Monday, March 26, 2012

Do You See?

I heard a lesson once that I liked a lot. I can't remember now who was speaking or I would give him credit for it, but instead I'll just give credit to God, which is where it belongs anyway.

The preacher read a story out of Luke 7 about a Pharisee and a sinner (have you noticed how many stories in the gospels have that theme??). To paraphrase, a Pharisee by the name of Simon invites Jesus to dinner. While He's at the Pharisee's house, a woman comes to Him who "had lived a sinful life" or "was a sinner", depending on your translation. That's all we know about her. She was a sinner. Which, as far as I can tell, translates into nothing more than, "She's just like us!"

So the woman comes to Jesus, washes His feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, kisses them, and pours perfume on them. Simon freaks out. In verse 39, he says to himself, "If this man were a prophet, He would know who is touching Him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner." In the following verse, Jesus answers Him.

(Side note: In verse 39 it says Simon said it "to himself", which if I'm not mistaken, and I certainly could be, basically translates to mean he said it in his mind. So, Simon thought to himself, and Jesus answered. The definition of that word "answered" in the Greek is: "to give an answer to a question proposed, or to answer, but always where something has preceded (either said or done) to which the remarks refer." Jesus is very clearly answering Simon's unspoken comments. I love it when He does things like that. To other people. ;-) )

Okay, so Simon is throwing an internal fit. This woman is totally screwing up his dinner party. Not only that, she's probably humiliating him simply by being present in his home. Jesus answers him and tells him a parable about love and forgiveness. Then He asks Simon a question:

"Do you see this woman?"

....huh?!?! Doesn't that seem like a stupid question? Of course he sees her! Everyone sees her! She's making a scene. She's making Simon mad. Yes, we know he sees the woman.

But Jesus doesn't ask stupid questions, so let's look deeper. I don't think Jesus was asking if Simon's optic nerves were registering the light bouncing off the woman and sending the signals to his brain which created the image of the woman in the process we call seeing. I think Jesus' question was much more. I think He was asking:

"Do you SEE this WOMAN?"

Simon saw her sins. He saw her reputation. He saw the disturbance she was causing him. He saw the inconvenience she was. But he didn't see HER. He didn't see her as a person. He didn't see her like Jesus saw her: as a person He loved enough to die.

This is the point the preacher made in the lesson I heard.

We must be very careful what our next thoughts are. Because it would be easy to sit back and nod at our computers and say, "Oh, that preacher made a good point! In typical Pharisee fashion, Simon is seeing the sin and not the sinner. I'm so glad the Lord has helped me past that judgmental place in my life."

But you see, sinners aren't the only ones we don't see.

Have you ever seen a homeless person? No, read it right. Have you ever SEEN a homeless PERSON?

Or have you just seen the cardboard sign? Have you seen only the holey jacket? Seen nothing but the dirt? Nothing but a pitiable state in which to live?

We see the homeless. They're sprinkled all over our cities on street corners, under bridges, and down at the Salvation Army. But do we see them like Jesus sees them? Do we see them as people He loved enough to die?

What about the children? Do you see the children? Do you SEE the CHILDREN? For example, the children who have been removed from their families because they're not being taken care of and are now in the custody of the state. Do you see them?

Or do you see victims? Headlines? Misbehavior looking for a place to happen? Inconvenience? The risk of sacrifice? Do you just see numbers?

We see the children. They're sprinkled all over our cities in shelters that have three times as many children as they're supposed to and foster homes that are overfilled with children because there's nowhere else to put them. But are they just numbers, or do we see them like Jesus sees them? Do we see them as people He loved enough to die?


I don't expect this post to make a life-altering difference in the thoughts and actions of your life. If I had to guess, I'd say you'll probably post a comment or hit the "like" button and move on. At the most. Or maybe you'll just nod in agreement and move on. Or maybe you'll shut your computer down fuming in disagreement and move on. But could I make a request? Before you move on, take just a moment and say a prayer. Ask Jesus to help you see. Ask Him to help you see them like He sees them, as people He loved enough to die. It would only take 10 seconds or so. If 10 seconds is all you have, then skip the comment or the like or the nod or the fuming shutdown and pray instead.

Because what if we all saw as Jesus did? What if we all loved them? Enough to die? Jesus died to Himself because of what He saw. What do YOU see?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

When Did You Fall in Love with Me?

I am a Chris Rice fan. He's got some hilarious lyrics (for example, "smell the color nine"), and his music just has a certain groove that I kinda like. But that's beside the point.

One of his songs is a love song called "When Did You Fall". (If you're wondering about the direction of this post, don't worry. It's still about Jesus. ;-) Seeing as how I have no "significant other" in my life at this point, whenever I hear a love song, I just sort of naturally think of it in terms of Christ, the only Love of my life at present. This particular song is about a guy who is rather slow and has just realized for the first time that his girl is in love with him, and he's asking her when it was that she fell for him.

"When did you fall in love with me?
Was it out of the blue?
'Cause I swear I never knew it.
When did you let your heart run free?
Have you been waiting long?
When did you fall in love with me?"

So I started thinking, "Lord, when did You fall in love with me?"

Later in the song, he starts trying to guess when it happened.

"Was it at the coffee shop?
Or was it that morning at the bus stop,
When you almost slipped and I caught your hand?
Or the time we built the snowman?
The day at the beach, sandy and warm?
Or the night with the scary thunderstorm?"

See, this guy assumes that, whenever it was that she fell in love with him, it was at one of their favorite moments, one of their best memories, one of the good times. And he's probably right.

But when I asked my Jesus when He fell in love with me, His answer was very different.

Romans 5:8,
"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

It wasn't one of our favorite moments. It wasn't during one of those mountain-top experiences. It wasn't at an intimate time of worship. It wasn't one of the good times. It was when I was wretched and vile and covered in sin. Of all times, He fell in love with me THEN. In my worst moment. In my dirtiest condition. In my hopeless, miserable, unlovable state. THAT'S when He fell in love with me.

Why? So that I would know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that He didn't love me because of anything that I had done. My deeds did not earn His love by their goodness, nor can they hinder it by their depravity. He loves me because He chooses to love me. Period.

How do I know? Because when I look back, I realize He's been showing me all along.

In the song, after the guy has realized she loves him, he says,

"Make your way over here, sit down by this fool, and let's rewind.
Come on, let's go back and replay all our scenes.
You can point out the hints, the clues, the twists, and the smiles this time,
All the ones that slipped by me.
...'Cause, baby, I missed it then, but I can surely see you now,
Right here before my eyes, you're my beautiful surprise."

He hadn't realized that she'd been hinting and cluing and smiling, trying to tell him how she felt. And I do the same thing with God.

Romans 1:19-20,
"...since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."

From the creation of the world He's been showing me He loves me!! But it's only after I've realized His love that I can sit down with Him and smile at the "beautiful surprise" as He points back to all the ways that He's been demonstrating His love for me before I even knew it.

Which brings me to my response to this magnificent love, for which I have another Bible verse and another Chris Rice song:

1 John 4:19,
"We love because He first loved us."

"I just want to be with You!
I just want this waiting to be over.
I just want to be with You,
And it helps to know the day is getting closer.
Every minute takes an hour,
Every inch feels like a mile,
'Til I won't have to imagine
And I finally get to see You smile."

When did He fall in love with me? Just like any perfect Prince Charming: at exactly the right moment, way before I deserved it. When did I fall in love with Him? Just like any lovestruck damsel in distress: over and over and over...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Leave the Washer Empty

In our house, everyone who is old enough does their own laundry on their assigned day. This makes it pretty easy to keep it organized and get everyone's laundry done at least once a week. However, forgetfulness is one of the generational gifts that has been passed down through my family for countless generations, so laundry often gets left in the washer and dryer overnight and into the the next person's laundry day.

Usually, when someone comes downstairs with their overflowing laundry basket to find the washer still occupied with wet clothes needing to be moved, they obligingly switch their forgetful family member's laundry so they can start their own. The family member will later retrieve their laundry from the dryer and thank the one who moved it for them. This is a fairly typical, almost daily, occurrence.

Today, however, something different happened. It's happened before, but for some reason it made me stop and think.

I started my laundry early this morning, then left the house and was gone most of the day. When I returned in the late afternoon and remembered my laundry, I sighed, figuring it had nearly dried on its own in the washer by that time. However, when I opened the dryer to get it ready for my clothes, there they were--dry and ready to fold (which I still haven't done, but that's beside the point). I smiled, grateful to whoever had switched my laundry in my absence. I opened the washer to see which kind soul had dried my clothes to make room for their own in the washer and to return the favor by drying theirs. The washer was empty. Why is that significant? Because it meant someone did me a favor, not because it benefited them in any way, but simply because it was a blessing to me. They didn't dry my clothes because they needed the washer; they did it so I wouldn't have to.

That got me thinking: how often do we live like that? We bless only when the blessing will be returned to us. We serve only when it makes us feel good. We give only when we see the benefit. Why?

Because it's hard to give when you get nothing back. It's hard to serve when it hurts. It's hard to bless someone who isn't going to bless (or might even curse) you in return. It's hard to sacrifice. But it's what we're called to.

Luke 6:32-36,
"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

So try it this week. And not just with your "enemies". Try it with your family, your friends, your coworkers, the guy on the street, or that one person who really just gets on your nerves. Bless someone. Love someone. Sacrifice for someone. Without expecting anything in return.

Switch the laundry...and leave the washer empty.