In and Out of Order

I have come to realize that order is essential to maintaining my peace. I don’t function well with clutter and disorder in my home, my workspace, my thoughts, my words, or my relationships. I don’t meet the criteria to be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, but I do have a need to keep things clean and orderly if I am to be at my best.

I also have an aversion to disorder on a societal scale when it escalates to anarchy and lawlessness, as it has recently in our nation. When people become enraged, however legitimate their reasons, they are prone to disorder, and disorder often turns to violence. This is true in families and in communities. When we fail to maintain a minimum standard for orderly conduct, people get hurt and things and relationships get broken.   

Our God is orderly. His sublime preference for orderly design, movement, and purpose is seen in the circuits of the planets, the interdependency of species on the earth, and the arrangement of subatomic particles. Consider the human body with its nerves, muscles, organs, and the intricate communication systems that allow them to work together to sustain our lives. We are the best exhibits in the universe of God’s symmetry and order.

 God placed the first miraculously designed couple in a garden, not a weed patch.  A garden is a display of order and intention, containing only the specimens the gardener has chosen to plant. When weeds pop up (because of the curse in Genesis 3, by the way), they bring disorder to the garden. If allowed to proliferate, they can choke the fruitfulness of the other plants.

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Unfortunately, unredeemed, fallen humanity finds itself in a weed patch, afflicted with disorder. Weeds are not people in this analogy, but behaviors and attitudes springing from the sin nature that put us at enmity with God and with one another.  

What is to be done?

First, let’s see how Scripture comes to life, revealing God’s intended order in creation and in human life. Isaiah declared,

This is what Yahweh says, heaven’s Creator, who alone is God. He created the earth, shaped it, and established it all by himself. He made it fit and orderly and beautiful for its inhabitants” (Is. 45:18).

Using the night sky to illustrate, Isaiah also declared,

He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.  Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Ps. 147:3-5).  

God structured reality with days and nights, seasons and cycles, land, water, and sky. Clearly, God desired for his creation to reflect his beauty, stability, and orderliness.

The Hebrew word translated “order” in the English Bible carries various shades of meaning. As a verb, it means to arrange, set or put or lay in order, set in array, set in place, prepare, order, ordain, furnish. It connotes deliberate, conscious action.

As a noun, “order” is used to describe a state of tidiness, a peaceful condition. It is used to denote a group of people who choose a cloistered, disciplined life, as in “a religious order.”

Applying the concept to government, the writer of Proverbs observes, “When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order” (Prov. 28:2). Good leaders provide order, which instills a sense of peace and safety.

We speak of things being “in order” or “orderly” which also can imply efficiency and correctness. It is desirable for conditions, plans, processes, and machines to be “in order.”  When these things are out of order, they are broken and unfit for use.

Do you ever find yourself feeling broken and unfit for use? Out of order?  Isn’t it hard to find peace in that condition? And when social discourse becomes chaotic and out of order, aren’t we apt to fall into a state of fear and lack of peace?

Paul tells us that “to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). This suggests that the key to peace resides in our minds. But this applies to minds that are infused and informed by the Holy Spirit of God, “because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (v.7). Without the Holy Spirit’s transforming touch, our minds are out of order!

Scripture also reveals that in an unredeemed state, human beings are naturally tribal, isolating themselves from those who are different. Again, the key to peace with one another resides in our submission to the Lord’s redemptive work in and among us:

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,having abolished in His flesh the enmity…so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Eph. 2:14-16).

Do you see the tension and disorder in this passage, and the resolution? Without the presence of the Lord, Jews and Gentiles were in disunity, separation, enmity, slaves to legalism and religious prejudices–and so are we.

But when he who “is our peace” comes into view, the Lord Jesus Christ,” we are reconciled to God and one another. Separation or enmity based on race, tribe, skin pigmentation, or language no longer have any place. Order has been restored to the souls of individuals, and to the spaces between us.

Obviously, however, we must keep our minds renewed day by day to experience this reality. We must take individual responsibility for respecting Lord’s order, conducting ourselves in an orderly way. “The steps of a good person are ordered by the Lord” (Psalm 37:23). Intention without corresponding action doesn’t cut it. We don’t experience order until we commit to walking in it.

We also reflect God’s beautiful order by how well we love one another, “doing all things in a beautiful and orderly way” (1 Cor. 14:40) in the church.  Some of the worship videos released recently give me hope and vision for this. We see men and women, old and young, of varied appearances and skin colors, caught up together in the beauty of holiness, unified and joyful in their expression of love for the Savior. They exemplify order and excellence, and my heart becomes full and healed as I join them with my own voice.

Lord, I pray that this would become our new normal!  Restore us to your beautiful order. Help us to reflect here the perfect peace that pervades the kingdom of heaven, where saints from every tribe, tongue and nation bow before the throne of their King!  

  

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