Years ago in West Virginia a girl matured in a very poor miner’s family, in an equivalent house. (Shades of the Hurley house in Lincoln, Illinois in the first third of the 20th century.)
Ashamed of her house, she had dates call for and return her to a friend’s house. To there and from there she walked home.
A 19 year old college lad, from a prosperous family, once dated her and dutifully called at her friend’s house. Then, to her dismay, returned her to her house at the end of the date.
She naturally began to cry. Which elicited his sympathy followed by a gentle rebuke. He had known all along where she lived, and it didn’t matter to him. He knew her father as a hard-working miner, doing his best for the family. Given that, why was she ashamed of a humble home? He added that as much good could come from hovels as mansions.
I don’t know the outcome for the guy and girl. I do know that we must not judge a person’s worth, skill or future by outward appearances. Jesus, after all, had his nativity in a food trough of a manger. Proving that it didn’t take a crown to make a king. Nor does it take prosperity or education to make a fruitful disciple of Christ out of a forgiven sinner.
Humanists can face death bravely, joining billions of mortals who have endured loss and hardship throughout history. And all without the army of experts on whom our culture now depends to get us through difficulties.
But do not be deceived. Humanists can only glory in the person’s memory, nothing more. Of course, they boast of THAT, what they can do. They never mention what they can’t! Of course, they dismiss what they CAN’T as irrelevant, but that only masks their refusal to face embarrassing questions about the after-life.
Shakespeare had a more Biblical view. In Henry VI he had the Duke of Gloucester say, “My lord, ‘tis but a base, ignoble mind That mounts no higher than a bird can soar” A2 S1 Ll13-14. And ‘tis but an ignoble mind that soars no higher than this world’s concerns. For it can never affirmatively hope for Resurrection beyond death.
William Ernest Henley wrote the poem Invictus, in which he gloried in his unconquerable will. The poem seethed with human arrogance. “I thank whatever gods may be...” he wrote in the first stanza. Whatever gods may be? As if the Living, Eternal God doesn’t exist!
“Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade....,” he wrote in the third. The “horror of the shade?” As if only despair lurked beyond the grave?
Trust no one, including yourself, who at the end leaves you staring into the dark....when Jesus Christ has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel!
Trust no one, including yourself, who at the end leaves you NOWHERE when you GET THERE....when Jesus Christ promises to conduct every believer into God’s Personal Presence in the New Jerusalem where infinite Joys await! Fini
Alabama football coach Bear Bryant closed his career in December, 1982, by winning the Liberty Bowl. When a reporter at a news conference before the game asked what he would do differently in his life, Bryant replied, “First off, I wish I could have been a better Christians.”
In that response Bear Bryant proved himself aware of the Christian’s most powerful hope: resurrection of the body changed and fit for God’s new world. Not just hope for immortality of the spirit—which even Greek philosophy allowed—but for a new resurrected body—which Greek philosophy denied.
The ages-old question, then, isn’t merely, “If we die, shall we live again?” But, “If we rise from the dead, shall we be different from what we now know?”
Yes, Yes, Yes!
In a Gunsmoke TV show, Actor jack Albertson played Danny, whose terminal heart disease would soon kill him. He conspired to defraud Scott Brady, who played a greedy saloon keeper who had hired men to kill Matt Dillon. At the end of the show Brady killed Danny and was arrested.
Indiana, an alcoholic played by Vito Scotti, and a friend of Danny’s, came upon the scene with Danny dead in the street. As Indiana neared he began shouting, “Danny Wilson, where are you? Danny Wilson, where are you?”
Kneeling at the corpse Doc Adams, turned and said to Kitty, “That’s the most relevant question I’ve ever heard.” And he was right. For it’s really the ultimate question facing every human. WHERE ARE WE after we take our last breath and the next person we see is God Almighty on his throne, with Jesus Christ sitting at his right hand? End Part I
Delaying reconciliation makes its ultimate achievement difficult, perhaps impossible. No doubt that Absalom had insurrection in mind before he returned to Jerusalem. But David’s refusal to immediately reconcile with him did nothing to prevent it.
Like David, we sometimes wait too long to reconcile. My older sister and a sister-in-law had been feuding for some time when mom died after surgery. Her death reconciled them, but she didn’t experience it.
Bertram discovered that in Shakespeare’s All’s Well That End’s Well.” He finally admitted his love for Helena. But too late. The king reprimanded him:...”like a remorseful pardon slowly carried...turns a sour offense” is a love offered too late. We would say, Love that comes too late is like a pardon carried too slowly. Or like the messenger General Gates sent to congress in Philadelphia announcing his victory over General Burgoyne at Saratoga. Congress voted the messenger a pair of spurs, not a financial reward. He needed to have used them on his horse to hurry the good news.
If a kiss comes too late to reconcile; if love can be too-tardily expressed, forgiveness withheld too long can lose its potency when finally offered. Let us, believers in Christ’s forgiveness of our sins, quickly offer it to others for their mere offenses against us. Fini
Like David, we too often settle for physical restoration with adversaries instead of seeking mental and spiritual reconciliation. The early church faced that issue, not always successfully, the Corinthian and Roman churches conspicuous failures.
How often, to this day, members of the same church body worship with each other without being reconciled to each other. Like Henry Kissinger and the North Korean delegates meeting to end the Viet Nam War, Christians sit a few feet apart from each other spatially but eons apart mentally.
In Shakespeare’s words, hurts, like wounds, “heal by degrees.” In 1067 William the Conqueror so devastated rebellious northern and western England that they didn’t recover until the 19th century.
But wounds and land are physical and geographical entities. They can’t calculate the presence of God’s grace in life. And we can never use political dimensions or nature’s recovery from abuse to excuse our refusal to let the Holy Spirit heal our interpersonal hurts.
One of the truest tests of forgiveness is its effect on our relationship with people. We can claim restoration to God only by our reconciliation with God through Christ. And since that means the absence of ill-will between God and us, it can’t allow the presence of ill-will between reconciled Christians.
In personal relationships, then, people can more easily be restored than reconciled. And restoration may be all that can be achieved. Nevertheless, reconciliation surpasses restoration. And where restoration can precede reconciliation, only reconciliation perfects restoration. Let us not emphasize the former and dismiss the latter. For where restoration may not lead to reconciliation, the latter always leads to the former. End Part III
The differences between David and Absalom had become colossal in the five years previous. Father had grown more tractable; son more intransigent. Father willing to admit past mistakes and sins; son demanding blood for every hour spent in forced exile. Father feeling good about son’s restoration; ego-driven son denying any reconciliation.
The most damaging dimension of Absalom’s sudden desire to visit Hebron was the lethal danger he posed to David’s reign. The young rebel had both gained an immeasurable self-esteem and lost complete respect and fear of his king, a deadly combination. And now, free from oversight, the reckless adventurer sped afoot in the land, wreaking havoc wherever he pleased. And he pleased to be a political revolutionary. If David thought peace had come, he would soon be disabused.
A point to ponder. We can, like David, fail to discern people’s true nature through a misplaced affection for them. It blinds us to the harm they can cause others, if not to us. Here David failed as leader. Until he became the bulls-eye of Absalom’s wickedness, David didn’t calculate his danger to law and order in the land. Leadership must always have the welfare of the entire group, not a few individuals in it, in mind. Only that empowers success in isolating divisive, ego-driven people.
God faced the same problem with humanity’s rebellion against him. Should he respond by damning each sinner? Or should he, like David, wink at our spiritual violence?
That’s a question as relevant now as in the Garden of Eden. And there God revealed his immediate answer: an animal had to perish in order to forgive the First couple. Only later would God reveal his FINAL answer. Someone had to be accountable for sin, and God made Jesus, “who had no sin to be sin for us” II Corinthians 5:21. As he became sin for us in those hours on Calvary he freed us from sin’s penalty to delight in his forgiveness.
In one act God solved both the problem of our sin, his justice and his desire to SAVE by Grace, not CONDEMN by Law. End Part II
The mass executions of unacceptables during the French Reign of Terror left antagonisms felt generations later. To this day citizens of Lyon speak coldly of Paris and Parisians.
Grievances, then, both perceived or real, can damage relationships for years, making Restoration difficult and Reconciliation incomplete. David discovered that when confronting Absalom’s murder of Amnon. The king never successfully resolved his struggle between parental affection and the nation’s welfare.
He also failed to realize that healing broken fellowships between estranged people must emphasize reconciliation, not mere restoration. This is seen in two mistakes the king made.
First, he reluctantly invited Absalom back. In the two years since Amnon’s murder, David waffled between affection for Absalom and disgust with his reprehensible crime. For Joab finally took the initiative to bring the young wastrel home.
Then, after inviting him back, David refused to see him. Again, he offered Absalom restoration, but made no attempt to reconcile with him.
Second, he made no effort to personally meet with his corrupt son. That left Absalom to endure months of enforced inactivity. Denied participation in politics, he spent the time fawning over himself.
But, communing with himself did nothing to teach him his limitations. Effort alone could do that. It has a sovereign way of humbling us. With his skills and giftedness all theoretical, Absalom felt himself supreme as a Bengal tiger in a chicken coop.
Even to being arrogant enough to demand—not request—and audience with the king. Where his colossal egotism challenged the king to prove him wrong. “If” I am guilty of anything—he said...IF! He had thoroughly deceived himself that he had been the sinned against, not the sinner! End Part I
The penalty of David’s sin had two parts. First, the child conceived in adultery would die. Second, long-term violence would erupt in David’s family. In fact, he lost three of his favorite sons by the sword as a direct result of sin against his constituted authority: Amnon by violating Tamar; Absalom by insurrection against his father; Adonijah for pre-empting God’s choice of Solomon.
The question may be: how can forgiven sin be penalized? It’s the difference between suffering and dying. All people suffer in some way when sinning, though they may not realize it at the time. Any wrongdoing is against God’s righteousness and no one commits it without being penalized by God’s righteousness. It may be only a guilty conscience; it may, as in David’s sin, have long-lasting effects on self and loved ones.
However, suffering because of sin isn’t the same as dying in sin. Jesus warned the Jews, John 8:24, that unbelief in him left them dying in, not merely suffering from, sin.
In many ways Christians can testify that God forgives. And they rejoice in it. They also carry with them, throughout life the consequences, as Paul did his thorn, (perhaps from his rendezvous with Jesus on the Damascus Road; perhaps through an unrecorded event).
The glory of forgiveness, then, is that all believers can rejoice in any penalty accrued from forgiven sin because it binds us closer to God in grace, as Paul discovered in II Corinthians 12:7-10. Fini
When prophet Nathan described an unprincipled rich man, David wanted the man’s speck punished. He had no idea that Nathan would blast the plank from his own eye.
And when Nathan stuffed the most comprehensive wickedness into a few words, designed to arouse David’s strongest compassion, and strongest sense of justice, the king never expected to be crucified by his own behavior as the charcoal-hearted villain!
However, instantly repentant, David admitted Nathan’s description: the king a sinner without excuse, without defense, without justification. David said, “I have sinned against the Lord”
II Samuel 12:13. Let us learn to repeat his words when we sin. Without qualifying our repentance or justifying our sin or minimizing our guilt.
Solomon’s birth would be God’s response to David’s repentance. In God’s wisdom, the mysterious forces of genetics and divine intervention combined to create in Solomon the wisest ruler ever to live.
The capture of Rabbah of the Ammonites would also be God’s gift. Life goes on, despite its tragedies. And when Joab captured the city’s citadel—its most secure part; and its water supply—its most important resource, Joab called the king to be its titular conqueror. End Part II
But ahh...warning...that left in place sin’s penalty.
Back to blogging after TOO LONG an absence. In Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare had Benedick say, “...happy are they that hear their detractions, and can put them to mending.” Yes, happy, but realistically, not generally the “putting them to mending.” Even the mild-mannered bristle when hearing their faults corrected.
That’s why King David, the most powerful ruler of his age, proved the exception when prophet Nathan raked withering broadsides of wrath on his sins with Bathsheba. David became docile, not rebellious; penitent, not defensive II Samuel 12.
His reaction in three contexts proved him a forgiven sinner, not a condemned impenitent. First, he responded with anger at the abusive rich man. Second, he responded with godly sorrow when denounced as that rich man. Third, he remained a Man of Faith when his child died as a result of his sins.
We may say he shouldn’t have blamed God, since his own sins caused the child’s death. But Solomon later said, “A man’s folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the LORD” Proverbs 19:3. How many people have lost faith in God when he didn’t answer their prayers, or a loved one died; or a career failed due to economic setbacks—or any of a thousand ways we can be disappointed with life but take our frustrations out on God? End Part I