith. You are not alone. You really can take it to Jesus. He suffered alone. In front of people, but alone. In a way only He could. He sees you! Please read that again. Jesus sees you!
Really I hope that if this post does one thing it is that it communicates that. Jesus sees you. I see you. I’m writing this mainly so you know you’re seen.
If any of you who are reading this have thoughts about how you are managing that might be helpful to others, leave a comment. You’re the expert here. What has been helpful for you? What would be helpful to you?