Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Going off the rails

Once I heard an odd story about a famous golfer. His name escapes me, which is probably how he likes it, but anyway, he was confronted by a tearful woman. Her son was in the hospital with some terrible condition -- she went into some detail -- but with a few thousand dollars he could get a life-saving treatment. He wrote her a check.

Later, friends told him that he'd been had. "You mean, there isn't some terrible condition killing her son? He's not going to die?" Nope. "That is the best news I've heard all week!"

I don't know if the story is true, but I'm certainly impressed by the fellow's charity.

Now what if his friends refused to understand his perspective? What if they were so "stuck" on how he had been deprived of those thousands (which, as he says, he'd never miss among his millions) that they couldn't appreciate either his joy nor his sense of humor?

Today's New Testament passage reminded me of that story. Matthew chapter 12 begins with an argument about the Sabbath. Some words are exchanged. Jesus goes to the synagogue
and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"

He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.

But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.
Matthew 12.10-14
There is something awfully pitiful about this story. The man with one useless hand -- these Pharisees didn't care about him at all. And who did they think actually did the healing? How is it that they didn't recognize that God himself was behind it?

Now my understanding is that the Pharisees originally started out as religious reformers; these were the guys who wanted worship of the Lord to be done with sincerity and purity. How did they get so far off? The healing (which delights the heart of God) made no impression on them at all; and rather than rejoicing, they started plotting to kill Jesus -- a violation of one of the Ten Commandments.

I don't know the details, but generally, they went off the rails a little at a time. It wasn't hard. I know because it's easy enough for me to drift away. Any of us could. I used to know a professional evangelist -- he made his living telling people the good news about Jesus Christ! One day he left. Left his wife and four children. Left the church. Today he wipes his mouth and says, "I've done nothing wrong."

Friends, any of us is capable of this - no one is immune.
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from the evil [one]...

No comments: