The Most Neglected Verse According To John Newton

One would almost think that passage…was not considered as part of God’s word; at least I believe there is no passage so generally neglected by his own people.    –John Newton

What is that one passage? Luke 14:12-14.

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

The context of Newton’s quote is in a letter to a young man who has become newly married. This young minister was very liberal in giving to the poor, but now that he has a wife to care for he is afraid he will have to give less to the poor. After all, isn’t he called to provide for his family?

It sounds like such a reasonable argument. And Newton concedes that it’s possible that he won’t be able to provide quite as much monetary assistance. He doesn’t deny that this young man needs to provide for his family. But he also calls his bluff, and in doing so I think he has something to say to us as well.

Newton told this young man that if at the end of the day he does decide that he has to close up his pocketbook for the poor to provide for his wife that he would also be sure to do two more things. First, “Be very certain that you allow yourselves in nothing superfluous. You cannot, I trust, in conscience think of laying out one penny more than is barely decent; unless you have another penny to help the poor.” And secondly, let your friends know that you will not able to entertain them…not even for a night.

If you are anything like me you balk at those suggestions. Why, certainly I can use a little bit of what I’ve worked hard for to my own enjoyment? Surely, it is my Christian duty not to shut the door on my friends. What kind of friend and neighbor would I be to not be providing for them? (Keep in mind how much stronger these sentiments would have been in late 1700s England).

This is where Newton points to Luke 14:12-14. Would you rather open the door to Christ or to your friends? He continues:

“If the Lord Jesus was again upon earth, in a state of humiliation, and he, and the best friend you have, standing at your door, and your provision so strait that you could not receive both, which would you entertain?”

Then he points to that passage and says, “I do not think it unlawful to entertain our friends; but if these words do not teach us, that it is in some respects our duty to give a preference to the poor, I am at a loss to understand them.”

I’m not sure that I agree with Newton that this is the most neglected verse by Christians but it certainly would make the top 10—especially here in America. We have such a propensity to hide behind a very good thing like providing for our families to neglect our call to be hospitable to those who have nothing to give to us. How often are our dinner plans motivated by what will provide us the greatest enjoyment instead of what might further the kingdom? Are we really providing for our families or are we padding our houses for our families and using that as an excuse to neglect the poor?

Tough questions. But Newton is right, Luke 14 means something…and if it doesn’t mean that we should give some sort of preference to the poor I’m at a loss for what it does mean.

Photo source: here

Pray With Your Spouse: Day Fifteen

Day Fifteen: Practicing Hospitality

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. –Hebrews 13:2

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. –1 Peter 4:9

Our hospitality is directly tied to our grasp of the gospel. As we have been praying about using our marriages for the sake of God’s glory, opening up our homes to others is a massive reflection of this. Hospitality is a reminder of our alien status. If our home is not hospitable it’s like one that is comfortably living the American dream. We’ve started thinking that we are at home in this world and as a result we’ve lost our sojourner impulse. Let’s pray today that we would open our hearts and our homes to not only our friends but also to those who aren’t as much like us. Pray today that our marriage will have a missional heartbeat that will drive us to open our homes so that the gospel will flourish.

Father, thank you for saving us and rescuing when we strangers to your family. We know that we are called to reflect your love in the way that we welcome others into our home. Help us to open our home to others. Help us keep our sojourner impulse. We so badly want to lay down roots, but help us to do this in a way which reflect our missional heartbeat. Give us ideas for living out the Great Commission in the way we open up our home to others. Thank you for making your home among us. May we reflect Immanuel.

Read This! 02/21/17

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Letter from a ‘Concerned Church Member’

Jared Wilson hits this one right on the head. One of the most difficult things about pastoral ministry is this often unspoken letter right here. Honestly, I got a little stressed out reading this.

It’s almost time…

I’m Listening, Sam

Last week, while heavily medicated from getting a tooth extracted, one of my former students sent me an article to read and give him my thoughts. Because I figured my thoughts at the time would be an incoherent mess of thoughts smattered with thoughts of Sasquatch and other mythical beasts, I decided to read and respond a bit later. The article is from a millennial, named Sam Eaton, who gives us twelve reasons why he believes millennials are leaving the church.

Being born in 1981, I’m never sure how to respond to these because I’m not sure if I’m part of Gen X, Gen Y, or if I’m a millennial. So much of what the author says in this article resonates with me. In fact so many of the bullet points that Eaton suggests for improvements are things that I’m trying to build into the culture of our little church here in Southwest, MO. But I’m really not doing this because I’m trying to reach millennials, I’m doing it because it’s basic Christianity–it’s what a church should be.

What I appreciated so much about Eaton’s call is that when you sift through all the complaints what he’s simply telling churches to be biblical. It can be broken down to five points that are applicable to any generation:

  1. We should be intentional and passionate about being good listeners to every generation.
  2. We should practice hospitality
  3. We should be doers of the Word and not merely hearers (or speakers)
  4. We should be disciple makers
  5. We should pursue authentic community

All twelve points are really saying one of these five things. And I give all five of those a hearty amen. I’m passionate about seeing churches grow in creating a culture which reflects these five things. And so I’m listening. And I’m anxious to partner with millennials, like Sam, to help churches become increasingly like Jesus. However, I’ve got a few points of kick-back that I’d like to offer.

First, changing to reach a generation is why millennials are repulsed by the church in the first place. In my mind, we’ve gotten ourselves into this mess because a few decades ago we were faced with a similar crisis and we asked the wrong questions. We changed to reach the Boomer Generation. This caused us to move from center. And that’s why you are dissatisfied today.

The reason why millennials in some areas aren’t being reached isn’t because we aren’t equipped to speak to millennials. The gospel is timeless. It is counter-cultural and counter-generational. And the church that is shaped by the gospel will speak to the basic needs of every generation. So be careful when you call on churches to listen to your generation and adapt to it’s needs, because you’ll end up in the same spot in about twenty years.

Secondly, you are the church. Therefore, it is a bit nonsensical to say, “your move church”. No, it’s our move. If you are a believer in Jesus then you don’t have the option of disengaging. I get that the church can be frustrating at times. I get that it really seems like you could do so much more on your own or in some para-church ministry where you don’t have to worry about institutions and such. I also get that Jesus died for his church and not for a building. But, Jesus did die for the church. That screwed up bunch of blood-bought redeemed sinners. Practice what you preach and do what you can within your local church to make those five points happen.

Thirdly, be the change you want to see. In one of the points in the article Eaton decries the fact that millennials are often told, “we aren’t good enough”. And I get that. It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating to be called a snowflake, to not be listened to because you are younger–to be dismissed. But can I humbly suggest that the author might have been guilty of the very thing he is offended by? The whole article is basically saying millennials aren’t coming to church because you aren’t good enough for them. It cuts both ways.

Lastly, love isn’t how you feel about something. At the beginning of the article the author says that he really wants to love the church but he is increasingly feeling burned by the church and starting to understand why more and more millennials have a negative view of church. I understand this sentiment. And I think he’s saying he really wishes that the church was easier to love. But cruciform, Jesus-type, love isn’t ever going to be easy. It loves the unlovely. It’s intentional. It doesn’t sit on the sidelines and say, “Man, I’d really like to love you but you just won’t let me.” No, Jesus reaches us in all of our muck and mire. He chooses to love the unlovely. That’s the type of love that we are called to exercise towards one another. So, I get that the church can be really jacked up a times, but Jesus still loves her and washes her with the water of the Word.

Hang in there, Sam. The church has been through some pretty dark times, but she’s beautiful. We are beautiful because of the One who loves us. He is radically dedicated to seeing us be more like Jesus. The gospel is powerful enough to reach any millennial—no matter how discontent. Drop anchor there and watch the Lord work.

Photo source: here