life, Light, Revelation

Ignorance

There’s a story I heard years ago about a young girl who was walking through the woods on a glorious spring day. Suddenly a snake appeared in her path. She turned to run but the snake called out to her:

“Please! Don’t run away. I’m lonely and I need a friend.”

“But you’re a snake,” the girl replied. “you’ll bite me.”

“I won’t bite you,” the snake promised.  “I’m a bit cold and I’m very lonely and I just want a friend. Besides, I’m one of God’s creatures, too.  Won’t you be my friend?”

The tenderhearted girl looked upon the lowly creature of God and had compassion.  She stooped down, scooped up the snake and tucked it under her light jacket to warm it, pleased that kindness prevailed over fear.

Of course, the snake bit her immediately and the girl dropped him in horror.

And as the pain and poison coursed through her body she cried out, “Why? Why did you bite me? I thought you wanted to be my friend!”

The snake turned, as it slithered down the path, and sneered, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”

I told that story to an assembly of sixth graders last week.

I thought of it again last night as I lead a group of high school students through a discussion of Revelation 17.

Evil united to wage war against the Lamb. The scarlet beast, the mother of all prostitutes and a cadre of kings pooled their power to defeat their common enemy.

But of course their unity was short-lived.  The beast and the kings threw the prostitute under the bus – left her naked, ate her flesh, burned her with fire.

Because the snake is never your friend. His promises never mean anything. No matter how sweet his speech, no matter how much honey drips from his smooth-as-silk words. No matter how pathetically he appeals to your Christian compassion. No matter how well he exploits your sinful desires.

We are nearing the end of our study of Revelation and we’re finally getting to the good stuff, to the Hallelujahs!

Last week we took a little side trip away from Revelation to look at how God’s justice and mercy have always been woven together – throughout the Old Testament and the New.

The cross being the perfect balance of the two.

The cross. The focal point of Lent.

Some “friends” mocked Jesus on Facebook yesterday.

Ordinarily I would have ignored it, but it’s Lent, and no one ought to mock Jesus during Lent.  I mean, show a little respect.

So I reminded them – in a light, one sentence reply – that Jesus took a huge one for the team.

I don’t hold it against them, though.  Some of Jesus’s last words as He hung there were “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

My gut tells me that those young friends don’t know what they are doing.

God told Moses that He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He forgives wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished. (Justice intertwined with mercy.)

Perhaps it was only sin that was forgiven on the cross.

“Forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.”

You can sin without knowing what you are doing.

Those who don’t know what God’s standards are sin all the time without knowing it.

But, by definition, you can’t rebel without knowing it.

You have to know what God’s standards are in order to defy them.

No one is accidentally wicked. Wickedness is deliberately harming others – harm that includes enticing them to rebel against God.

All who are wicked and rebellious are sinners, but not all sinners are wicked and/or rebellious.

Jesus plead forgiveness for those who don’t know what they are doing – which doesn’t apply to the rebellious and the wicked.

Do you get what I’m saying?

I wonder whether Adam and Eve merely sinned – Eve said she was tricked, perhaps she didn’t know what she was doing – or whether they knowingly rebelled.

I’ve often wondered why God didn’t spell it out more clearly for Adam back in the garden. When He said, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die,” Adam had no experience with physical death (not human death anyway) and he had no experience with spiritual death.  So why didn’t God get really specific?  Take Adam’s face in His hands, move in close and lay out all the ramifications for him?

Perhaps He did, and Scripture just didn’t record it. Or perhaps He knew that it wouldn’t make any difference.

Whether or not He laid it out in the beginning, He’s certainly laying it out in the end.  That’s what the plagues and bowl judgements of Revelation 15 and 16 are all about – God making the choice perfectly clear. The judgments and plagues are designed to show those bent on rebellion exactly what life will be like without Him.  And He’s asking with each one,

“Are you sure this is what you want?”

No one is going to hell by accident.

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Those outstretched arms welcome any sinner, any rebel, any doer-of-wicked-deeds who one day says, “I was such an idiot.”

May that day be soon.

Let Go of the Dang Door

#dropaseed

P.S. It’s been a really busy couple of weeks – working round the clock on a project, preparing presentations and trying to keep up with life. Plus a car accident.

Life is still life, but the project is finished, the presentations have all been presented and I finally have time to catch up on some blogs.  Missed you guys!

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life

Protecting Hate

The dilemma was this: Wear the long, festive dress that comes to my ankles, the one with the delicate muted gold crochet over a black liner, or the matronly solid black dress that hits just below the knee?

For a wedding reception, the festive gold, right?

It’s almost a no-brainer: The neckline is high and sophisticated – perfectly modest  for a Muslim wedding reception.  It also has a matching shawl to cover my bare arms.

But the shawl is light, crocheted-lacy. My arms show through a little. Is that okay?

And the dress is form-fitting, shows my curves. Is that okay?

I put on the black dress. Boring. Looks like I’m going to a funeral, not a wedding.

Plus, the dress is supposed to be long. And this one has a slit, which gives an occasional peek at my kneecap.

Back to the gold dress. I search out the hub. “Hey hub, does this look okay?”

“It looks great.”

“Do I look immodest?”

“No.”

Do you think this dress is suitable for a Muslim wedding?”

“I have no idea,” he said, and turned his attention back to football.

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The gold dress on another occasion.

I went back upstairs, put the black dress back on and grabbed a black and silver shawl to cover my arms.

Frumpy but safe. Well, except for the black-tights-covered knee cap.

As my daughter and I entered the reception hall, we were greeted by the bride’s mom and sisters.  Her older sister was wearing a gorgeous form-fitting, blush-colored dress. Shoot.

I had never been to a Muslim wedding reception before. There was no ceremony. A Muslim wedding ceremony is more an engagement ceremony and it rarely takes place on the same day as the wedding reception. In this case, the engagement ceremony occurred a full year ago.

My daughter and I were among the first to arrive. The bride – one of my daughter’s best friends –  had previously told her that we would be sitting at one of the tables reserved for family near the stage. But there were no place cards or seating chart, so we just took a seat among the sea of unreserved tables.

The guests trickled in and then the bride and groom made their processional entrance and took their seats at a special table.

A brother, a father, a sister, an uncle and a best friend each made a speech and said a prayer in a language I don’t understand and then translated them into English.

Mid-way through the speeches, the bride’s mother moved my daughter and me to one if the reserved tables.  I’m not sure why, but as I viewed the vast unreserved tables from my new vantage point, I realized that ours had been the only non-covered heads in a sea of hijab wearing women.

The groom is a recent convert to Islam. His non-Islam mother and sisters-in-law were also there with bare heads. We were re-seated with them.

As dinner wound down and the wall that would separate the men and women went up, the bride’s sister-in-law joined our table and the conversation turned to the hateful things people say on Facebook.  She shared an incident that occurred when she was a girl in a Muslim elementary school. A substitute teacher told her class that all Muslims were going to heaven, and all Christians and Jews were going to hell.  She said she raised her hand and said, “My mother and my aunt are Christians and they are very nice people. They aren’t going to hell.”  And although this young woman was misguided about how salvation works, I was struck by her statement.  If her mom and aunt had not been Christians, if she had not personally known any Christians, her little girl mind would have soaked up the teacher’s blanket statement and she would have gone through life thinking that all Muslims are good and all Jews and Christians are bad.  But, since she knew two Christians who were not bad, her little mind rejected the teaching.

She went on to lament that people tell her she’s really nice and that she is their friend to her face and then write hateful things about people of her religion on Facebook.

I offered that when people speak to her one on one, they are looking at her, thinking of her as an individual.  When they are typing on Facebook, they are forgetting her and thinking of a nameless, faceless group.

This morning, as I was brushing my teeth, I thought of an article I read shortly after the 9/11 attacks.  It reported that one of the terrorist pilots trained under the radar at a flight school in Florida. When his former classmates were interviewed, many commented that the terrorist kept to himself and refused their many invitations to go out for a drink or a meal after class. He refused all of their efforts to get to know him.

His refusal to socialize, I’m guessing, was not so much an attempt to protect his identity as it was an attempt to protect his hate.

He didn’t want to get to know his classmates.  He didn’t want to discover that they were decent human beings. He wanted to hate them. He needed his hate to propel him to carry out his part in the evil scheme.

My friend Alma wrote a really good post.  She said there are people hating on France. Saying they don’t deserve our prayers.

Individuals who were shot, killed, injured, traumatized as they enjoyed a Friday night out don’t deserve our prayers?  Wives, mothers, husbands, brothers, children who tragically lost a loved one don’t deserve our prayers? Wives just like yours, mothers just like yours, children just like yours don’t deserve our prayers?  A city, a country numbed and shaken by an attack of evil don’t deserve our prayers? I shake my head. Has Jesus taught us nothing? I read Alma’s post to my daughter and she shakes her head. Really shakes her head.

Lord have mercy.

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