Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Revolution, part three

I can't remember exactly how old I was, or what grade I was in, but I would guess it was junior high. I have no idea what I was wearing. I can't remember a thing about the main lesson that night, or the rest of the week, for that matter. I only know it was Summer because it took place during a "Vacation Bible School" at my friend's church.

I do remember that it happened while our group was watching a cartoon filmstrip about life in a far-away country that a missionary worked in. (Ah, the filmstrip- complete with that little "ding" to let you know it was time to change the picture... sorry, back to the story.) I remember this part because the boy in the filmstrip had to get away from a huge snake just to get to school. Or to the village. Hmmm... I'm not sure where he was going, but there was a huge snake, and that got my attention. But after the great snake escape, I confess that I kind of lost interest.

You see, I was a bit distracted. I had been keeping my eye on someone else that night. Okay, actually all week. She was positioned just a few rows in front of where my friend Kevin and I sat. At this point I should probably mention that she was our group's teacher, and taunting her was the only mission I was really interested in. I was looking for the right moment and knew this was it. So, I leaned over to my friend and said what I had been thinking for the past ten minutes. My words barely had time to escape my lips when Kevin let out a laugh that pretty much eclipsed the sound of the actual presentation, which by this time had gotten very serious, even without the snake.

The filmstrip stopped. The lights came on. "Is there something you boys would like to share with everyone?" I considered my options. Kevin was still laughing and I have always liked making people laugh. Add to this that at one point (believe it or not) I had a tiny problem with authority, and you have a dangerous combination. Reason told me that I should stay quiet, but Kevin was literally shaking next to me. I tried to hold the laughter in and my mouth shut, but made one of those "raspberry" sounds as the air burst through my pursed lips. That was, as you might expect, the wrong thing to have done. She walked in a startlingly deliberate line toward the two of us and "guided" us out into the hallway.

Although our disruptions had so far been smaller, we had already been given multiple warnings during the evening. And the week. I began to get nervous. I could tell that we had finally crossed a line. What would happen if she decided to bring in Kevin's dad, who was working in another part of the building? Even worse, what if they contacted my dad and he had to drive across town to come pick up his delinquent son? Now I was beyond nervous.

As she spoke to us her words were stern, but never cutting. She didn't hesitate to discipline us, and yet I never doubted the tenderness behind her serious tone. Despite my lack of respect and manners, I could tell that somehow, she genuinely cared about me.

When the discipline was over, we returned to class. And from that day forward, I changed my behavior and learned to do the right thing...

And then the sky turned purple and pigs started to fly.

I'd like to tell you that my behavior changed more than temporarily. And I'd like to tell you that the temporary change was motivated by more than fear of punishment. I'd like to, but I can't- because there are too many other stories that happened just like this one. Most of the time I did far more to deserve justice than love. I will never forget the joke that I made that evening at her expense and her response, because it perfectly represents the kind of revolutionary love that can only come from Jesus.

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -Romans 5:6-8

To be sure, this verse explains that there is nothing we could ever do to on our own to earn (or keep) salvation. If our only hope for salvation is to obey a law system, we are as good as lost, since no one can obey law perfectly. In other words, without His grace, we are powerless.

But another keyword to notice in this verse is "ungodly". Since we were powerless, God had to make the first move. A commentary I am reading right now about the book of Romans describes "ungodly" as being in "opposition to God and his law". When God demonstrated the extent of His love for us, we were in a state that was the opposite of Him! In other words, we weren't very lovable, and Jesus died for us anyway.

Certainly no one can show love to the extent that God has shown it to us through Christ. But we should listen carefully to John's words when he says, "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love each other" (1 John 4:11). Despite the risks and difficulty, we must show love to others even when that love is not returned. This is tough to think about, but if we say we love God, we can't just love people who are "safe" or "easy".

Is there someone in your life (or maybe a whole group) that you just don't think you can love? Ask God to allow you to see them the same way that He does, and then to respond based on what He shows you.

I know that's not very comfortable. At least it doesn't involve escaping a big snake or watching a filmstrip.

In Him We Live (and Love),


p.s.- Thank you again Mrs. C. for loving this trouble maker. That love continues to amaze me.


Amy said...



Cheryl said...

Unfortunately, this really spoke to me and the struggles that I am having. It is a wonderful reminder that although we are still sinners, He loves us anyway and we should honor Him by loving others...even when we don't really want to.
Thanks again Jeff for this great insight!

Laura said...

Thanks for the reminder! Loving people who seem to be unloveable is one of the most difficult things to do. Your reminding us that God loves us (even when we are unloveable)is powerful. Hopefully, I can remember and practice this teaching every day of my life....even when I don't want too. Who am I to not love, when God so LOVED ME....!
You are a blessing to each of us, thanks for all you continue to do.

whooper and whoopette said...

Thanks, Jeff. I very much appreciate the reminder. I very much appreciate the time that you take to give us part of you, your perspective, and part of Him.

Jeremy said...

didn't realize you had become such a big rob bell fan. if you liked VE check out his new book SEX GOD. it is very worth the read. another great book is - irresistible revolution by: shane claiborne. also remind me to send you some other links on good sermons to listen to. take care man.

happy bunny said...

I have a feeling that on the inside, Mrs. C really wanted to THWACK the back of your little head. I might understand how she was an angry bunny moment :-) OH....but I have NEVER wanted to THWACK YOUR head, justs other kids.... :-)