More Goats and Boiling Milk

As occasionally happens, I came dissatisfied to the end of some teaching. During last night’s sermon discussion we were discussing the commandment, “Don’t boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

We’d made the point that our Lord Jesus in His life and death fulfilled this commandment. That is, He really didn’t boil a young goat in its mother’s milk. He didn’t use what was intended for life to be the thing that causes harm.

Just the opposite. Every second of His life was lived exactly as it ought to be. And that wasn’t just good for Him; this “doing everything well” resulted in constructive transformation wherever He went. He prevented good things from going bad (recall the wedding in Cana); He brought back to their original blessing things gone rogue and bad (think quieting the storm); He found good use for small and trivial things (five loaves and two fish).

Gloriously, in His death Jesus was a Savior. But even before the Cross He proved Himself to be a Savior, Salvager, Restorer… good to have around! The opposite of violating the goat and boiling milk commandment.

{Back to our study} We asked, what would it look like for us, also us, equipped with the Spirit of Jesus, to fulfill (though imperfectly) this commandment?

What kept me up last night: I muddied the waters in guiding that discussion. Here’s what I should have said:

The New Testament phrase that most closely parallels our goat/boiling milk commandment is found in Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Did you hear that? Followers of Jesus are not to boil the goat in its mother’s milk, that is, we’re to be vigilant that no aspect of our lives be overcome by evil. But not just that. We are to go beyond simply maintaining the good… and overcome evil with good. Like our Master we’re to be active agents of constructive transformation.

Things should improve by us.

What kinds of mindsets and habits are required for us to be positive change-makers? To save time by not being literary, let me insert a list:

1) This is probably the most important. We should continually be asking: what is ______ for? What good did God intend by inventing, for instance: education, youth, family, marriage, grandparents, sex, church, food, forests, work, government? Unless we first define, and then stay in the habit of recalling the good that God intended by them, we’ll subtly slip into using good things in bad ways.

2) Our reaction to people has to be counter cultural. When people mistreat us and disappoint us, they should be added to our prayer list. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14). We must train ourselves away from focusing on negativity, complaining, stewing… and learn to be people of blessing.

3) Don’t stand on the outside. “Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16). In a certain sense, we should constantly be mulling over the question: how can I best fit in? What do I have to offer this organization? How can my strengths be leveraged to compensate for the current weakness?

The illustration I used last night: if you have a pastor who is a stutterer and whose disposition isn’t exactly warm-and-cuddly, live in harmony with one another. Before the stiff and cold breeze of an awkward pastor, use your affability, easy laugh, breeziness to warm things up.

Brothers and sisters, rather than loudly and/or repeatedly raising problems, move swiftly and silently to being the solution.

4) “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Romans 12: 17). Rather than constantly scanning for signs that payback is on the way to someone who has hurt you {his business is suffering; his kids are misbehaving – YES!} – focus on coming up with tradeoffs and compromises that bring wins all around. Will yourself into wishing for people’s success (even them!) and working for a robust and peaceful uprightness. Are you at odds with someone? Give thought to how to broker an honorable peace, even if that comes with a parting.

5) “Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight” (Romans 12: 16). Cease and desist paying attention to (and taking social cues only from) what you have in common with others. This is a type of social laziness that arises from the smug sense that you should be duplicated! Rather, be a connector, a bridge builder, one who goes out of his way. Embrace eclecticism in your friends and associates!

6) “Loose lips sink ships” (not the Bible). Few things are as destructive to various kinds of communities than undisciplined speech, especially gossip and slander. Yes, conversing casually (and usually carelessly and derogatorily) about the lives of others makes the time go by and will render you as interesting – those words do go down like “tasty trifles” (Proverbs 18:8). But there are other, constructive things that could hold our interest just as well, if only tried: Theology. Bee Keeping. Greek Mythology. World Events. Arguing over Chicago vs. NYC Pizza…

7) Finally, minister out of a mindset of abundance. Please read these verses slowly: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work…He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9: 8, 10, 11).

Begin your interactions and endeavors with a mindset of generosity. This mindset arises out of a vital faith in a generous God who stands by to drop on your plate an abounding heaping of grace. Be generous with what you have because God will supply you with more.

But…I don’t have anything.

Yes you do. You have things at hand: money (that’s the obvious one); a phone with texting capability; jokes; cooking skills; organizational skills; five loaves, two fishes…. Be generous in every way. Don’t just sit there!

Reach out, “distribute freely,” and ask God to multiply so that you may abound in every kind of good work.

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