It was Apostle Paul who said his greatest joy was to see his children walk in truth. Walking in truth has a lot to do with being values based, that is, to be grounded in certain gospel values and lead according to those values. In the recent financial milieu, many have lost confidence as institutions gambled away their “trust factor”. Organisations worldwide have the hard and constant task of rebuilding trust. One Australian bank correctly discerned the signs of the times, with advertisements telling us they are “200 years young” and are keeping “to the trodden path”. If you survey the social scape you will find the trodden path is narrower than what it used to be.
There is an extraordinary passage of Scripture where Jesus describes a generation where leaders have rejected the will to be true (Luke 7:31). Jesus describes this generation “like children sitting in the marketplace”. What a pregnant phrase! Are we grown-ups playing in the marketplace?
I recently had lunch with a friend who confessed to me his work was just about the money. For the entrepreneurs amongst us, making money is a calling and this gift can be used in unlimited ways to serve the common good. For many others, the desire for making money becomes a substitute for making a difference, and the calling to the marketplace becomes calculating and cynical. Do we take our calling seriously enough when it comes to the church in the marketplace? Do we see the significance of our role in creating a work culture? Are we like the generation that played at their work and worked at their play?
To be true, let’s be true to our calling.
In the parable Jesus told, the children were playing the flute. A wedding celebration! Here is a bride and a bridegroom and the bridal party dancing through the streets mimicking the traditional celebration of that day and culture. Liked the piped piper, the children circled through the busy streets in their world of make believe and romance. But when they tired of playing weddings, they changed the game to a funeral dirge – as it happened in the streets of the city of Nain the day before (Luke 7:12). The children were playing the sombre arrangement of a mourning party, at least until Jesus showed up.
When we were younger we would play “grown-ups”. For children, it’s fun role-playing mum and dad because they get to make all the rules. Like the children in the marketplace on the streets of Nain two thousand years ago, children spend many hours playing this game of charades.
This role-playing takes me back many years. I was a new recruit to the corporate world and had a line manager who said to me, “Peter, just remember this, it’s just a game”. His simple philosophy on surviving organisational politics helped him to work the rules better than most and he lived on to be something of a survivor in the tumble turn of office politics (where most of us play our games).
In Luke’s gospel, I am sure Jesus was playing with the children. Meanwhile, the crowd, made up of people from all walks of life, gathers in the marketplace.. Standing up, Jesus takes the lead from the children and gives the adults a lesson. While it may be fun to play charades, it appears this generation was play-acting to an extent they were living superficially. A crowd of make believers. It is like Jesus was saying they couldn’t recognise the prophets because they couldn’t recognise themselves. It all sounds very familiar. Not knowing ourselves, living a superficial life, lacking authenticity and moral authority. Is this a generation playing charades?
To be true, let’s be true to ourselves.
There is a final thought in this extraordinary parable recorded by the physician but spoken by the great Physician. John the Baptist came and it was a time fasting. Jesus came and it was a time of feasting (Luke 7:34). Fasting and feasting represent two different seasons in God’s divine timing. Like the alarm clock with the wrong setting, the first gospel generation came to fast when it was time to feast. Somehow this generation got out of sync with God’s timing.
If one thing is true, it is this: we live in a time of great grace. Moses turned water into blood, Jesus turned water into wine, ushering in a new dispensation. How radically different was the first miracle in Egypt and the first miracle in Cana! What could be so radically different as the first Pentecost in the Mt Sinai desert where three thousand died and the first Pentecost after the cross, where three thousand came to the saving knowledge of God’s Son?
The law came through Moses but grace and truth through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). This generation finds itself in the dispensation of great grace. We need to live and speak with great grace also.