In the first part of this devotion, I was pondering the question, “At the end of time will God have to close the box and write on the outside, “Missing One Piece”? The response to this question for me is a serious point of interest because it serves to illuminate the heart. Let me ask: Do you ever look at someone or a group of someones with an air of superiority? Do you deem these others to be strange, crazy, contemptible, vile, uncouth, laughable, heretical, … and the list could go on? From some little safe enclave, do you hurl your grenades of judgement and criticism? Surrounded by your clique of friends do you deliver your harshest critiques of others who somehow don’t measure up? Yeah… me too! It almost seems inevitable, doesn’t it?
And this may well be one of the not so great hallmarks of being human. We like to make boxes and put people in categories of the “in-s” and the “out-s,” the “hip” and the “not-so-hip,” the “righteous” and the “un-righteous,” the “saved” and the “not saved.” We like to build walls: physical, educational, religious, monetary, racial, social, and cultural. We like to insulate ourselves from things that are different and foreign, unfamiliar and strange. It is easy to recognize that for the most part this is not a helpful trait and yet how do we change?
In the previous devotion I spoke of the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. In these parables there is the isolation or lostness of the one, perhaps they are lost because they don’t fit anywhere. Immediately following these two parables is the parable of the lost son who squanders his inheritance on wild living and returns to his Father ashamed and broken. And to the shock of everyone, the Father graciously and lovingly receives his son who on any account is a shameful disgrace, a blight on the family name. When the older brother hears the joyous celebration and learns of how the Father received his brother, he becomes angry and refuses to go in and join the party.
In the crosshairs of this parable is the religious community of Pharisees and teachers of the law who, we read, “muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” (Lk 15:2) And I would like to argue that we, also, are caught in the scope. How often do we sit in judgement of others deeming them unacceptable to God and worthy of contempt? And how often do we exclude them forgetting that “There is no one righteous, not even one”? (Rom 3:10) So to answer the question, “How do we change?” might I humbly offer that we take Jesus’ words seriously? “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
This is the way of the Lord: this is how we begin to break down the walls that we have erected in our own heart that keep us from understanding the heart of the Lord. And when we consider the question, “At the end of time will God have to close the box and write on the outside, ‘Missing One Piece’?” we may come to realize that the answer depends on us and whether or not we are willing to heed the Father’s pleading to come in and join the celebration.
Rob Schmidt, pastor of worship and arts (part 1 was mistakenly attributed to Rob Strode… he loved all of the affirmations and comments ☺).