Godliness with contentment.
Some tough subjects this week again! And no apologies for perhaps treading on one or two feet. The fact is that the Christian life can be mighty uncomfortable when it comes into conflict with any personal or selfish desires and expectations. If by any chance you have grown up with the thought that following Jesus is an easy life, then you are in for some disappointment. Godliness AND contentment are pretty demanding principles; they relate to practical issues such as ‘Am I being paid enough?’ to ‘Am I enjoying good relationships with my neighbours?’ Please don’t feel I am getting at anyone, or a group of people, in particular. The issues are general so if they bite at you ….
v 3 Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life.
It is important to realise that teaching, in its Christian context, is not simply a matter of imparting information, rather like teaching History or Geography. The history the Bible contains is interesting, and it helps to explain some aspects of society as we experience it today, but that is not the heart of the matter. Nor is it a matter of understanding ancient cultures and the religions to which they adhered. The central purpose of teaching is not to educate in its information aspect, but rather to help transform life and lifestyles towards a godly pattern.
In that respect Christian teaching may be challenging, even disturbing, when it is out of kilter with the assumptions of the surrounding culture. In a highly sexualised culture like our own, or indeed like the one Paul inhabited in his lifetime, Christian teaching may appear threatening because it challenges the generally accepted norms and desires of many people. Christian teaching challenged slavery in our history, and continues to confront issues of exclusion and exploitation. But even those kind of issues might be less confrontational than matters of personal lifestyle – that is where it might hit hardest in terms of challenge. When a dishonest person is challenged to live honestly, or when an employer is challenged to treat the workforce with greater compassion, or an unfaithful husband has to face up to the consequences of his actions, that is when Christian teaching touches daily life and promotes a godly life.
Please don’t be surprised if Christian teaching touches your conscience and makes you squirm – that is its purpose after all!