Woke Faith: A SOAP Study on Luke 7:1-10

Remember the centurion at Capernaum, the one who wows Jesus with his ‘woke’ faith?

If so, I want to take a brief minute to talk about him.

‘Cause truth is: While most read this story as faith leading to healing, we often overlook the context behind the dialogue. For instance, what led to the centurion feeling unworthy? Did he actually meet Jesus1? And what about the servant/centurion relationship? Is their bond in light of the social scene a big deal? Or is there a bigger reason Matthew and Luke included this account in their Gospels?

To be fair, we could be here all day unraveling these mysteries; for now, let’s focus our discussion on why the centurion built the Jewish synagogue and why it’s significant for marketplace leaders today.

Scripture

First, let’s dig in starting with Luke 7:1-10 (ESV)

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 “After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore, I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.”

Observations

There are several directions we can go from here, but to me, it’s hard to ignore the overarching contrast between Jewish faith and the Roman world. Like the Hebrews and Egyptians, the Jews and Romans were oil and water linked by oppression, an expiring dictatorship, and a deliverer in waiting; however, they were also similar in demographic disparity and the need for legislation. Perhaps this is why Herod Antipas assigned centurions as royal troops exempt from army duty – to balance the frontline action with local jurisdiction.

Either way, centurions were widely regarded as the real professionals of the Roman army. As Helen Bond states in Bible Odyssey...

Most owed their position not to family connections but to their military prowess. Besides a level of command on the battlefield, they engaged in a wide range of other activities: general policing (see Acts 27:1-3, Acts 27:43), customs work, and the supervision of capital penalties (Mark 15:39). The troops of Antipas seem to have been garrisoned within towns. Although centurions are presented positively in the New Testament, contemporary scholarship makes it clear that most were disliked by ordinary folk, who regarded them as cruel, violent, and self-serving.”

However, this was not the case with the centurion at Capernaum. As v. 4-5 confirm, the centurion not only oversaw the construction of the Jewish synagogue but served as a benefactor to the community at large. This seemingly small detail carries radical significance as it proves the centurion’s goodwill was rooted in empathy and unity as well as diligence.

V. 4-5 in the Amplified drives this home…

When they reached Jesus, they pleaded with Him earnestly [to come], saying, “He is worthy for You to do this for him, because he loves our nation and he built us our synagogue [at his own expense].”

A couple of things stand out here:

  1. Note how ‘loves our nation‘ precedes ‘built us our synagogue‘. Based on this order alone, one can assume the centurion’s love was not only contagious before it was constructive but inspired the elders to represent him (v. 3).
  2. Note how the centurion personally funded this operation! This tells me the synagogue was not only a social sacrifice but a financial and likely physical one as well. No wonder the elders pleaded earnestly with Jesus given the centurion was actively entering into their suffering.
  3. While off-script, it’s probable Jesus carried this example into Nain (v. 11) as news of His miracles spread through all of Judea.

Application

The centurion template is a fascinating one to discuss. Whether you analyze it through an exegetical or historical lens, the story reminds us what the power of breaking walls through selfless service can do.

Consider this excerpt from Jon Bloom, Executive Director of Desiring God:

“The centurion is a reminder to us that ‘man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7). I think we will be surprised someday when Jesus doles out rewards. Most of the great ones among us will probably have lived in obscurity. Jesus is not as impressed with titles, degrees, and achievements as we are. He is impressed with those who really do humbly believe him. [As Billy Graham once said], ‘God will not reward fruitfulness, he will reward faithfulness.’ The centurion was faith-full. I want to be like him when I grow up.”

As to what we can glean as vocations, starting with the centurion’s rapport with the Jews makes sense. After all, the centurion could have easily constructed a building detached from relational foundation. But as we see, the centurion cared far more about people finding freedom than notoriety and quotas. To him, excellence was not a metric to be measured, but a sacrifice to be invested. Granted, his position offered security, but his heart could not help but share it with those less fortunate.

And it’s here, I submit, we take inventory. Like the centurion, we may struggle to champion the underdog as those in authority. We may wonder if our tasks are being effective or if our bandwidths are hindering our influence; however, as long as we lay down our lives for the sake of another, as long we seek to serve through benevolence and compassion, we will make the difference we crave. For God did not create us to ‘get by’, but to ‘let die’ the reservations and preservations compromising our generosity. Accordingly, we never have to fear the extent of our giving or the bounds of our effort since the Lord will continuously provide outlets for both.

As for our colleagues, no question there will be times of disagreement when organization feels like a lame duck sitting in a sea of chaos. In those moments you feel overwhelmed by what you can’t control, dare to ask God for what you need with a centurion’s heart:

Prayer

Lord, I know by myself I’m not worthy. I don’t ask these things out of entitlement or false expectancy. Rather, I know, as one set under and in authority, you have given me all I need for goodness and godliness at my job. I have the mind of Christ; however, this doesn’t mean I lack weakness. Though you’ve wired me with skill and creativity, I’m not immune to your healing touch… your desire to restore my inner being. Honestly, there’s so much I don’t know or understand. Yet, I know as long as I align to your will, you WILL come through. Though my faith may suffer, I know as long as I say the word, you will be there…and if you say the word, it will be done. With this as my forefront, I make these requests known to you so that your glory be known as faith expresses itself through love. To you and in you I commit the fruit of my labor and the spirit behind it. Amen.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Matthew 8:5-13 suggests ‘yes’, Luke 7:1-10 suggests ‘no’

 

Work as Intimacy: Scratch Notes on Hebrews 13

Core References: Hebrews 13:2; 13:15-16

Supportive References: 1 Peter 4:9, Romans 12:13, 1 Timothy 5:10, Acts 28:2

Key Word: Hospitality

Communal Goals of Hospitality

  1. Making God accessible to people
  2. Helping people connect to God’s love/see their ‘loved by God’ identity
  3. Extending fellowship to all men (i.e. weary, broken, lost, searching, etc.)

The Contexts of Hospitality

There are several contexts behind hospitality in Scripture. For today, we’ll mention three of them: welcoming, intimacy, and suffering.

In the context of welcoming and receiving, our hospitality should radiate and reflect eagerness, enthusiasm, and intercession – the kind of heart that says…

We’re ready for you when you get here because we thought about you before you arrived.”

By embracing this posture, we allow prayer to invade both our heart to serve and our anticipation to serve (more on this in future posts).

In the context of intimacy, especially when engaged corporately, our hospitality is a lead-in helping people realize God is closer to them than they think. Likewise for many of the saints, we are more wired to touch people than we think since we’re not only close to God, but IN Christ IN community.

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In the context of suffering, our hospitality is an overflow of having received our ‘made in Christ’ identity and the renewing of our minds (Hebrews 12:1-2). We see this through the Jesus pattern in Scripture. From pre-ministry to Cross, Jesus continually allowed suffering to define new depths of intimacy. Even when He didn’t understand or lacked the strength, Jesus never stopped pursuing the Father’s heart knowing it was key to serving and saving people.

Applied to real world, we may not always sense the fullness of God’s presence, but this doesn’t mean our grief is the stronger reality or that our souls are being abandoned (Psalm 16). Rather, as we see in Gethsemane, when God’s presence lifts, we should see it as an invitation to reach up…to stand at the door and knock (Revelation 3:20) into deeper places of vulnerability. How awesome to think this moment in time not only provides a hospitality word picture, but emphasizes the direction of our worship at the same time!

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In Jesus’ case, when He asks God to remove the cup (Mark 14:36; Matthew 26:29; Matthew 26:42; Luke 22:42; John 18:11; Isaiah 51:22), He finds the strength to embrace grief as an instrument of redemption. To him, not only was preserving through suffering a joy but the suffering itself.

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As to how this applies to hospitality, consider how our ‘new nature’ identity connects to God’s ministry of reconciliation. In this life, we know trials and tribulations will come; however, we also know divine appointments often come with them. Accordingly, the joy set before us can manifest as hospitality through pain even as we’re transformed into Christ’s likeness. After all, to serve one another should not be a means we endure pain, but a way we love in pain.

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Core Scriptures on Hospitality 

I love how Hebrews 13 captures the sacrificial aspect of hospitality.

Hebrews 13:2 (AMP) – “Do not neglect to extend hospitality to strangers [especially among the family of believers—being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Hebrews 13:15 (ESV) – “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”

Hebrews 13:16 (MSG) – Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.”

Concerning my point on suffering, note how v. 12-13 (AMP) threads these passages connecting back to v. 1 (MSG):

“Therefore Jesus also suffered and died outside the gate so that He might sanctify and set apart for God as holy the people who believe through His own blood. So let us go outside the camp holding on as He did when we are abused.” 

“Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love.” 

Again, I’ll come back to this due to the amount of series potential in the giving/suffering relationship.

For now, let’s combining core and supportive references…

Contribute to one another’s needs through grateful giving. See compassion as a fragrant offering (Ephesians 5:2) and sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). Don’t worry about your reputation, but let selfless care speak for itself. Wash the feet of the saints and keep the door open for strangers. Whatever they’re going through, you have something to offer as partners in the divine. What can’t be seen, you are making it seen. Even when you’re outside your element, let extraordinary kindness kindle a fire for the dreary and heavy laden.¹

The Bottom Line of Hospitality

Through practical acts of kindness, whether intentional or random, realize the table you’re setting for God to show up and showcase His greatness – the parts of His nature we’re to taste and see as good (Psalm 34:8).

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Paraphrased by Cameron Fry
Cover photo creds: XCHM; content inspired by September staff meetings @ The Gate Community Church

Faith at Work: A Vent on the Divide

Disclaimer: After efforting repeatedly to tidy the tone, I admit there is lingering hurt in my processing here. While I’ve moved away from footnotes in recent posts, in this case, the one involved here is important to heed. At any rate, you have been advised. 🙂

Do you ever wonder why trusting God is so difficult?

Like the toddler equivalent of eating peas or the teenage version of understanding the real world?

If so, know that’s where I’m at as I write this: fatigued, confused, and struggling to find words after yet another WWE smackdown disguised as family dinner. A night that was supposed to be full of exhales, replaced by begrudged swallows and everyone thinking, ‘This sure isn’t fun. Why are we fighting again?

Of course, dust settles fast in our household where 99.9% of nights end in bliss instead of remiss. But to deny the tabletop turbulence as nothing more than a blip on smooth sails would be soft-serving it.

‘Cause truth is, this true story metaphor is a microcosm of where the heart’s at, one searching for answers on the surface and the path to surrender deeper down.

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So what’s up, you say.

In short, I’m discouraged. I’m discouraged by this divine burden and what it’s compelled me to see. Granted, I needed to see it. Heck, I needed to obey in the first place. Yet, as to what I’m seeing, I’m having a hard time understanding.

For instance, where I work, there are many ‘Christians’; rather, there are many church-goers, ‘Christians’, and Jesus followers…in that order. Plenty of religion, not enough fire. The divide is not surprising.

What is surprising is how so many on the same spiritual team can feel so far apart, content with cliques, status quos and quid pro quos. Seriously, am I the only one who wishes certain people would double-check their faith status in light of their attitudes/actions…or wishes he could be invited into where they’re at? Not to judge what lane people are in; I just want them to pick one¹.

Otherwise, we have nothing more than a bunch of superficial interaction: Sacrifice without surrender; change without conviction; belonging without healing; community without depth; reconciliation without forgiveness, etc, etc.

So I want to know, “Where’s the walk, people?”

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If I had to guess, some of us are content absorbing truth, but not applying it. We think to ourselves, ‘I will take this liturgical inspiration with me’, but do we really care to follow through? Or are we scared about what would happen if we exercised any sort of confidence and/or consistency in full? God forbid we lose our comfort at the cost of something transformational.

Again, I get the challenge bridging sacred and secular in hostile working environments. I get there will be trials and tribulations standing for something bigger than yourself. What I don’t get is why centralization of faith has to be such an uphill battle…how you and I can hypothetically believe in the Romans Road, Golden Rule, and the Godhead…yet might as well be strangers…

…for years on end…

…and somehow be okay with that.

Whatever the case, I’m not going to stop believing colleagues in faith should come together at work. I’m not going to stop believing colleagues in faith should have everything in common. And I’m not going to stop believing colleagues in faith should model the nature of God in unconditional, non-selective fashion.

All I know is as long as I’m breathing, I not only long to point people to Jesus, but support them along their journey towards Him. Yes, the denied invitations, the excuses, the ‘inauthentic’ labels, and withdrawals…they can hurt if I’m not careful.

But the thing is…I’m not going to let them keep me down. After all…

…I have a dream…one that takes ‘being myself’ and extends it beyond myself where Sabbath is not confined, but a daily communal reality.

If that makes me crazy, I receive if it means I’m living what I’m called.

I just want you to do the same.

Selah.

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Side note: It has occurred to me some may think Bible studies/marketplace ministry courses at work are unnecessary because we should already have what we need for goodness and godliness. But to me, this does not stand.

As Hebrews 10:24-25 (MSG, AMP) declares:

“Let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.”

“Let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.”

Footnotes

1. I’m not trying to sound all ‘better than’ or rant in mean-spirited ambition. I make mistakes each day and need Jesus like everyone else; however, I recognize the relationship between daily aligning to Christ and how this should manifest communally, especially among those like-minded in faith. Accordingly, it’s hard for me to understand why fellow believers would rather not come together when they know the option exists. Whatever the reasons are, I’m not afraid to confess my trust in God needs tweaking. If you’ve been bold enough to read this, I appreciate you taking the time.

Work as Intimacy: Creating Cultures of Honesty (Part 1)

Today’s Bible passage: Galatians 6
Supportive references: John 17:20-26, Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Hebrews 5:8

Core concept 1: The deepest reality we’re made for is intimacy. While many associate intimacy to companionship, in most settings, such closeness manifests as honesty and vulnerability. For instance, as professionals, we desire work cultures where we can feel safe enough to be vulnerable and free enough to be honest. As we find in John 1, not only does this define God’s original design for relationships, but work culture as well.

Bonus truth: The reality of intimacy predates the necessity of authority. While some see authority as power earned, because the Trinity has experienced intimacy for all eternity, we can instead say intimacy is authority entrusted

Work application: We desire real relationships with our colleagues. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done given very few people know themselves, let alone God. Even for the believer, trusting God in environments where cynicism abounds is tough sledding. But this doesn’t mean a culture of honesty can’t be cultivated; it just means our reliance on God must manifest through countercultural discernment and edification. Therefore, let’s not stress about what is counterfeit, but rather pursue excellence, and more importantly, encouragement with our cubical neighbors. Remember we don’t establish foundations where vulnerability and transparency can prosper; we pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding (Romans 14:19) and let God lay the groundwork.

Bottom line: To build relationships, especially with seekers/unbelievers, is to a) partner with God in extending His father heart of love and b) guide others into freedom from fear, anger, and anxiety. As we’ll discuss next time, if we want to offer freedom, we must first be walking in it. Until then, why not focus on love through faith and let the Spirit guide you in what to say and when to say it?

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Core concept 2: Independence is unknown in the God community. Remember last time when we talked about how identity is not a matter of be-coming and self-refining (heart of stone thinking), but be-lieving and aligning (heart of flesh thinking)? This applies to this point: To have a heart of flesh is to embrace intimacy. To have a heart of stone is to embrace independence.

Bonus truth: The reality of intimacy not only predates the necessity of authority, but the concept of lordship. 

Work application: As a younger professional, my idea of closeness was essentially real estate. I’d consider my location and build relationships with those who’d ‘receive’ me, as few as they were. Yet, as I ultimately discovered, this approach only fueled my skepticism and selectivity when serving my floor members. Yes, I knew God had a specific intent concerning my placement, but I often took it into my own hands. Little did I know my independence was distancing me from the very thing I craved: intimacy.

Of course, I get how easy it is to view colleagues as nothing more than people we’re proximate to. Still, it’s imperative we consider what intimacy looks like in the marketplace. In my experience…

…intimacy extended to our co-workers is evident when our desire to work with them becomes an overflow of our value for them.

Sure, we may not always agree with their life decisions; however, if we give love room and engage people for their benefit, we can enhance a culture of safety that leads to eventual vulnerability.

Bottom line: Independence and intimacy are diametrically opposed realities. If we long to transform our work cultures, then our service must be rooted in agape love, not fear. Once we grasp this, no question, we’ll begin to see freedom spring up within our influence.

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Core concept 3: Humankind was originally given a ‘made in God’s image’ nature. When Adam chose to act independently from God, he was reduced to human nature. To embrace our ‘new creation’ identity (Galatians 6:15) is to die to our human nature and recover the ‘made in God’s image’ nature.

Bonus truth: When Adam chose to be independent, he, and everyone since, lost the connection with the ‘made in God’s image’ nature; however, by having His Son die on a Cross, God not only saved us from our sins, but rescued us from oppressive worldly systems built on human nature. Put another way, Jesus not only died on the cross to provide salvation/forgiveness of sins, but also to rescue us from independence into the freedom of intimacy. When you accept the work of Jesus on the Cross, that’s your first step in discovering the vulnerabilities that create intimacy and the freedom that can result.

After all…

Jesus didn’t come to just die for you, but live for you.

Work application: To our lost and lukewarm co-workers, we must not be surprised the concept of identity is skewed. Left to our devices, not only does a concept of identity become a function of performance, but performance a function of independence. Interestingly, as modern cultural identity issues have taught us, the idea identity is about ‘being’, not ‘doing’ as gained traction; the problem is such notions are still based in independence, not intimacy. Perhaps this is why when we talk about sexual identity, many based their perception out of what they choose as opposed to what they receive. Whatever the case, it shouldn’t surprise us to find many within our realm of reach synonymizing love to tolerance and acceptance.

Back to our working environments, we may not be able to go ‘deep’ with everyone to the point vulnerability is default. Nevertheless, it’s important we keep these core concepts on our radar. To know who we are, especially in Christ, we must first understand our identity isn’t the sum of our accomplishments, but recognizes why accomplishments exist. Only then can we live the truth of why we believe:

We live for love having been created in love and we give for love having first received.

Granted, most people we encounter won’t understand this right way, but deep down, they want to be free from the weight of value being contingent on success. Dare to be a part in their quest for freedom by presenting the Gospel with such a lens.

Bottom line: To be made in God’s image is to be made for intimacy. Just as authority flows from intimacy, our doing flows from our being. Accordingly, as leaders, if you want to influence your team members, pour into how they are doing in addition to what they are doing.

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Stay tuned next time when I’ll unveil core concepts 4-6.

‘Til then, love the ones you’re with.

Selah.

~ Cameron

Cover photo: Wallpaper HD; content inspired by August 25 sermon @ The Gate Community Church