Monday, February 18, 2019

Opposed but In Good Company

In the historical account of Jesus' last year the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible calls it "the year of opposition."  It is year of conflict and difficulty.  Ten lepers are healed in Samaria [Luke 17:12-16] but only one returns to say thanks (Goodness is not appreciated).  Jesus asks Peter, at Caesarea Philippi, "who do YOU say that I am?[Matthew 16:15]" (Goodness is misunderstood).  Jesus hears of the beheading of His cousin, John the Baptist [Matthew 14:12] (Evil seeks to destroy Goodness).  Jesus would have been 32 years old.

Let's break down these three stories.  First, you have heard that "no good deed goes unpunished."  I think this is unfortunately true most of the time.  I have 'loaned' stuff (large things) to people as their pastor.  In my ministry it seems that each time I have done this a pattern follows.  First, I see a need.  Then I work on trying to meet the need either individually or with the help of others in the church.  I extend the help to the people.  Generally, the people are thankful, but eventually begin to believe the item is actually theirs.  I usually never see the item again.  I have taken the attitude that I loan stuff away that I am willing to live without.  In the story of Jesus and the ten lepers, Jesus asks, "Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine?"  Jesus sees the lack of appropriate appreciation for what has been done.  The moral of this story? ... if you are not appreciated for doing good or if your good deed gets you in trouble, you are in the great company of Jesus!  That is fine with me!

Second, good things and good intentions are often misunderstood.  Jesus has been going about the entire region doing great things and healing people.  As He sits down at the campfire outside of Caesarea Philippi Jesus asks two questions.  To all the disciples He asks, "Who do people say that I am?"  Their response (John the Baptist, Jeremiah, Elijah) indicates a lack of understanding of who Jesus is and a lack of watching/listening to the activity of Jesus.  Then Jesus asks Peter, "But who do YOU say that I am?"  Peter's correct response is great ("You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!").  But with all the miracles, signs, wonders, sermons, and teaching, only one in twelve gets it right.  I guess education was as hard then as it is now!  So ... when my poor attempt at teaching and leading falls way short (as it often does), I can take heart.  Yet again, I am in good company!

Finally, we come to the realization that doing good things is a dangerous business.  People who do good things are scrutinized and vetted in oft-cruel ways.  Tim Tebow is treated viciously by many in sports media.  Why?  Because he is a good person doing mostly good things.  Being human, I am sure he lacks perfection, and when that happens, people are quick to pile on.  I wonder if we try to destroy the good because we want to bring goodness down to our level of mediocrity?  What I do know for sure is ... the prophets brought truth, and they were killed.  David loved, fought for and was faithful to Saul, and Saul sought to kill him.  John the Baptist proclaimed a message of repentance and life, and he was beheaded.  Jesus was the way, the truth and life itself (pretty good things I believe) and He was crucified.  As I remember these events, I think of Jesus' words from the Beatitudes ... "God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things about you because you are my followers ... for great reward awaits you in heaven!" [Matthew 5:11-12b].  We must decide ... do we stand with the flawed but striving 'do-gooders' who try to make a difference or do we join the masses who shout "crucify Him?"  I hope I can count you in the good company of those hypocrites who still believe that "hypocrisy is a tribute vice pays to virtue" (La Rochefoucauld). Randy

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