The Other Guys (and Gals)

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The Other Guys (and Gals)

Genesis 36:1–8

Esau’s Descendants1

These are the descendants of Esau (that is, Edom). Esau took his wives from the Canaanites: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, Oholibamah daughter of Anah son of Zibeon the Hivite, and Basemath, Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebaioth. Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau; Basemath bore Reuel; and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam, and Korah. These are the sons of Esau who were born to him in the land of Canaan.

Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the members of his household, his cattle, all his livestock, and all the property he had acquired in the land of Canaan; and he moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. For their possessions were too great for them to live together; the land where they were staying could not support them because of their livestock. So Esau settled in the hill country of Seir; Esau is Edom.

Acts 18:24–28

Ministry of Apollos

Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately. And when he wished to cross over to Achaia, the believers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. On his arrival he greatly helped those who through grace had become believers, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Messiah is Jesus.

Every story… every history, has its heroes and villains. There are those who capture the attention of the audience and who draw out feelings of sympathy and empathy for the challenges they go through.

Then there are the other guys, the supporting cast. Sometimes they are good and sometimes they are bad. I can easily remember Jean Valjean from Les Miserables but I cannot recall the names of the wicked innkeepers who helped raise young Cossette. Nor can I remember if the bishop who showed Jean grace at the beginning of his journey was even given a name.

Supporting roles are the pillars which hold up the platform of the stars. Our heroes only rise as high as those around can lift them up. Tweet: Our heroes only rise as high as those around can lift them up. Their stories and our stories, would be vastly different without these people.

Jacob/Israel’s very identity was tied to his brother Esau from the moment of his birth. Without his brother, he would have been an only child and may have never left home at all – completely changing the course of history. Without the conflict with his brother, he may have had younger siblings, giving us not just 12 tribes, but perhaps 20, divided between two patriarchs. Who knows?

But Esau’s part was not just in causing conflict at home, but in showing grace as reconciliation later as well. While Jacob was off on his adventures in marriage and having children, Esau was raising a family as well, enjoying the blessing and provision of God from afar, and finding healing in his own life so that, when the day arrived, he could show Jacob the grace he needed to transform the deceiver into the one who strives with God and the father of the 12 tribes of God’s people.

Priscilla and Aquila, (Notice the woman is mentioned first here!) were two lesser known, but essential heroes of the faith as well. They met with Paul in Corinth and encouraged him in his ministry so much that he took them with him to Ephesus. When it was time for him to leave there, they stayed on to care for the young Christian community. Apollos, yet another lesser known hero of the faith, followed after Paul as preacher and teacher to those in Ephasus. He knew the scriptures well and could point out the evidence that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. He, like all of us, had a weakness though… a place where he needed growth. He had little understanding about or experience with the Holy Spirit. So Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and taught him. They did not seek to take his place on the stage. They chose to be his supporting pillars and lift him up higher, thus furthering that ministry there in Ephasus and later on in Corinth when Apollos moved on to there.

It may be that we would not have the church today without Jacob or Paul, or even Apollos… but we would not have these heroes in the spotlight if there were not their supporting cast behind them in Esau, Priscilla, and Aquila. They were the ones that taught our heroes the grace they needed to teach us about grace.

Who are the supporting characters in your life?

Who are you supporting and lifting up into the spotlight?

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  1. (1 Chr 1:35–42)

Vessels of Grace

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Vessels of Grace

Leviticus 9:22-24

Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them; and he came down after sacrificing the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the offering of well-being. Moses and Aaron entered the tent of meeting, and then came out and blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

1 Peter 4:1-6

Good Stewards of God’s Grace

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.

Grace is not free. There is always a price paid. Deitrich Bonhoeffer may have helped win the term “cheap grace”, but the concept, and the question that drives it are far older than this 20th Century revolutionary of the faith. That question is: How do the forgiven act? In more theological circles the question has been narrowed down to: Do Christians sin? John writes about this. Paul writes about this. Peter writes about this as well.

In all accounts, there is an expectation that our acts of sin and rebellion against God will cease. If they did every time, there would be no need for the question. Since they do not, we all typically start splitting hairs, semantics, doctrines, and churches right at this point. We split passionately because we do not know how God will judge us for sure, but we think and feel our own salvation depends on us being “right’‘. Thus, we as churches fall for the same adage we often tell newlyweds: You can either be right or be married.

That sin-focused view of faith ultimately leads down a road of Self-condemnation and/or Self-justification leaving no one happy or in relationship at the end of the day. Can Christians sin? Yes. We all know it and most of us prove it daily. The issue is not sin or our apparent vulnerability to it. the issue is that we are asking the wrong question.

What if we asked a different question? What can a Christian do? No, I don’t mean what list of sins can we get away with doing without losing our place in Heaven? I mean, on a much more basic level, what is the benefit to following Jesus? Is it just the promise of paradise when I die, or does He make any difference in my life now? When I am tempted to do things I know I’ll regret, can He help me, or am I pretty much lost? When I’m hurt, broke, sick, and tired, will He bring me any help, comfort, peace, or provision? Scripture answers this question many times as well. Here are two of my favorites:

John 4:13-14

“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.””

Philippians 4:10-14

“I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.”

It is not that our sin does not matter. Everything matters. It is that grace matters too and anytime we find ourselves stuck trying to choose only one or the other, we have lost track of the only hope we have. Either we are vessels of God’s grace, or we are not.

Do you carry the grace of God in you?

If so, what difference is it making in your life today?