All posts by tunemyheart

Mark Browning lives on 60 wooded acres in the Greater Bates City, Missouri metropolitan area. For over a quarter of a century he has been wed to the lovely Penny with whom he shares four children and four grandchildren. In his spare time, he teaches English at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.

Thesis Statement–1 John 1:1

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. –1 John 1:1

If there’s one question that I have asked in the two decades I have been teaching writing to college freshmen, it is “What is your thesis?”

The reply, often as not, is something like this: “It’s global warming.”

No, no, no! That’s not the thesis. That’s the topic. I can’t count the number of students who have turned out a paper that was clearly on a particular topic but that wasn’t at all clear what it had to say about that topic. You could have a thousand theses regarding global warming, but you need to pick one and support it.

I’m tempted, looking at today’s verse in isolation, to accuse John of a similar short-coming. Okay, he’s going to write about the Word of life, but what about it? Happily, John gets more specific in his attitude toward the Word of life in the ensuing verses and chapters, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What does he say here?

In this verse, I believe, John is establishing his credentials. He uses five descriptive phrases before explaining that he’ll be writing on the Word of life. The first of these phrases deals directly with the Word. It is “from the beginning.” Such a pronouncement makes the Word more worthy of our consideration than the latest dish on Brittany Spears.

The remaining four phrases, however, deal not so much with the Word as with he who heard the Word, John himself. To paraphrase, John says that he has heard the Word, seen it, looked at it, and touched it. In short, he has experience. Of course we know that John the Apostle

How fitting that in this first real posting after my lengthy sabbatical, we should have a meditation on the primacy of the Word. The Word is vetted. It is from the beginning. Nothing that has been made was made separate from the Word. Compared to the Word, I am nothing, you are nothing, and even John the Apostle is nothing. So what can we do? How do we respond to the Word? Just as John says, we respond: we hear it, see it, look at it, and touch it. In other words, we study and consider the Word, both in the person of Jesus and in the pages of the Bible.

For Three Sins–Amos 1:1-15

Originally posted on Saturday, September 4, 2004

Alyson is home from college for Labor Day weekend. While she’s in town, she decided to get some homework done, a decision I heartily endorse. Her mission this time is to interview someone of a different faith. She chose her grandmother, a member of the Community of Christ (aka RLDS). Although I didn’t witness this interview, I had it related to me in considerable detail by both Aly and Penny, who witnessed it but was forbidden to speak. They’d have had to stick a cork in my mouth to keep me quiet, I’m afraid. Apparently, the conversation went something like this:

Alyson: Who do you believe will go to heaven?

Grandma: I believe that everybody will go to heaven. Except murderers. I mean, if the murderers confess their murder and change their lives, then they will go to heaven, too.

Alyson: So you’re sure that you’re going to heaven.

Grandma: Well, you can’t be sure until you die. You have to do the best that you can and hope that it’s enough. [I know this sounds like the guy in the FAITH video series, but that’s what she said.]

Alyson: But I thought that you said that everybody would go to heaven.

Grandma: Yes, everybody will eventually go to heaven. First, they’ll go to a holding place where they’ll have the chance to learn about God and choose for him.

Alyson: And will they be able to choose against him?

Grandma: Yes, of course, because otherwise they wouldn’t have free will.

Alyson: So what will happen to the people who choose for God?
Grandma: They’ll go to heaven, of course.

Alyson: And the ones who choose against him?

Grandma: I don’t think they will choose against him, because everybody’s going to go to heaven.

Alyson: Why do you think that’s so?

Grandma: Because God loves us and he wouldn’t let any of us go to hell!

Wrong! If I’d have been there I’d have been yelling “wrong” at that point. Yes, God loves us, but that doesn’t mean that God will just ignore our sins. How do I know this? If we haven’t figured it out by reading Hosea and Joel, then maybe we can find it from Amos. Sandwiched in history between Joel’s day and that of Hosea, Amos brought a sharp word of warning to the nations around Israel.

“For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.” Time after time, Amos speaks for God predicting the doom of the various nations surrounding Israel. Why were they doomed? For three sins, even for four. He doesn’t name their sins, but presumably they know about them.

Whoever taught my mother-in-law that sin doesn’t really matter did her a grave disservice. Yes, God loves us, and yes, he gives us every opportunity to escape the penalties of our sins, but God will punish sin in the end.

This lady’s theology is confused to a dangerous degree. But we have no excuse to live in that sort of confusion. Those who trivialize sin do so at their own peril and sometimes at the peril of others.