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’

 

Halftime: A Musing on Life in 2018

Well, folks, the summer equinox is upon us and you know what that means…

…time for yet another enlightening installment of ‘halftime lessons learned’ where the year goes under inspection, the heart under reflection, and fears under subjection…

…where inventory becomes short story…

…and hopes teetering on paralysis find rest in analysis.

Now, I admit: when probing a year, I prefer filtering my thoughts into bite-sized, applicable takeaways; however, this year, I can’t help but feel I must take a different approach given its narrative and the irony of potentially leaving truth between the lines.

After all, not all years are created equal, and as such, easily quantifiable.

But where to begin…that is the question.

Obviously, life on the home front has changed significantly with Everly. Like Caeden, her joy has proved contagious in a year full of adjustments. Granted, with two under three and an adolescent pup, maturation compels naturally when a family grows for a third straight year. Even so, this year’s home-owning family of four has felt far more settled than last year’s house-hunting family of three. Accordingly, all is well and better than ever for me and my house.

Of course, not all change has been hunky-dory; the lack of youth ministry, in particular, has proven especially difficult.

For starters, I didn’t realize until after-the-fact just how much I’d assigned identity to role and pain to under the carpet 1 2. I suppose when you’re constantly pouring out and giving your all regardless of peripherals, it’s easy for that to become your reality. Unfortunately, the more you tolerate voids in this way, the more you think you can fill them loving on your own terms, as if the Golden Rule alone can grant purpose.

But as we know, that’s not how begetting life works3. Ultimately, if we desire a pure walk with God based in intimacy over responsibility, we must confront the interference…

…which brings me to where I’m at today…

…where if there’s any desperation, it’s for my sense of place and passion to be free from seeking re-orientation in ego4, specifically what should have been.

As the Lord has been convicting me in recent weeks, the world is searching for sacred love…is aching for eternity (as perpetual presence)…and yearning for believers to identify with Jesus. And while it’s easy to emphasize advancement and progress, there are seasons when we must return to awe, re-embrace the basics of our faith, and allow the gnosis5 of ‘we are not what we do’ to seep below the neckline6.

For when we allow God to reset, restart, and refresh both course and inner man, our strength is renewed to release not only what we lack, but what hasn’t worked7.

Think of it this way: whenever you crave wonder to extinguish discouragement, remember what truly lasts. Yes, seasons come and go. And yes, there will be times when you feel what should be happening isn’t happening.

But glory to God life is so much richer than our temporary inconveniences…that even in the midst of what’s not working or happening, he uses those voids to remind us who we are…and how much we need him.

And while the roadmap will surely vary from person to person…

…like a river to be crossed, we will get there.

As for the rest of 2018, there’s so much I could say, from our new family freelancing business to returning to school to finish my meteorology degree (see vid below for backstory); however, given much is still developing, I’ll hold off until December before lending a detailed update/recap.

‘Til then, enjoy halftime.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. In the name of endurance.
  2. Not to mention those pesky what if’s…like what if I had allowed myself to be poured into more consistently? What if I had recognized ‘x’ insecurity sooner? What if I had applied this personal/program correction at ‘x’ point? Etc, etc…
  3. Eternal esurance slogan?
  4. Notably in temporary measures like success, relationship, and comparisons
  5. Head knowledge
  6. Heart knowledge (i.e. epignosis); in case you need to know where I’m at, there you go
  7. Or isn’t working

Photo creds: Fine Art America

Integrating Ministry & Marketplace: The Temple Template

The vocational life is hard work.

Early mornings, long days, rough nights…if you wear many hats and juggle multiple responsibilities…you know the drill.

Yet, as tempting survival/‘just get ‘er done’ mode may be, truth is: we were never meant to live this way.

Yes, strategic compartmentalization can center the gravity of focus and break busy days into doable, bite-sized moments; however, when we consider our identity as effective influencers in light of Jesus’ ministry,  we ultimately find…

a) Work (what we commit our hands and minds to) and faith (what we commit our beliefs to) were never meant to be mutually exclusive.

b) The marketplace can be just as much a hub of powerful, life-changing ministry as the church1.

Take Matthew 21:12-17 for instance…

After Jesus kicks off the triumphal entry (v. 1-11), note the first place he targets (i.e. the temple – v. 12) and the reason why (i.e. to cleanse it).

I don’t know about you, but when I consider the fact Jesus deliberately went to the temple to make its original intent known as opposed to simply stopping for a cup of coffee and the ‘Daily Jerusalem’…that speaks to me.

Granted, Jesus channels his inner Adele for time, turning tables and all (v. 12b), but the key here isn’t so much Jesus reacting in frustration as much as Jesus setting things right, being fearlessly intentional in speaking truth and breathing life into what had become a lifeless environment.

So while this passage reference may seem random, when we talk about what pastoral ministry in the marketplace looks like and how to rightfully use our spiritual gifts in similar arenas, I believe there’s important application to be found.

First off, to be an effective marketplace minister, we must be courageous and purposeful with the truth. Yes, we can be highly skilled with the gifts God has given us; yes, we can be articulate, persuasive, and emit confidence, but if what we’re divinely given is utilized with limited integrity, it’s like trying to build a sturdy structure on quicksand.

Secondly, when we consider what grieved Jesus most, we deduce how wise marketplace leaders understand the time and place to deal with financial affairs as they understand the providence of God (i.e. the difference between a love for money and a love for God who provides the money2 ;more on this in future posts).

And finally, when we consider Jesus straight up calls the temple “my house(v. 13 – “My house will be called a house of prayer…”), we find the a) confirmation of marketplace as an extension of sanctuary and b) value in declaring God’s original design over an establishment intended for our good.

In this case, Jesus calls the temple a “house of prayer” not only to reveal the truth of its purpose3 (i.e. a place of dwelling, influence, and vertical communication), but to set the stage for the spiritually/physically impaired to better know that purpose (v. 14).

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Hence, it should be no surprise to see a completely transformed temple by the time Jesus peaces out in v. 17.

Bottom line: when we reflect on how Jesus integrated his ministry and spiritual gifts into the marketplace, we see…

  1. Jesus was intentional (in going to the temple courts)…
  2. Jesus was bold with the truth and how he handled conflict…
  3. Jesus lived out the identity he declared over the temple…
  4. Jesus loved at every opportunity…

Thus, I submit if we’re going to thrive in employing our spiritual gifts in our areas of business, we must be willing to live on purpose, be bold with the truth, pray without ceasing, be the change we long for…and most importantly…love at all cost, at all times.

Next time, I’ll look to build upon this foundation with more specifics, more real-life application, but for now, if any of this hits home with you (or if you want to add a point to the list above), feel free to comment below. And as always, if you have a prayer request/praise report, you’re more than welcome to drop us a line.

‘Til then, may you find peace and joy in abundance as you go about your week…

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. Sure, the church may be the heart of the operation, but what’s to say the marketplace can’t be the hands and feet?
  2. Seriously…how often are good leaders corrupted by sneaky, under-the-table, ‘will do anything to get an advantage’ maneuvers? More than we’d like to admit, right?
  3. As well as His authority

Photo creds: gospelmovements.org (edited by Cameron Fry) & lds.net