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Pause for thought

A famous victory

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“O thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine, Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.” -Albert Orsborn

Major Gwyn and I like to banter good-naturedly about the perceived superiority of our respective heritages in the British Isles. I never argue with him, I just explain why I’m right! When you are Scottish it is hard to be humble.

So when the opportunity came to mention Scotland’s recent win over the English at England’s home ground in the Six Nations Rugby tournament, I took full advantage! Of course, at the time of writing this the next game for Scotland is against the Welsh team at Cardiff Arms Park and has not yet been played, so by the time you read this my lunch may have to include a large helping of Humble Pie! [see footnote]

I mention this because in reading the accounts of the game to acquire the necessary facts to properly puncture and deflate the English pride, I came across a couple of interesting things which I am led to discuss them with you. Apart from the usual losers’ excuses about injuries and bad calls by officials were two facts: the English team did not play up to its potential (they were expected to win easily) and a couple of players had to go to the “sin bin” at critical points in the game giving an advantage to their opponents. I think the two are related in a biblical way.

Sin Bin”? If you check out Wikipedia you will see it described as “The penalty box (sometimes called the bad box, or simply bin or box) that is the area in ice hockey, rugby union, rugby league, roller derby and some other sports, where a player sits out to serve the time of a given penalty, for an offence not severe enough to merit outright expulsion from the contest. Teams are generally not allowed to replace players who have been sent to the penalty box.

Ouch! That means a player’s offense against the rules takes him/her out of the game for a while and hurts his/her team. The potential of that player has just been squandered. The offender’s team is diminished. The team has to play extra well to overcome the talent deficit assuming they even have the capability to do so.

Writing to the Church at Rome, the Apostle Paul makes a statement which I think every Christian has memorized: “All have sinned and come short of the Glory of God”. [Romans 3:23 KJV] We tend to focus on the universal culpability of the formula - "all have sinned” - because however hard we’d like it to be otherwise we are caught in its net. That’s why Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees “…he who is without sin, cast the first stone” was so masterful. No matter how pious we may try to be, we know in our hearts that we were “born in sin and shapen in iniquity” [Psalm 51:5].

But I’d like us for a moment to focus on the second part of Paul’s statement. In typical Jewish fashion, for emphasis, Paul says the same thing twice, but changes the words in the second half to highlight or amplify the meaning. Here’s a link to all the English translations of that verse I can find. Note how consistent all the translations are in saying that we are “falling short of God’s Glory”. What Paul is saying is that by offending God’s plan we are taking ourselves out of the Lord's game plan and squandering the potential, not only of ourselves, but that of our team!

Looked at the other way round, if we can just avoid the sin we can reach our best potential which is nothing short of (wait for it!)…”the Glory of God”. Wow! And then we can make our best contribution toward our “team” which is the Body of Christ here on earth.

The avoidance of sin is something our doctrine in The salvation Army calls “holiness” or “entire sanctification”. We believe it is entirely possible and is a privilege which comes as part of relying on Jesus for our salvation. To quote our tenth doctrine: “We believe it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”. That is, we believe it is possible for us to live in such a way that we can steer clear of the “sin bin” and fulfill our full potential showing the world the glory of God through our living with the help of the Holy Spirit!

The US Army used to have an advertising slogan which said, “be all that you can be” (in the US Army).

For The Salvation Army I think that should be - “be all that God intended you to be”, which we can! Then we will avoid the squandering of our potential. Let’s be part of the “Holiness” team!

By the way, if you want to find out how that Scotland-Wales match-up turned out, tune in to the prelude to our Facebook online worship service next Sunday. I’ll either play “Men of Harlech” (probably slowly) or “The Bluebells of Scotland” (with much gusto) to indicate which team lived up to its potential!

[Unfortunately it was the Harlech who prevailed - Ed.]

Saturday January 23rd, 2021