In or out? Mark 9: 38 – 42

In verses 38-41, the disciples have rebuked someone simply because they were not one of them. This man had been driving out demons in Jesus’ name and the disciples didn’t like it. This man wasn’t in their gang or clique and therefore he had no right to associate himself with Jesus. This was gatekeeping, first-century style. Funnily enough, Jesus wasn’t particularly happy with this. The disciples were trying to create certain criteria for entering Jesus’ group and Jesus reacted angrily.

In fact, he was so angry he told the disciples it would be better for them to die to try it again. Jesus tells them that they should tie a millstone around their neck and die at the bottom of the sea rather than insult another believer, especially one that is perhaps vulnerable in their faith.

So the question is this: how often are we guilty of gatekeeping in our churches? Do we set criteria that Jesus never intended to set for our churches? If their attendance is flaky, if they don’t dress up nice, if they don’t contribute to the potluck supper, if they are not a member of one of the Bible study groups, if they say the wrong things and can be a bit crass, do we still accept them as a believer? Or do we say things like, “Oh, they’re not real members; they’re not proper Christians”? Remember, in verse 41, Jesus sets the criteria. If someone believes in Jesus and just does the smallest thing in his name, they’re in. If someone however tries to rob them that, that person should be sleeping with the fishes.

Now, I’m doing a masters degree and at the moment my module is on anthropology and how its insights can help missionaries. (I think it’s a very useful subject to help Christians in general.) So, it’s got me thinking how some of these ideas can be used by the church. If you are reading this and wondering where this part is going, I will bring it around, I promise.

One concept that is often analysed when studying culture is views of kinship. There are different types of kinship to describe different things. One of my favourite types is fictive kinship. This is a kinship relationship which is entirely made up by those involved. We’ve all had those aunts that weren’t really aunts. Those are fictive kinships. You treat a person that is outside the biological or legal terms of family (i.e. in-laws) as if they are actually family. In Cambodia, this is pretty common. I’m in a fictive kinship relationship with Vitou and his family. From appearances, we are very obviously not related. However, the bond between us and the reciprocal obligations (go to birthday parties, bail each other out of problems, visit when the other one is sick or feeling down) are still there as if we were family members.

With kinship relationships, once that bond is created (through biology, law, or even other mechanisms) it is very hard to break. Even if you don’t see your uncle or your sister-in-law for years, they are still your family. The brother you only see at Christmas is still family. Your slightly inappropriate family member, perhaps the aunt that makes all the sexual-innuendos after a glass of wine, is still family. The cousin that you saw last sixteen years ago and they now live on the other side of the world, and you struggle to remember their wife’s name, is still family. When it comes to the criteria for being family, the bar is pretty low but it is still difficult to break the relationship.

The church, as the Bible tells us, is a family. Jesus is the head of the family and all other believers are your brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers in Christ. Therefore, the criteria for them being counted as one of us is pretty low. It is an association through Jesus. Regular church attendance, being a part of the flower committee, volunteering in the summer Bible clubs, or signing a pledge of church membership are not criteria for church membership. Giving a single glass of cool water in Jesus’ name, however is. So it doesn’t matter if you only see them at church at Christmas, they are still your brother or sister in Christ. It doesn’t matter if they say all the wrong things or don’t know the answers to the pastor’s questions, they are still your brother or sister in Christ. If they turn up in a t-shirt they bought at a rock concert, and jeans with holes in them, they are still your brother and sister in Christ.

We don’t actually get to choose who is in and out. We get to receive the love of Christ despite being sinners. Our only job is to accept brothers and sisters and encourage them to do the same. And if you don’t like it, well, don’t be too surprised if you find yourself thrown into the sea.

2 John: love and truth

2 John is a single chapter and it is pretty short. Essentially it is the ancient equivalent of snopes.com or factcheck.com. It is warning the members of a church (who the author – probably the disciple John – calls the lady chosen by God and her children) about false teachers that are travelling around spreading a false gospel.

It essentially says that if the teacher does not teach about Jesus Christ coming in the flesh then they are wrong. He also reminds the church to continue in love.

This short letter is actually quite a helpful lesson in the age of fake news. What are the main criteria of what we consume, post and share? Well, perhaps that it promotes love and testifies of Jesus Christ? I wonder what social media would look like if we followed those rules.

Amos 2

Amos 1 warns various countries surrounding Judah and Israel about their future. Moab gets the next warning in Amos 2. God will destroy Moab’s rulers.

Then God’s anger turns on his own people. Judah rejected the law of God; they worshipped idols. Again, Judah too will experience consuming fire.

Israel’s list of sins is quite extensive. They sell vulnerable people for gain; destroy the poor; fail to help the oppressed; they are involved in sexual scandals and the use of prostitutes; they use their power to make themselves rich. Those that should be honouring God the most – the prophets and the Nazirites – have all fallen into sin.

This list is somewhat terrifying. It’s not just because what they have done is wrong; it’s because the list is all too recognisable. There have never been as many slaves as there are today. People work in sweatshops for the profit of multinational business owners. London has become a hotbed of people-trafficking. Desperate refugees are used to make profits. The poor are being made poorer and the oppressed are still hindered through systematic, institutional and cultural prejudice and injustice. So many leaders and celebrities have been reveal to have been sexually immoral. People, even world leaders, abuse their power to get what they want. Churches are involved in such scandals nowadays it makes one weep.

Even “Christian” nations are full of these sins. They are the Israels of Amos’ times.

What does God tell them? He tells them he will crush them. It will be swift and no one will escape.

It’s a terrifying warning, especially as the picture looks so recognisable. It does make me wonder what might happen to the nations and the leaders of today.

Colossians 4

Colossians 4 has some further instructions. These include prayer, watching and thanking. Then the instructions turn to the work of evangelism: pray that the gospel spreads, praying for those who preach it to be clear, being wise towards non-believers, making the most of opportunities, considering your words and how they proclaim the gospel, having the answers.

Then the letter ends with specific greetings and words of encouragement. What amazes me is the level of the care between the believers. Paul had never actually met the believers in Colossae but here he is writing a long letter. There are also so many connections and people Paul commends, that it suggests that there was some sort of network. Furthermore, they just seemed to want to know news from other churches. In the UK, often other churches don’t really know what each other are doing. Here in Cambodia, especially among the expat churches there seems to be more cross-over. However, there is perhaps a lack of unity among local believers and denominations, which is sad. It’d be nice to see this level of care between different congregations here.

Colossians 1:13-29

This part of scripture is just amazing. Just read it yourself a few times. Really take it in.

Verses 13-14 tells us of a rescue story. One where people were in the kingdom of darkness but were bought into another kingdom. This is our rescue story!

Then the next section tells us all about Jesus, who he is and what he has done. This is what it tells us

  • He created everything
  • He sustains everything
  • He is eternal
  • He is the fullness of God
  • He rules over every authority
  • He is the head of the church
  • He reconciled everything—that’s everything— to God.
  • He shed his blood
  • He made peace

Then it reiterates how we were saved in verses 21-22:

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…”

How amazing is Jesus and the work he has done!

Now Paul tells us his response to this, which is one we should all follow. Paul becomes a servant to this message and proclaims Christ.

(The rest of) Ephesians 5

Yesterday, I started writing about Ephesians 5, but didn’t even reach past the first two verses. It got me bouncing around the books of John and 1 John as well as to the prayers in previous chapters of Ephesians. To summarise, it was this: we are loved, and in this knowledge we should be obedient.

This chapter then reiterates what is acceptable and what isn’t in a life of light:

  • no sexual immorality;
  • no impurity;
  • no greed;
  • no obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking;
  • no drunkenness and debauchery;
  • lots of thanksgiving;
  • being filled with the Spirit;
  • speaking with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit;
  • singing and music in our heart.

We are told we need to be careful.

Be careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16

We are also told this in verses 8 to 10.

For you were once in darkness, but now you are children of the light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.

I really like the last part of this passage, about finding out what pleases the Lord. It does conjure the image of a child making breakfast in bed or picking out a present for a parent of out love and affection for them. Also, to think that we can do things to please the God that made the universe. That’s like saying an ant could do something to please us. It’s baffling, but it’s true. Although we are tiny and insignificant in comparison, God delights in us and treats us with a significance that we don’t actually warrant. That’s just incredible.

The end of this chapter is the somewhat controversial passage about marriage. I say somewhat because I don’t have a problem with it. (Of course you don’t you privileged white male!) This passage talks about how both wife and husband devote themselves to each other in a compassionate, sacrificial way. It tells us that a man “must love his wife as he loves himself” and must be willing to give himself up as Christ did for his church. This is a fantastic command designed for the man to honour his wife. So, I think this passage is great.

What does make me sad is that it seems historically society were so bent on enforcing the instructions to wives in verses 22-24, that the men were too exhausted it seems to follow the instructions given to them in verses 25-33. I’m sad that because of this legacy of misogyny and misaligned patriarchal focus, that passages such as these are dismissed without looking more deeply into the design for marriage that God had.

Ephesians 4

This chapter is quite challenging. Paul asks us to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” And the bar is set really high. To do that we need to be

  • completely humble (v. 2);
  • gentle (v. 2);
  • patient (v. 2);
  • bearing with one another in love (v. 2);
  • united in the Spirit (v. 3);
  • putting off our old self (v. 22);
  • made with a new attitude (v. 23);
  • created like God in true righteousness (v. 24);
  • holy (v. 24);
  • putting off any falsehood (v. 25);
  • speaking truthfully (v. 25)
  • building one another up with our words (v. 29);
  • rid of all bitterness, range, anger, slander, brawling, malice (v. 31)
  • kind (v. 32);
  • compassionate (v. 32);
  • forgiving (v. 32).

Paul also tells us we must not

  • live as the Gentiles do (v. 17);
  • give ourselves over to sensuality (v. 19);
  • indulge in impurity (v. 19);
  • be full of greed (v. 19);
  • be corrupted by deceitful desires (v. 22);
  • sin in our anger (v. 26);
  • let the sun go down while we are still angry (v. 26);
  • give the devil a foothold (v. 27);
  • steal (v. 28);
  • let any unwholesome talk escape our mouths (v. 29);
  • grieve the Holy Spirit (v. 30).

That’s quite a list!

However, it’s in the context of the previous chapter promising us that Christ is working in us and the rest of the chapter about the body of Christ. We’ve been given prophets, apostles, evangelists, teachers and pastors to teach and encourage us. They help us to grow into mature believers that are equipped for every service.

So with Christ working in us through the Spirit and through unity in the body of Christ, we can live a life worthy of our calling.

Ephesians 2

In this chapter, Paul really outlines our need for grace and mercy, as well as how everyone in Christ is equal and united in one body.

Paul explains this: we were dead in our sins as we obeyed the ways of the world; all of us once gratified the desires of our flesh, and as a result we deserved punishment. But God didn’t give us punishment, instead he extended mercy. Instead of receiving death, we received life. Instead of being cast low, we have been raised up to the same level as Christ. If I’m pretty honest, it’s bonkers. The disparity between what we deserved and what we receive through Jesus is massive. It’s too huge to comprehend. We don’t need to work towards this either, we receive it freely when we believe. It’s amazing.

Paul reminds his readers that because of Christ there is no barrier between those who were Jewish and those who were gentiles. I wonder how we should apply it now. Should we apply it between different denominations: the traditional and new wave? Or perhaps between older, more refined believers and the more uncouth recently transformed drug addict? Or the Southern Baptist and the Mexican immigrant? What barriers do we put up in our churches? If Jesus died to break the barrier between heaven and earth, we need to do our best to break down the barriers between fellow believers. For we are “members of his household” and together make “a holy temple”.

Khmer Sing-Along – ដើរនៅក្នុងពន្លឺនៃព្រះ – Walk in the Light of God

I’ve been trying to learn new Khmer songs, especially ones that I sing at church each week. I’ve started off simple, often with children’s songs and ones with familiar tunes. This is because it’s hard enough trying to learn the words in a foreign language, let alone learn unfamiliar tunes that a culturally different, with unexpected trills or chord sequences.

Christian songs provide quite a good opportunity as often they are closely translated and keep the original tune. So that makes it easy for me to understand and to learn the new vocabulary!

I’ll provide a video, the Khmer script, then a Romanised version, then the IPA for linguistic nerds. If you want to find out what system I used or why I made the choices I did in transliteration or transcription, see my Khmenglish page. I will also provide a link to a pdf of all versions side-by-side, as well as a list of each of the words and their meanings.

ដើរនៅក្នុងពន្លឺនៃព្រះ – Walk in the Light of God

Khmer and English

១.
គឺជាការល្អដែលសរសើរព្រះ
គឺជាការល្អដែលសរសើរព្រះ
គឺជាការល្អដែលសរសើរព្រះ
ដើរនៅក្នុងពន្លឺនៃព្រះ

Chorus

ដើរ ដើរ ដើរ ដើរ ក្នុងពន្លឺ
ដើរ ដើរ ដើរ ដើរ ក្នុងពន្លឺ
ដើរ ដើរ ដើរ ដើរ ក្នុងពន្លឺ
ដើរនៅក្នុងពន្លឺនៃព្រះ
២.
គឺជាការល្អដែលស្រលាញ់ព្រះ
គឺជាការល្អដែលស្រលាញ់ព្រះ
គឺជាការល្អដែលស្រលាញ់ព្រះ
ដើរនៅក្នុងពន្លឺនៃព្រះ
៣.
គឺជាការល្អដែលបម្រើព្រះ
គឺជាការល្អដែលបម្រើព្រះ
គឺជាការល្អដែលបម្រើព្រះ
ដើរនៅក្នុងពន្លឺនៃព្រះ
1.
It is good to praise the Lord,
It is good to praise the Lord,
It is good to praise the Lord,
Walk in the Light of God.

Chorus

Walk, walk, walk, walk in the Light, 
Walk, walk, walk, walk in the Light,
Walk, walk, walk, walk in the Light,
Walk in the Light of God.
2.
It is good to love the Lord,
It is good to love the Lord,
It is good to love the Lord,
Walk in the Light of God.
3.
It is good to serve the Lord,
It is good to serve the Lord,
It is good to serve the Lord,
Walk in the Light of God.

Romanisation and IPA

1.
kueu chea ka l’a dael sasaeu Preah
kueu chea ka l’a dael sasaeu Preah
kueu chea ka l’a dael sasaeu Preah
daeu nov knong ponlueu ney Preah

Chorus

daeu daeu daeu daeu knong ponlueu
daeu daeu daeu daeu knong ponlueu 
daeu daeu daeu daeu knong ponlueu 
daeu nov knong ponlueu ney preah
2.
kueu chea ka l’a dael sralanh preah
kueu chea ka l’a dael sralanh preah
kueu chea ka l’a dael sralanh preah
daeu nov knong ponlueu ney preah
3.
kueu chea ka l’a dael bamreu preah
kueu chea ka l’a dael bamreu preah
kueu chea ka l’a dael bamreu preah
daeu nov knong ponlueu ney preah

1.
kɨ ciə ka lʔɑ ɗael sɑsaə preah
kɨ ciə ka lʔɑ ɗael sɑsaə preah 
kɨ ciə ka lʔɑ ɗael sɑsaə preah  
ɗaə nɨw kʰnoŋ pɔnlɨ nɨj preah

Chorus

ɗaə ɗaə ɗaə ɗaə kʰnoŋ pɔnlɨ
ɗaə ɗaə ɗaə ɗaə kʰnoŋ pɔnlɨ
ɗaə ɗaə ɗaə ɗaə kʰnoŋ pɔnlɨ
ɗae nɨw kʰnoŋ pɔnlɨ nɨj preah
2.
kɨ ciə ka lʔɑ ɗael srɑlaɲ preah
kɨ ciə ka lʔɑ ɗael srɑlaɲ preah
kɨ ciə ka lʔɑ ɗael srɑlaɲ preah
ɗaə nɨw kʰnoŋ pɔnlɨ nɨj preah
3.
kɨ ciə ka lʔɑ ɗael ɓɑmrə preah
kɨ ciə ka lʔɑ ɗael ɓɑmrə preah
kɨ ciə ka lʔɑ ɗael ɓɑmrə preah
ɗaə nɨw kʰnoŋ pɔnlɨ nɨj preah

Get the pdf version of the lyrics here.