Monday, December 24, 2012

"Fair" is not a word for this world...

No matter how much we might like to cry "foul" or claim that something was/is not "fair," the truth we like to forget is that "fair" is simply not a word for this world.  We live in a fallen world ravaged by sin and daily assaulted by our foe, the world, and even our own flesh.  Nothing in this life is "fair."

For that matter, nothing in faith is "fair."

I have been thinking a lot about John the Baptist.  I am learning ... slowly ... if someone mentions something from the Bible with which I am not familiar (increasingly this is most often the case) to interrupt the person and admit I need the back story.  For example, when my pastor told me about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I admitted to him I did not know, or rather remember, who they were.  That admission of ignorance resulted in blessing.  I have continued to savor their response to King Nebuchadnezzar that even if their God did not save them from the fire, they still would not bow down to him or deny their faith.  Certainly being burned to a crisp for faith would not exactly be a fair reward.  But what has remained with me is the even if part.

When people talk to me about God healing me, it is not as if I believe such a thing is not possible, but it is not my hope.  I do not believe the probable outcome of my life is healing. To me, hoping for that would merely become another battle.  My hope is not for healing.  My hope is for grace ... especially grace to be confident in my even if confession of faith and in enduring the ravaging of my body and mind.

But I admit that I do think about what is fair, for the first and chief and lingering thought in my mind is to SCREAM, "It is not fair that I have lost almost all of the bible verses, whole chapters even, that I had memorized.  It is not fair that I no longer can remember the order of the books in the bible and struggle to find things in there.  It is not fair that I struggle to remember even a few of the most basic/common of bible 'stories.'  And it absolutely is NOT fair that I am losing the Lord's Prayer and the Apostle's Creed!!"  I learned the latter before I was even a Christian.  It has been with me longer than almost anything else in my life.

But, again, "fair" is surely not a word for this world or for faith.

Yet we cry foul so often.  The question of fairness rises to our lips in illness and death, in robbery and violence.  Even with the most recent evidence of how fallen our world really is played out in death and injury among 6 and 7-year-olds.  In our heart of hearts, I do not doubt many protest the fairness of the children's deaths far more than the adults'.

A few months ago, my pastor came to bring me the Lord's Supper and he said something about John.  I asked him if he meant John the Baptist.  I was asking in all seriousness, but a beheaded man could not possibly have written a Gospel of Jesus.  SIGH.  Anyway, ever since that Gospel lesson (which I have not a single memory of save for learning anew that the author of John was not, in fact, a beheaded man), I have been thinking about John the Baptist.

When the thief on the cross was dying, he had the ineffable comfort of Jesus Christ promising him that at the end of his suffering he would be with Him in paradise.  The Living Word spoken from the Living Word and spoken for him!  That is pretty amazing, especially given the life choices that man must have made to have ended up nailed to a cross.

Yet look at the life choices of John the Baptist.  He was faithful.  He forsook worldly wealth or prestige.  He ministered to his neighbors.  He proclaimed the Gospel.  He baptized folk.  In fact, He baptized Jesus Himself!  And what did he gain from those life choices?  His head chopped off.  And no Living Word with him speaking to him in the agony of his death.

Now, just how fair is that?

It is not about our life choices.  It is not about the things we do or do not do for others.  It is not about our faith, even.  In the end, it is solely about the fact that we live in a fallen world and there is certainly nothing fair about that.

It is just.  We reap the just rewards for our sin.  The old Adam in us daily struggles with the consequence of the choice of mankind to turn away from God.  So, all the illness and death, the violence, theft, and greed, are exactly what we deserve.

Yet the new Adam in us, though burdened for a time to wade through the muck and mire of this world, reaps the just reward for Christ's life choices, for His works, for His faith.  We reap healing and life eternal, safety, riches, and peace.

From the world's perspective, one could argue that John the Baptist got a raw deal.  I wonder, what he thought and felt whilst sitting in his jail cell.  I wonder what he thought and felt whilst being led to his execution.  I wonder what he thought and felt just before the axe or sword came swinging at him.  I am certain that in faith his confession remained even if.  But I wonder about his flesh.  Did his legs falter?  Did his stomach fail?  Did he weep?  Did fear wash over him?  Was ever his soul in despair within him?

It seems to me that what I have been fed all my life about the folk in the bible is not merely the "hero" side of them, but the new Adam in them.  The Saints!  The Saints!  Oh, remember the Saints!  But even whilst they were being saintly, they still were struggling with sin.  The Psalter alone tells us this.

As the deer pants for the water brooks, 
So my soul pants for Thee, O God. 
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; 
When shall I come and appear before God? 
My tears have been my food day and night, 
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 
These things I remember, and I pour out my soul within me. 
For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, 
With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. 

Why are you in despair, O my soul? 
And why have you become disturbed within me? 
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him 
For the help of His presence. 
O my God, my soul is in despair within me, 
Therefore I remember Thee from the land of the Jordan, 
And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. 
Deep calls to deep at he sound of Thy waterfalls; 
All Thy breakers and Thy waves have rolled over me. 
The Lord will command His lovingkindess in the day time; 
And His song will be with me in the night, 
A prayer to the God of my life.

I will say to God my rock, “Why hast Thou forgotten me? 
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” 
As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, 
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 
And why have you become disturbed within me? 
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, 
The help of my countenance, and my God. 

     ~Psalm 42 
     (NASB 1977)

I so much want to be the Saint more than I am the sinner.  Even though I am equally both, all I really see is the latter.  In the midst of innards or migraine misery, when sight and sound or even moving makes me worse, the old Adam in me rears his head and starts speaking of fairness or reminds me what a horrible sinner I am and so am deserving of my state.  

All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the less of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it. ~Herman Melville, Moby Dick

It is as if I am, my self is, the whale.

Pain, nausea, dizziness, weakness, sensitivity to light and sound, chills, confusion, blankness, and the rest magnify my ability to see only the old Adam in me.  So, again, I need the Words, the knowledge, of who I am in Christ to remain, somehow, accessible when all sense is lost and fetching a text is not an option.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

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