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We are a family of fifteen: eight already with Jesus and seven in desperate need of Him. This is the story God is writing in our lives. Proverbs 16:9

Thursday, April 30, 2015

It Happened in My Kitchen (A Tale of Theology in Practice)

I want you to first know that the below narrative is true. I have wondered what might happen if the persons described read this blog. In some ways, I hope they do. Even though I was minding my own business, this drama found me. It weighed so heavy on me, I felt compelled to write about it. And by now, you all know me--- and that I don't shy away from the serious stuff. I do not claim to have all of this together, but I do think it important to share my thoughts.

A couple of mornings ago, I had two men here doing an odd job for me in my house. The first was an older gentleman who was very quick to share his faith with me. In the course of about a half an hour, he told me of his service at church and shared various opinions about life. I was surprised at his openness. One thing he highlighted was his desire to make sure the children at his church are ready for worship, sometimes speaking to them in front of their parents about their behavior as they walk in the door. He added this bit of information as one of my children was having a "moment". He was a nice guy--- just intense and opinionated.

The second was a bit quieter. He is an apprentice. He is also from NC. In fact, his brother was a former Tarheel Basketball player. It was nice to have someone outside of the state share my affinity for Carolina. He is in college and was working his way through. He had worked at UPS for a while sorting boxes in the middle of the night, as did Micah. It was clear this young man would do whatever he could to make it in life.

As I listened to the two of them speak back and forth, it was clear that the religious man was intent on informing the younger man of his downfalls and then the way he should be, all in the name of Jesus. In between lessons, he would send the young man out to the truck to get supplies. The young man did so over and over without complaint.

Honestly, I sat in my living room, in shock that all of this was taking place in my kitchen.

Toward the end of their job, I entered the room. I tried to encourage the older gentleman. Not much of what I said was received without some interjection that was teach-y. Then, it was implied that the young man had a child. I inquired a bit and he told me he had a son. I congratulated him and affirmed his efforts to care for him.

"He's not here anymore... you don't want to hear about that," the older gentleman added.

"Oh my--- what happened?" I said, trying not to make this guy feel like he had to tell me anything but would welcome what he might have to say.

"He... died," the younger interjected, with a quiet, solemn tone.

This young man shared freely that he had gotten a gal pregnant in high school. She had the baby--- a little boy. But somewhere in his story, he lost custody and the boy was murdered by his mother's boyfriend. He missed his son. And the perpetrator was only sentenced jail time.

There are moments in life when odd jobs and basketball don't matter. They are sacred moments, when heaven might break through. I wanted to hug him (had that been appropriate) and weep with him over the loss of his son. Acknowledging his guilt and pain, I wish I could have shared with him that Jesus came to save sinners and offer hope to the grieving in conquering death. But instead, the older man took control of the conversation. His words were a jumble of things--- all admonishing this young man getting his act together. He spoke of sacrifice and moving on. "Jesus is good, but you have to do something with Him". And then, they left.

I am here to tell you, friends, that is not the Gospel. This young man had endured suffering--- some admittedly by his own choices. But he didn't need to do more right stuff to be right with God. He cannot do enough. Even if he did everything the older gentlemen suggested (and his suggestions were biblical) he still would fall short. He doesn't need biblical morals. He needs a substitute. He needs to know Jesus is right with God and so are those who believe Him (John 3:16). And goodness knows that before we even offer this truth, he needs compassion.

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Galatians 2:15-21

I have been in the position of the older man many times, seeking to reform behavior instead of offer a Savior. There is a point when the Law of God does and must condemn. It is the reason we see our need for a Savior. Sadly, Law is often downplayed as something we can attain to, as if it can fix us. If that were true, then why the life of Jesus and the cross? The cross is a clear sign that we could not and cannot save ourselves. It offers hope to those condemned and should be like a drink of water for the thirsty, a balm for those who need healing. When we realize we are dead without it, it breathes life. The Good News of the person and work of Jesus Christ falls softly on the broken hearted. It brings rest to the weary and heavy-laden (Matthew 11:28). If it comes across as anything else, it is not the Gospel. When we meet weary souls along the way who have been condemned by the Law, we must offer them Good News.

I have spent the last couple of days praying that someone else will speak to this young man--- That he will hear that Emmanuel sympathizes with us in our weakness, there is a Comforter that is with us in suffering, and a Father who makes sinners sons and daughters.

I also pray for the older man--- That God he would learn of God's love for Him in a way that gives him a love for his neighbors.

I also pray for me--- that God would forgive my lack of love and remind me that my attempts to communicate the Good News are perfected in the cross and made discernible by the Spirit. 


Our mission said...

I can imagine how uncomfortable that was.....oh, how we need to remember GRACE. Thanks for sharing Tiffany!
(Traci A.)

Ashley said...

Oh, that's so sad! I'm sure I wouldn't have known what to say or do in that situation. This is so true- thanks for the reminder! Praying for that young man.