I say this not exactly in love for a fellow human, but in love for redemption of sins, as miraculously arranged by God. I’m sitting next to a mild Captain Obvious with a mild farting problem. And as I type, I’m turning the brightness on my phone’s WordPress app downnn. 😂
On the flight to Sac, I had a reading feast of Darling Magazine‘s 12th issue. That felt like calling a kindred spirit by their full legal name… On the return flight home, I began to outline memories of the fun I had visiting my best friend up north. And now it’s podcast time! I’m listening to “A Tender Word to Pharisees” by John Piper (summary article).
We like to pick out the Pharisees, but in doing so can’t help but reveal more and more of how shade by shade, we not only are them, but step willingly into the mud where the only movement allowed is finger-pointing, and we take running our mouths to be exercise of judgment—of taste, not of erroneous choice in priorities.
Sometimes it seems those of us who have been in the church a while think it’s a race of closing our eyes to love others more “dangerously.” So a gentle word is not to be afforded to Pharisees who have squandered mercy, but to the ones who are so much more visually deep in sin. And yet aren’t we all wooed by the same forgiveness of the Great Physician?
A tender word of a serious diagnosis.
In Luke 15, we find the classic parable of the Prodigal Son.
As I began to listen, just the idea for this sermon had me thinking. Piper said as Jesus was criticized by the religious authorities for mingling with more publicly stamped sinners, he looked past the tax collectors and prostitues to give the following parables: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son—just for the Pharisees.
Why? To get them to understand WHY He would invite those cast out. Not to treat sin lightly, but to treat His creation as His children. Piper gave an interesting point that the father in the parable doesn’t—Jesus doesn’t—tell the older brother he’s acting like a baby when he protests his missing Employee-of-a-Lifetime party.
And by giving through these stories a gentle word, Jesus so lovingly even faces the Pharisees, so lovingly even glances at me. And I’m brought back to the most gorgeous irony of all time—that I cannot believe God loves me, and that I believe that God chooses to love me. Those sweet words sour in the the mention of myself, of all the sin stuck tagged to every part of me.
I love the way Piper gives urgency to “getting grace at a GUT level.” It matters to tune our hearts to what breaks God’s heart, and what honors it.
Piper calls it an “indicting question,” When you see sin do you feel more disgust or compassion? which reminds me of some lyrics Josh Garrels writes in “Farther Along.”
Tempted and tried, I wondered why
The good man died, the bad man thrives
And Jesus cries because he loves them both
We’re all cast-aways in need of ropes
Irritating how at peace Josh sounds swimming in his lyrics reflecting on God’s authority over ours in what defines moving forward and moving towards love, hmm? Piper highlights daily examples in his own life where he trades enjoyment of mercy for grudges.
“Don’t live on the porch of merit. Don’t STAY on the porch of merit, of recorded obedience. Come IN to the family room. Come IN from the porch of hard earned merit and stay with me.”
We talk a lot about not being “that guy” or “that girl.” Don’t be THAT guy. I think the Prodigal Son’s older brother is usually looked at as “that guy.” From a human stance, its rightful. But the father doesn’t cast him aside either.
Lately “that guy” for me has been follow-baiters on Instagram, or the person who isn’t clearest over email, or—at more of a pressure point—the ones I’m most distracted with when needing to stay in my lane. Kinda gross right? I am that guy.
Mmm, some good expository preaching to give thanks for, but moreover scripture to hit every possible angle of question of God’s complete love for us. As I turn this forgiveness thing over and over in my hands, I’m so grateful for the power of His Word to meet us where we’re at and teach us to be more than just the clay pinch bowls we can fathom. More than a steady disposition, I want to give over that repentance the angels so rejoice over.
So as we reach for our bags to disembark, Capt. Obvi could use a few swipes of deodorant, and I could use a another listen to that sermon.