Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Lent: Because It's Just So Hard To Choose

As I was putting the girls to bed tonight we read from James as is our custom, and then prepared to say our prayers. My three year old REALLY wanted to say her prayers first tonight, but it was the six year old's turn to say her prayers first. Now I explained to the three year old that she said her prayers first last night, it was still apparent her "delicate feelings" were saddened by the prospect of praying second.

Since the three year old was so pathetic, I thought I would use this as a teaching moment for the six year old. I asked my oldest, "Can your sister go first?" To which I got the much expected no. So I asked her about what we just read.

James 2:14-26 - My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people claim they have faith but don't act like it? Can that kind of faith save them?
Suppose a brother or sister has no clothes or food. Suppose one of you says to them, "Go. I hope everything turns out fine for you. Keep warm. Eat well." And you do nothing about what they really need. Then what good have you done? It is the same with faith. If it doesn't cause us to do something, it's dead.

But someone will say, "You have faith. I do good works."

Show me your faith that doesn't do good works. And I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that. And they tremble!

You foolish man! Do you want proof that faith without good works is useless? Our father Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar. Wasn't he considered to be right with God because of what he did? So you see that what he believed and what he did were working together. What he did made his faith complete. That is what Scripture means where it says, "Abraham believed God. God accepted Abraham because he believed. So his faith made him right with God." And that's not all. God called Abraham his friend. 24 So you see that a person is made right with God by what he does. It doesn't happen only because of what he believes. Didn't God make even Rahab the prostitute right with him? That's because of what she did. She gave the spies a place to stay. Then she sent them off in a different direction.

The body without the spirit is dead. In the same way, faith without good works is dead.
My question to her was how do we show God's love? "Through doing," she sighed back to me.
"So do you want to show love, or do you want to go first," I asked?
"But it's not fair," she pleaded hoping I would excuse her from the exercise.
"Showing God by doing isn't fair," I responded "It makes us suffer, to give up that right. You have the RIGHT to go first and you can choose that."
At this point I stopped preaching to her because tears were rolling down her little cheeks.
"Why are you crying," I tenderly asked?
"Because It's just so hard to choose!" she cried back at me...

My heart was breaking with her decision. I could not let off her to make the choice and apply the text, yet I knew PRECISELY where she was at. I mean don't get me wrong, I don't go to fisticuffs with my wife because I care who says a prayer first at bedtime. I do know and do struggle with the tension between what is "fair" (mine by right) and living out this Jesus lifestyle, this faith stuff. I deal with her tension myself, when I see a need to meet in a person I encounter, and still want to be lazy and selfish.

It is hard to choose. I want to be like Jesus every decision, every day. I want to be MORE outward focused. I want to not only see but also respond to the physical, emotional, and spiritual poverty around me. I want to be moved, not by the casual, the comfortable, and the convenient, but instead by the Christ. Yet, I am wretched, pitiable, and poor. As Paul says Romans 7:24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death ?

Thank God for the grace of Christ. Thank God for HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS! I can choose, as my daughter did, to submit not to the reality that is mine by right, but instead to the faith that works in the needs of other. I am so grateful for my daughter, my little hero, for showing me what it meant to sacrifice without the pretense of acting like the decision was an easy one.

I have spent these lenten days in extra prayer for poverty and suffering. My prayer, is all the more that God would empower me even more to NOT JUST PRAY about poverty and suffering, but to surrender my rights and enter the WORK of this faith. Here am I Lord, Send Me!

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