“Everyone Is Doing It”

Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 17.22-23, 26-29, 33, 40-41
22 The Israelites persisted in all the sins of Jeroboam and did not turn away from them 23 until the Lord removed them from his presence, as he had warned through all his servants the prophets. So the people of Israel were taken from their homeland into exile in Assyria…

26 It was reported to the king of Assyria: “The people you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know what the god of that country requires. He has sent lions among them, which are killing them off, because the people do not know what he requires.” 27 Then the king of Assyria gave this order: “Have one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires.” 28 So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship the Lord. 
29 Nevertheless, each national group made its own gods…

33 They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought. 

40 They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. 41 Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did.

Reflection: “Everyone Is Doing It”
By John Tillman

Israel failed to bless the nations by teaching them to follow Yahweh, following their gods instead. After Israel’s exile, we see the nations literally brought into the promised land and taught, by imperial decree, to worship him.

The non-Israelite settlers were being killed by lions due to not worshiping Yahweh. So Assyria sent back an exiled priest tasked with teaching the people “what the god of the land requires.” This priest was only partially successful. “Even to this day,” the author says, the people continued mixing the worship of God with that of idols. 

It can be easy for us to shake our heads in judgment at ancient idolaters. “How simple and foolish they are,” we may think. We underestimate the impact of cultural influence.

”Everyone is doing it” only seems lame when you don’t have to live among the “everyone.” Children say “everyone is doing it” to their parents. Parents don’t live among their children’s “everyone” and so dismiss it as foolish. When children challenge their parents about adult behaviors, parents respond with the same answer, “everyone is doing it.”

We find it easy to not worship a fertility god who guarantees good crops because we aren’t farmers living in a culture in which everyone around us is doing it. (Instead, we live in a culture that believes “knowledge is power” and we are all addicted to streams of content, articles, feeds, news channels… “Everyone is doing it.”)

We underestimate the cultural influence that we are under. Those baked in the culture of western Christianity THINK that we are operating from a neutral theological and cultural position but our culture’s yeast is worked all through our dough. Our culture has a huge influence on our theology and the way we live out our faith. It is hubris to think otherwise. 

Why do we worship God? So that we may not fall prey to lions? So that our kings may not be conquered? So that we can dwell in the land in peace? Selfishness and power can’t grow faith.

Assyria conquered the land but couldn’t enforce worship. We also will fail to force others to faith. Faith cannot be crushed, no matter how powerful the government, but it can’t be forced either. It must grow on its own. All we can do is plant seeds like the priest and pray that God will make them grow.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus went on to say, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.” — Luke 13.18-19

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 17 (Listen – 7:19)
Titus 3 (Listen – 2:05)

Read more about Kingdoms Breaking Bad
As Israel fractures, each dynasty hopes to be the answer. But each one, especially in the northern kingdom, “breaks bad.”

Read more about Paul’s Stance on Gentleness
May we tear down arguments and strongholds, but never people for whom Christ died.

Paul’s Stance on Gentleness

Scripture Focus: Titus 3.3-7
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Reflection: Paul’s Stance on Gentleness
By John Tillman

Paul, rather than boast in his religious heritage and his austere religious lifestyle, included himself in this description of past sinfulness. He includes himself among those who were once foolish, disobedient, and deceived.

Paul’s discussion and confession of past sins and sufferings is intended as a contrast between how believers had previously been and how they were now. But it was not intended to inspire judgmentalism or separation from sinners. Rather, this passage is intended to inspire in its readers, mercy, kindness, peaceableness, consideration, and gentleness. The verses just prior to this, make this purpose clear:

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. — Titus 3.1-2 (Emphasis mine)

The implication Paul is making is that even when confronted with evil and sinfulness, we should respond with goodness and grace. When we face people who are violent rather than gentle, calloused rather than considerate, combative rather than peaceable, and slanderous rather than truthful, we should recognize these people are not our enemies. They are captives. They are enslaved and deceived victims of hatred and sin. It is our mission to save them from captivity, not destroy them. It is our mission to address their deception, not dismiss them as foolish or ignorant. It is our mission to demonstrate to them true love and forgiveness, not to enact retributive punishments upon them.

In hostage rescue training, military operators train relentlessly on breaching rooms that contain hostages and on attacking only the hostile hostage-takers, not the hostages themselves. This type of training is high-stakes and high-stress. Failure is literally life and death. 

Too many times when Christians address ideological opposition online or in person, we shoot the hostages. When we address arguments against faith, we must remember that the person making them, is loved by God and should be treated as such. Ad-hominem attacks, meanness, violent language, and unkindness are not rhetorical tools that should be in the arsenal of Christians in the public square.

May we confess our past and current shortcomings as Paul did.
May we constantly keep in mind the commands of Paul to his young spiritual leaders, Titus and Timothy, to teach gently and faithfully. 
May we tear down arguments and strongholds, but never people for whom Christ died.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
The Lord lives! Blessed is my Rock! Exalted is the God of my salvation! — Psalm 18:46

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 17 (Listen – 7:19)
Titus 3 (Listen -2:05)

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Read more about Choosing Gentleness Over Violence
The language of many Christians and prominent Christian pastors has followed, growing combative, disrespectful, and even violent

Read more about Abandoning Human Vengeance
As Christians, we must identify ourselves as part of a new fringe that will not submit to the normalcy of hatred.