Monday, December 11, 2006

A Hard Lesson Relearned

Sometimes you know things on a subconscious level, but you need to be reminded of them in very real ways.

On Sunday I visited a dear friend at a church service she was attending; it was an opportunity to talk about various things and pour out what has been in or on my heart. She was asking me if I'd heard some good news she had come across, which I had... but in truth, that "good" news had been like bitter waters to me.

A friend has been blessed greatly this year... in a way that I have waited patiently for myself for quite some time. It was a bitter pill to swallow because his morality in such matters has from my perspective been rather dubious. Personally I find "all's fair in love and war" to be a principle that is greatly at odds with "love your neighbour as yourself", but without going into the details, lets just say he never saw a problem in living by both attitudes... at least not around me.
Some times we have a right to be angry... but just because anger is righteous under certain circumstances, it doesn't mean we should always embrace it. We would be justifiably angry if we were smacked in the face and yet Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. If Jesus had reacted to righteous anger all the time he felt it, he would never have died for us. Is there anything under the sun that is more worthy of righteous anger than the torture and murder of the innocent? If Jesus could turn aside his anger at being unfairly punished at human hands... should we not do the same for the comparatively much smaller things that irk us?
God convicted me on the way back home on Sunday, whilst riding the bike in the pouring rain. While I mulled over the anger I felt, he put a scripture in my heart it was from the parable of the Prodigal Son:

"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'" Luke 15:28-30

I was acting just like that older brother. "Ah! but", I protested "The prodigal son was repentant when he was blessed, I don't feel that has happened". Then God laid on my heart one of my heroes from the Old Testament - Josiah. Josiah's father and grandfather were deeply dodgy men... godless men in fact. Yet God in his wisdom blessed these men with a line of succession. Why not cut off evil men where they stand? Well, if God had done that... Josiah would never have been born and the reforms that held back judgement from Judah for a generation, would never have taken place.
I have repented of my anger and there has been a marked difference in my attitude to the person who wounded me. I have been much more civil... it may not be deserved, but God requires it of me nonetheless.

When Jesus commanded us to love our enemies he said that God makes the sun and rain fall on good and evil men alike. As you live your daily life, you will discover that both good and ball, wonderful and terrible things happen to both the righteous and unjust. Instead of trying to consider whether we or other people are getting our just desserts... we should remember that the big story is not about us. As Shakespeare said:

"All the world's a stage,And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts"

Here is the conclusion of the matter. God is sovereign and his love is unconditional. He has mercy on whom he has mercy and he has compassion on whom he has compassion. By his sovereign choice he blesses who he will, whether they be unrepentant or righteous. In his wisdom he knows the good that will come eventually. Nothing is wasted.

For those of us who still wait for the sweet gentle rain of blessing to kiss our lands; we should remember what the Father said in the story to the older son who felt grieved by waiting, while his disobedient brother was blessed:

"My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours."

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