Sunday, November 25, 2012

It's Just a Flesh Wound

A couple years ago, we had two growing boys, a 100-pound dog, and a 3,000 mile road trip ahead of us. My little Subaru just wasn’t going to fit the bill – we needed a bigger vehicle. It turned out to be MUCH bigger, and one day not long after we got it, I misjudged its size while backing out between two trees (around a curve and my own defense...haha...) and caught the very seam-edge of the front end on a tree. It peeled like a banana. The whole front end. I was stunned. I’ll never forget my husband’s response when he saw the mess:

“Ahhhh, it’s just a flesh wound.”
(That man is a prize. I see Jesus in him.)

Why does that kind of slow-to-anger, slow-to-blame, quick-to-forgive behavior surprise people? Because it’s not the norm. For the most part, we don't really expect that kind of kindness. But somehow everyone knows they’re supposed to be able to expect it from the people who call themselves “Christian” (which literally means “follower of Christ”). It was what people quickly came to expect from Jesus (the Christ) when he was walking the earth.

In the opening of the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, you'll find a short story of a woman shamed and blamed - but not by Jesus. The religious scholars and leaders put her on public display at the temple and pointed out to Jesus that according to the law, she should be stoned for adultery. They wanted to know what Jesus had to say about it. I'm assuming they didn’t like to watch him heal the blind one moment and eat dinner with prostitutes and cheats the next. If he was really the Messiah, they wanted to see him punish somebody for making a mess of life. Instead, he called for whoever was perfect to go ahead and throw the first stone. They all walked out and left the rocks in the dust. Only Jesus, the Perfect One, was left. He turned to the woman and asked if any there was anyone left who accused her.

“No one, Master.”

“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” (from John 8, quoted from The Message)

Mercy. Grace. Love-without-a-hook. It’s not exactly what all of Jesus' followers are known for - at least, not in the part of the world where I currently live. But it’s what Jesus was known for. It’s exactly how God wants to be known. At the end of 1 John, chapter 4, there is this astounding explanation of who God is, and how we are expected to represent it Him:

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.
(quoted from the NIV)

And that’s all there is to it. We love because he first loved us.
Unlovely us.
Messy, blame-able, skinned-up-and-worse us.
Filthy, blood-on-our-hands, rocks-for-hearts, vicious, just plain ugly…we deserved to be punished.
Instead, Jesus took the punishment and we got the capital-L-Love.

When we blow it, it doesn’t have to be a mortal wound. Jesus took the mortal wound and we get a clean slate.

I had conversations with two different friends recently about people who had been trapped by habits of the sort that destroy families and lives. We talked about how people trip up on something that shouldn’t be fatal, but because they are ashamed and afraid to let anyone know, that scratch becomes a mortal wound. It’s not God’s fault that people are afraid to say they blew it or need help. Jesus didn't do that to them. We did it to each other.

In this world, I want to be like Jesus.
I want to say, Ahh, it’s just a flesh wound.
Get up again. I’ll help you brush off the dust.
Here’s a band-aid.
Let’s keep going. I’ll walk with you.

Ambushed by the God-Who-Loved-First,