Jeremiah Ethics 2: No More Ethical Cowards

There is a big difference between wise caution and cowardice. One will help you make better decisions. The other will thwart great innovations. One will lead you to heaven. The other will take you straight to hell.

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

The reason cowards get grouped with the likes of murderers is that neither trusts and obeys God. A murderer doesn’t trust God will work out his will despite evil being done or despite the disrespect from another. A coward has the same basic problem.

If God is who He says He is, if God tells you the truth about the future in his Holy Word, if God is a God who has clear requirements, then if you are a “believer” you courageously align your lives with His.  This is the stuff of believing. This is the stuff of prophetic ethics.

I can’t speak for all of you, but I have slowly slipped back into being a coward. It is what I call “the middle-age, two-income, get-my-kids-through college, don’t-rock-the-boat, store-up-for-retirement” cowardice. If I don’t get out of this, and soon, I am headed to hell.  I am not just writing that to be “bloggy.” I am serious.

That is why I need Jeremiah to rock my boat. He has pumped me up. This crazy prophet, living in the face of his contemporaries was more sane them all of them. While they were playing the pleasant “baroque” music of peace and safety, he was disturbing the peace with trumpet blasts. Like Jesus, who they said had a demon, Jeremiah seems crazy but is the most sane because sanity is seeing clearly and he did. He was right about the coming judgment. I am glad that Daniel–the more acclaimed prophet–found in Jeremiah deep understanding. Both are canonized for a very good reason. They both understand their times. That is the measure of sanity.

Keep flinging truth Jeremiah. Get me out of my “comfort zone.”

I had a colleague like Jeremiah. A real irritant. A truth fanatic, speaking truth when we didn’t want to hear it. It was a real pain for those of us who just wanted to find a nice rut to settle into and coast through the rest of our lives. We were the ones skewed, wrong, and just plain “frightened by our own shadows.” These were all signs we were the ones self-centered, settling into a comfortable cowardice.

Jeremiahs are the sober people calling the rest of us out of our drunkenness and there is a lot of that out there–drunk with sex, drunk with alcohol, drunk with comfort, drunk with fame, drunk with fat bank accounts, drunk with tradition, drunk with indifference, drunk with bigotry, drunk with comfort….just plain drunk!!  Cowards hide in drunkenness.

Jeremiah’s sanity is hard to follow. This guy preaches destruction on the city even as he is saving money to buy land for when the exiles return from captivity. It doesn’t make sense. His life is bizarre. But in reality, Jeremiah’s life only makes sense when you read it in time chunks of 100 years or more. You can’t read a life like that by the days or years. You have to read it across epics of 100 years or more.

I want that to be the case for Adventists. You have to understand our mission in 100-200 year time frames. We got ourselves some serious issues God has called us to deal with. Our founders looked weird, but given a 100 year view, it makes more sense. They were a good crazy. We needed schools and hospitals to meet the needs of the world.

And we still need that sane craziness that sees the long solutions. And do we need solutions!!!!

The widening gap between the rich and poor. Solution: Tithe by increasing percentages.

Gross entitlement everywhere. Solution: the Sabbath command to work six days and rest the seventh.

Global warming and disregard for God’s earth. Stewardship of creation.

The militaristic assaults on the traditional family from within and without. Honoring that institution.

Why keep wasting your time watching stupid reality shows or long basketball tournaments or living for the latest gadgets when the world needs more sanity. We need courage to share our message of sanity.

It is time for the Adventist church to start being salt to the world again. To be weird–in a good way– when we speak up against the slow cultural insomnia that smiles and says “peace and safety” when the world needs some serious intervention

Now, before you go out and do something stupid and blame Duane, the call to be courageous is most of all to care.

See what Jeremiah says:

“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:7

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,” declares the LORD. “Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply. “I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:1-4.

I am committed to tame my “middle class cowardice” and be a shepherd willing to pour out my life and soul and mind and words for the real needs around me. (I have to be careful about those entitlement junkies, but I still need to give!).

Jeremiah has given me a great example of courage!!!

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