When you think about yourself, who do you see? A person with talents and special characteristics, someone worthy of love? Or do you see a failure, someone who makes a mess of life, who falls short of what God wants for you? When God looks at you he sees a part of his creation which is only a little lower than the angels. When Jesus looks at you he sees one of his brothers or sisters.
On Sunday at the noon service, the readings were Psalm 8, Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12 and Mark 10:2-16. My reflection is given below:
I’m sure most of us have witnessed the situation where someone offers advice or a comment and the recipient replies in annoyance: ‘Who do you think you are, saying something like that?’ There is the assumption that the person has no right to say that, that they aren’t important enough, qualified enough, skilled enough, etc.
Who could say that to us more than God himself? In every respect he is superior to us. He is the creator and we are the created, totally dependent on him for our being born and for our continuing existence.
Just who do we think we are? As the psalmist says in Psalm 8:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have ordained,
What are mortals, that you should be mindful of them;
mere human beings, that you should seek them out?
We are tiny insignificant dots in a universe which has at least 100 billion galaxies. It’s mind-blowing how small we are, beyond our understanding. As Albert Einstein said:
“The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books—a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects.”
For those of us with a faith in God, we know that ‘someone’ who has given order to the universe. But far from choosing to be superior and keep us in our place, listen again to what the psalmist declares about God:
You have made them little lower than the angels
and crown them with glory and honour.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands
and put all things under their feet.
God has given human beings, those seemingly insignificant dots in the vast universe, a position only a little lower than that of those messengers of his, the angels. He has crowned us as though we were sovereigns of kingdoms, he honours us and entrusts his creation to us.
The passage from Hebrews quotes from Psalm 8 as I have just done. It also tells us that we are so important that Jesus, the creative Word of God, was prepared to leave his position in the heavenly realm and become human like us in order to bring about our salvation through his sufferings. Having done this, Jesus does not treat us as inferior to himself. In answering ‘Who do you think you are?’, Jesus recognizes that we share the same Father as he does and gladly calls us his brothers and sisters, with no sense of shame in doing so.
We have been given the task of ruling over everything and the authority to do so; all things have been put under our feet. However at the moment it’s not happening. It will come in time when Jesus returns to reign and we rule alongside him. Meanwhile we still do things that are not good for us, we sin in many ways and fall short of God’s wishes for us.
The sin that is highlighted in Mark today is divorce. Jesus points out that God allowed divorce because he saw how hard of heart people are. However, as Jesus tells the Pharisees, God’s plan was that a man and woman would be joined as one flesh, that God himself joins them in marriage. Separating such a union and marrying again results in adultery. This teaching seems very harsh indeed.
When we consider that around 40% of marriages will end in divorce it’s likely that most of us will either be divorced ourselves, or have parents, children, friends or neighbours who are divorced or separated. Many of them will remarry if they haven’t already done so. Some of you listening to or reading this will be married to a person who has been divorced. What are we to make of this? Is Jesus condemning all people divorced or married to those divorced? Is he trying to empty the church as those affected by divorce leave through feeling unwelcome?
We’re told in the letter to the Hebrews that Jesus is the ‘exact imprint of God’s very being’, or as Jesus himself said: ‘If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.’ As God is love, Jesus is love. So, what Jesus is saying comes from love. I believe it’s a love which wishes to protect us from pain and sadness. If marriage is a joining of two people to become one flesh, a total giving of one to another, ripping that union apart will inevitably cause pain. Even if a marriage is abusive and for their own protection a person leaves it, there is going to be the pain of lost hopes even if there may be a sense of relief.
When we damage our flesh, when we open a wound, there is pain. Eventually that wound heals leaving a scar. I believe that happens in the case of divorce also. I’m convinced that people can move into a second marriage and make a success of it. However, they take the previous partner with them into it, even if they are only conscious of this occasionally. I think that is where the adultery that Jesus speaks of comes in. Legally a marriage may be over; practically it may not be. This is tough teaching – teaching about God’s hope for our relationships.
God is gracious and can deal with the many ways we fall short of the ideal in life, including divorce and remarriage. He can help us to heal; he can comfort us when the pain of the past affects us; he can give us hope and a future. Whatever we have done or not done, we can still answer the question ‘Who do you think you are?’ with assurance:
(God has) made (us) little lower than the angels
and crowns (us) with glory and honour.
(God has) given (us) dominion over the works of (his) hands
and puts all things under (our) feet.
If you need more reassurance about just how precious and important you are, I highly recommend you to look at the list of ‘Who I am in Christ’ from this website http://www.ficm.org/index.php?command=textwhoamiinchrist
Here you will find statements from Scripture under three headings:
I am accepted …
e.g. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.
I am secure ..
e.g. Romans 8:28 I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances.
I am significant ..
e.g. John 15:16 I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.
No matter how far we wander from God’s best for us, he will always come and seek us out. No matter how wounded we are by our own choices or others, he will offer you forgiveness and healing. If anyone asks us ‘Who do you think you are?’, Jesus has an answer which no one can take away from us: we are his brothers and sisters.
Thanks be to God.
Helene Milena – Lay Pastor