Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Power of His Inscription

My grandmother had a habit
of discounting complaints about people when I voiced them.
It wasn't just me she did it to.
There was something about tearing other people down
that she just didn't want to join in on.
Even if the ugly about them was obvious,
she would pipe in with something good --
no matter how small and insignificant the good was.

There is yet another story circulating about some unnamed Christians
who mistreated their 'homeless' pastor.
These stories bother me.
Because we are so quick to tear down our brothers and sisters,
in an attempt to stir them up.
(Or is it just to judge them?)
But the story is put out there with a false picture,
and a false narrative,
and whatever good it aims for is darkened by its untruth.

Have you ever read the story of Noah?
He was a man who had the grace of God upon him,
who had escaped the judgment that was the end of his world,
and whose family had escaped by his faith, too.
There he was: he had managed to take in a harvest of grapes
after so much loss.
So much change.
Perhaps the atmosphere of the new environment
had changed the nature of wine.
Or maybe the elevation he was at
affected him differently than where he lived before the flood.
Maybe it felt like his harvest was the only good thing on the face of the earth
after so much devastation:
and he'd worked hard to grow it,
and he was tired,
and he just wanted a little more of it.
Whatever it was, when he drank the wine, he got drunk.
And the very son saved by his father's faith and his righteousness,
and his uniquely personal friendship with God,
found him uncovered and mocked him.
Wanted to write a news story about it.
To take pictures of his foolishness,
and laugh about it with his brothers:
to shame his father.
He was cursed for it.

Another story comes to mind.
One of exposure.
There was a woman who had a trap set for her.
And she was caught in it.
Guilty and uncovered.
And the trappers dragged her in shame
before the Son of God to get judgment.
But He looked down.
And He bent lower.
And He put His hands in the dirt
and wrote things there.
And we don't know what He wrote.
But the power of His inscription
caused the damning stones to fall from the hands of her accusers,
and embarrassment to inspire them to slink away.
It seems they had been reminded of their own uncleanness.
"Where are your accusers?" He asked her.
"They've all gone," she choked out.
Neither do I condemn you;" He said, "go and sin no more."

The apostle Paul was complained against by the Corinthians
(a truly remarkable thing, considering the state of that church).
His ministry was judged
and his delivery unfavorably compared with the eloquence of Apollos.
Paul said, "But with me it is a very small thing 
that I should be judged of you, 
or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 
For I know nothing against myself; 
yet am I not hereby justified: 
but He that judgeth me is the Lord. 
Wherefore judge nothing before the time, 
until the Lord come, 
who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, 
and make manifest the counsels of the hearts; 
and then shall each man have his praise from God. 
Now these things, brethren, 
I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; 
that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written; 
that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other. 
For who maketh thee to differ? 
and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? 
but if thou didst receive it, 
why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?"

I marvel that in the very thing that men wrongly judge,
Paul said the judged would receive commendation --
that the Lord, in examining motives,
would have anything good to say about those judged of men.
Perhaps because He sees our faith,
where others only see our fumbles.
Paul encouraged the Corinthians
to stop passing judgment on things
that weren't their business to evaluate.
All our gifts are gifts from Him,
and it is His business to evaluate our use of them.
And if I may use the term:
judging from history,
it would appear that Paul's 'contemptible speech'
left their beloved eloquence silent.

I think of my Grandma,
and the praise she was apt to heap on the undeserving,
and I am encouraged to hold my tongue,
or say something nice.

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