Crash, But No Burn

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Details: After some abdominal surgery and I was ready to head home, I decided to get some exercise with quick walking through my hospital floor. Without realizing, my right foot tended to drag just slightly, catching that foot on the pavement and throwing me hard to the concrete.

My foot felt a bit wet, so I looked down to discover that my assumedly blue blood was crimson red, and lots of it. Within just a couple of seconds, many hands materialized to keep me still while analyzing my condition. With my bones apparently still in place, the medical folks hefted me from the floor and deposited me in a wheel chair.

After just a few more seconds they had me back in the hospital room and began sowing me back up. That began the most thorough testing I’ve ever seen. The first thing I noticed was my glasses’ left temple piece was flattened, preventing any good TV viewing. Next I discovered some internal brain bleeding, which is not a good thing. The news they gave me was I had better take no more falls, or that could kill me. Shortly thereafter I needed to go to the potty.

I awoke in bed after my unconscious crashing to the floor and bashing the bathroom door opened. At least that unintentional embarrassing movement failed to hurt my feelings. Then they had to code me. I didn’t even experience some white light upon entry to the nether world.

They questioned me about such complex issues like my name, which had temporally escaped my notice. Other amnesia-related questions such as my location and date were also beyond my grasp. I did, however, recognize my family, but without their names.

Things gradually came back to me. I still can’t remember the nursing home’s name or its location(mental block). But it does make sense hear it. The Thought Cops (mental therapist) practiced some of the most cruel exercises, like requiring the date and telling me what was on the pictures they showed me.

My driving was another issue. Until they decided I was in my right mind they refused to allow me to drive. And I don’t like cabs. After a couple months I now have permission to drive. What a wonderful convince.

Apparently my improvement will come slowly, and the experts tell me I’ll never get full recovery. People tell me that I’m so much better than I was, though it’s hard for me to see it. All I can do is praise God for what I have and not regret what I don’t have.

Mom’s Admonition

I used to have the habit of picking at my scabs. Mom warned me about it, but I usually forgot, or worse yet, ignored her admonitions. Why didn’t I realize it only caused my wounds to start bleeding again? Truth be told, my idle fingers still find the occasional scab, and without thinking I reopen those old wounds. What is it about imperfections that draw our attention to them?

Jesus’ disciple Thomas wasn’t around when the resurrected Savior first appeared to the others. I’m sure that when he finally saw Jesus, wounds and all, he had seen enough to convince him that Jesus was alive. Yet, Jesus told the doubter to place his fingers into the open wounds, driving His message home with a force like that of the spikes driven through His holy flesh.

Even though He gave my body the ability to heal itself naturally, my interference keeps reopening those old wounds. Similarly, I still bear open wounds from my past sins, but that’s not because Jesus failed to heal them. These bothersome scabs are emotional: shame, remorse, and regret. Since Jesus’ blood already covers the sins that inflicted these wounds, my insistence on “picking” at them makes them fester, causing completely unnecessary pain, and worse yet, forming an artificial barrier between myself and my Lord.

The Prideful Sin of Perfectionism

You’d never know to look at my room that I tend toward perfectionism … spiritual perfectionism, that is. As I read Christ’s perfect law of liberty (the entire New Testament), I can’t help making a checklist of my personal infractions, which in itself is an infraction. Apostle Paul gave us a beautiful, liberating, absolute rule in his letter to the Roman church:

Romans 8:1-2
(1) There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
(2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Like I said, it’s a beautiful thing. Yet, I read the conditions and wonder if the promise truly applies to me. Am I really in Christ Jesus? Do I really walk according to the Spirit? Only with affirmative answers can I claim that promise.

I have to constantly remind myself that the very fact of my concern along those lines means this wonderful promise is my very own. And for those not-so rare times when I slip up, Apostle John provided an equally beautiful answer:

1 John 1:8-10
(8) If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
(9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

Take THAT, all who stand pridefully in your, “sinless perfection.”

A careful examination of this passage reveals the identity of its audience: we, us. That includes St. John himself. So, if “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was guilty of sinning, what business have I picking at my scabs of imperfection?

The answer is Mom’s admonition!

Nevertheless

Jesus used that long word (or the Aramaic word translated as such) in His prayer while sweating blood in Gethsemane. He knew exactly what would happen in just a few hours. And He hated it.

So, why did He hate what was about to happen? Why did His sweat become “like great drops of blood falling down to the ground“? (Luke 22:44) The man Jesus saw His Father God turning away from Him, forsaking Him because He bore the world’s sin-guilt. “Nevertheless,” Jesus knew it was not a betrayal of His love, but that God—the Almighty God in whose palm rests the entire universe—had no choice but to turn away.

“Nevertheless,” the man Jesus resolved to endure all that sinful man could do to Him. Betrayed by those He existed to save, abandoned by His friends, mocked, tortured and crucified by the reprobate Roman garrison, yet perfectly innocent, He became the true Lamb of God.

You’ve no doubt heard this story hundreds or thousands of times. “Nevertheless,” we must all keep fresh in our minds the single most powerful proof of God’s unconditional love for His wayward creation, and realizing that, resolve to love our families, our brethren, and yes, our enemies as He loves us, who were His enemies. We must love—the action, not the feeling—in every deed, in every word, in every thought, because we want to be like Him.

FAMILY

What is more important than family? But family can conjure up many images: Of course, there’s blood family at various levels of closeness. Then there is adopted family, whether or not it’s legally established. There’s step family, which can at times be problematic. Interest groups can seem like family, as long as you never loose interest. And some ethnic groups cling as closely as family. Jesus claimed a highly selective family. And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35 ESV) What a privilege we have in being able to claim God as close family! That’s infinitely better than … well … even Mayflower passengers as distant family. You can call such folks church family or family of faith, but that doesn’t change the heart of Jesus’ statement: “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Where the doing is absent, even church family is just another interest group.

Relevant Words From Ezekiel

Ezekiel 16:59-63“For thus says the Lord God: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, 60yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. 61Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and I give them to you as daughters, but not on account ofthe covenant with you. 62I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, 63that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.”

I must grudgingly admit that I get more out of God’s Word when I take time reading it, rather than going with the audio flow, as is my usual practice. Through such a careful reading, I realized the passage above refers to the “everlasting covenant,” which could only mean the Christ’s blood-covenant.

Father God sent his people Israel into exile and subjected them to harsh discipline because they despised his covenant with them. Yet, in his perfect timing, he remembered his covenant with Israel, and reestablished it through his incarnate Word, Jesus the Christ.

Jerusalem’s elder sister, Samaria, and her younger sister, Sodom, represent all the people who were accursed in Jewish tradition:

Ezekiel 16:49-51 ESV
49Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.
50They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.
51Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed.

Jerusalem would be ashamed to take her two sisters because they epitomized her abominations, but in Christ they would become her daughters through the new Abrahamic covenant of faith. A unique sign of embracing Christ’s covenant is remembering with disgust and shame, our old life’s degradation, which will cause us to “never open (our) mouth again” by way of self-righteousness. Even so, the Lord God atoned for our sin through Jesus’ innocent blood-sacrifice.For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”(Hebrews 8:12 ESV)