Monday, April 4, 2011

A Slap to the Face

This is my attempt to relay a story from a good friend of mine, and my accuracy is dependent on what I heard. Nevertheless, this story is valuable for its general lesson, not its details.

My friend, who we shall call (for the sake of privacy) George, runs a Christian club called Campus Life Jam Club, which is headed up by a Christian organization called Youth For Christ.

Don't misunderstand me when I use the word "club," because all Jam Club does is serve as a sort of middle ground between church and schools. It is essentially a youth hang-out that serves to get young people (who would never go to church out of their own desire or volition) in a relationship with Christ and to get connected with a church.

Well, anyway, one day at this Jam Club, the students were playing a game in which people read questions off of cards to each other. It's kind of a "get-to-know-you" sort of game, and usually does not end up going too deep, depending on the audience. Well on this day, as the students were all answering questions and having a good time, a question concerning family came up.

One of the students, who was an older 8th grader (we'll call him Sam), called out and said, "I have something to say..." So everyone got quiet and waited for the next thing he would say. The boy was looking down and after a period of what was soon being recognized as a serious silence, he looked up, and with big tears rolling down his cheeks, started to explain his broken relationship with his father.

Now considering the fact that most middle schoolers usually have no idea how to handle such raw, real-life emotions, George stepped in and said, "Now does anyone have anything to say to encourage Sam?" And out of the group of middle schoolers, a scrawny little 6th grader (Ryan) said, "I can pray for him."

Now one thing must be understood before going any further: Ryan was one of those kids that Sam liked to pick on and make fun of pretty regularly. Now, as far as I know, the teasing wasn't anything intensely serious, but it was enough of a reason for Ryan to hold a strong grudge against Sam.

So, as Ryan is praying his awkwardly honest child-like prayer, (which God loves) Sam is experiencing something absolutely and completely supernatural: being loved by a person who has every reason to hate. One of the most supernatural things you can experience is being loved by someone whom you have given every reason to hate you.

I find this story to be a modern parallel of the tale of the Good Samaritan. If you've never read it, go do it now. Actually go read it even if you've heard and read it millions of times before. It's in Luke 10.


To understand a little bit of more depth to this story, consider this: the Samaritans and the Jews were two races of people who hated each other. Their tension and hatred was rooted deep into the core of their beings, being intensified by generations of grudges. So when Jesus told this story of a Samaritan helping a Jew, it was completely and absolutely un-thinkable and detestable to the Jews. To see the history of their tensions, check out this site: Who Were the Samaritans?

A lot of times people apply this story of the Samaritan to their own lives and say, "We should all strive to be the good Samaritan, instead of those other losers in the story." And I agree that's a pretty good thing to work at. But do you want to know the truth?

We're not the Good Samaritan. We're the guy in the ditch, bleeding and bruised.

The parallel between this story and reality is that Christ was the Good Samaritan, who sacrificed everything He had for a people that hated the ground He walked on. He did it in his ultimate, perfect plan to redeem His people and bring them into a right relationship with Himself.

That, my brothers and sisters, is one of the least understood and simultaneously most powerful acts of God.

Jeremiah 32 is, to me, one of the most moving chapters in all of the Bible, and it speaks directly of this issue, and makes no apologies for what it says. However, you need a bit of background to understand it: Jeremiah was a prophet of God who was sent, under divine command, to warn Israel and tell the Jews that if they didn't turn from the idols they were worshiping, they would soon be conquered, exiled, and taken as slaves by the kingdom of Babylon. For decades, the people of Israel had forsaken God, worshiped idols, sacrificed their children to foreign deities, and used the temple of God to make sacrifices to these other Gods. (32:16-35) Jeremiah constantly told the people that if they would turn from their sins that God would forgive them and bring them to a Holy Communion with Himself.

But, in a nutshell, they ignored the word of God and slapped Him in the face by their actions.

The result is that God tells them - through Jeremiah - what He will do with them. He explains that He will let them be conquered, exiled, and made to be slaves to a people who hated them. God will let the Chaldeans (the people of Babylon) come in and burn their precious city of Jerusalem to the ground. He will let this happen for period of 70 years. God will let the people of Israel suffer and have their spirit broken and utterly trashed.

But here's the catch: His reaction of anger isn't purely for the sake of His wrath. God allowed all of those things to happen because it is only at the point of brokenness that anyone can have a relationship with God. It is only in complete conviction and remorse for sin that someone can come and be restored to a right relationship with Christ.

The truth is, we are exactly like the Israelites. God gives us life, breath, and the beauty of Creation. We take those things and then slap Him in the face with our sin. Our sins of anger, pornography, un-forgiveness, pride, fear, drunkenness, hypocrisy, etc. are just as bad, just as wicked as the Israelites sacrificing babies to idols.

So He sent His Son, Jesus. He died and was brutally murdered for every girl you look at with lust. For every bit of anger you hold against your father who left you. For every word of gossip you've uttered against someone you think you have to compete with. For every lie you've told to cover up your sin. For every ounce of bitterness you've held in your heart. For every time you've found a sick and twisted way to rationalize your sin. For every time you put something above your relationship with the God who only wants to bless you and love you and give you your deepest heart's desire for true meaning in life.

He is the ultimate Good Samaritan, and He gave everything while you gave Him nothing and took everything.

But Jeremiah 32 doesn't end there.

In verses 36-44, God says that He will bring the people of Israel to a point where it can be said, "And they shall be My people, and I will be their God." He says that out of this He will "give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them." That He would "make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from Me."

His promise is this: "Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them." This is the depth of beauty and love - He doesn't just let the story end with His wrath and fury, but finishes with Him desiring to give them the ultimate good and fulfillment. It is the perfect beauty of simplicity.

I do not write these words out of a vacuum of understanding, but rather out of the wretched wickedness of my own soul. I also write these words coming out of a situation where me and my family's trust and affections have been deeply hurt by someone's accumulation of years of hidden sin and lies.

It is in this brokenness that I am beginning to scratch the surface of Christ's immeasurable, fierce, un-relenting, completely perfect, passionately pursuing Love. It is in this ditch that He is showing me His scars and mine. It is in this pain He is showing me the power of His restoration and grace. And it is in this shaking of my shack that He is placing me on His foundation of Rock.


This is awesome! What a great tie-in to Luke 10. I ran across one of your comments on the SCL blog and wanted to stop by.

~ Ashley

Yeah, I just discovered the SCL blog. Great stuff :)

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