Saturday, July 29, 2017

Filling the brief – part 1

In the debrief after sermon delivery I received feedback as to the matter as to whether the lepers had exhibited faith.  The challenge put was that the lepers were acting in fear of punishment.  The challenge centred on the leper’s actions in verses 9 and 10 – a return to the city to share news of food in the enemy camp out of fear of punishment of the King of Samaria:


Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.” So they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them, “We went into the Aramean camp and no one was there—not a sound of anyone—only tethered horses and donkeys, and the tents left just as they were.”


To consider the question of faith, or fear of punishment, I’ve listed up to three emotions that the lepers most likely experienced at each stage of the story.  Listing the likely emotions is a suitable way of considering drivers of action.  I kept the lost to a maximum of three emotions to save tripping over synonyms.  The list turned out like this: 


A. While seated, prior to their decision: hunger, dismay, anguish (verse 3).

B. On making their decision: commitment, frazzled, anticipation (verse 5)

C. On walking to the camp: apprehensive, watchful, expectant (verse 5)

D. On arriving at the edge of an empty camp: uncertain, surprise (verse 5, verse 8)

E. On entering the camp and finding it empty: joyous, fulfilled, rewarded (verse 8)

F. On recognising the need to return to the city to share news of God’s providence: dutiful, fulfilled, certain (verse 9)

G. On reporting the find to the guard: dutiful, complete (verse 10)

H. On seeing the people return with plunder: content, rewarded, safe (verse 16).


In terms of a rollercoaster of emotions; A was the low point and E and H were probably equal high points.  There would have been a slight dip in emotions through F, G.


So, was there faith?  Was there fear of punishment?


I had adopted the notion of faith when preparing the sermon as I thought that the lepers, despite their current circumstance, had benefited from an upbringing rich in faith.  I took it that they were schooled in Judaic law and custom.  Granted that their faith may not have been faith in God.  It was perhaps instead a conviction to elements of law and custom.  God may still have been keen to reward faith in law and custom.


Taking the steps identified above we can then consider the prime motivators of action.  That list looks like this:


A. Futility – there is no hope

B. Abandon – there was nothing to lose


F. Joy – God has provided, we must share, or

F. Punishment – If we keep this to ourselves we will be punished


G. [Joy] – Dutifully and freely sharing a win

G. [Punishment] Obligated – Duty bound to share the win


H. Rewarded.


Which can be further summarised in terms of the drivers:


Driver set 1

A., B: selfishness, self-preservation

F., G [Joy], H: altruistic




Driver set 2

A., B: selfishness, self-preservation

F., G [Punishment], H: responsibility


To which I think Driver set 2 is the correct consideration. 


So, it is not right to say that the lepers acted in faith.  Nor, is it right to say that solely acted out of fear of punishment.  It is instead best to assume they were acting selfishly at first and then their sense of responsibility kicked in.  They were not responsible to themselves alone but also to kinfolk (possibly wives and children) in the city.  The punishment they were thinking would become them would not be just of a policing nature but also of the wrath of family.


To which, it is necessary that I set out to change the application points in the sermon.  The application point “Faith = action” is best replaced with the application point “Our motives; God’s response” and explained with discussion of how God acts wonderfully ahead of us, in love, to provide for us.    


A revised slide is depicted at this linked post.



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