An Israelite, A Pharisee And A Disciple

The Israelites, the Pharisees and the disciples are easily the most frustrating three groups in Bible. Reading their story, it is nearly impossible to not yell through the Bible at their lack of foresight into God's provision and purpose. God would say, "Do A," and they would choose Z. I cannot help, as the entirety of their stories unfold, to be irate at their mistrust of God's faithfulness. As my frustration boils over, it is horribly clear – I am them.

I am the Israelites.

As their captivity became too much to bear, they cried out to God for deliverance. He remembered them. As their freedom looked to be coming to an early end, God parted the waters and destroyed the enemy before their eyes. As their hunger and thirst whelmed up, God provided sustenance just beyond their tents. As their legs tired, God gave them a promise of what was to come. After all of this, who could possibly forget the faithfulness of this God? Somehow they did. They continued to worship false gods, to beg for captivity once again, to weep and wail at their misery. How?

I am the disciples.

They were chosen directly by Jesus for a holy moment in history. They were able to witness miracles, healings and every teaching of the Christ. They were able to ask questions, to hear answers and to inquire about the confusing parables directly to the teacher himself. They were given tremendous power to heal and perform miracles. After all of this, how could they deny the power in the Holy Spirit? Somehow they did. They questioned who would be the greatest, they couldn't stay awake to pray in the times of greatest need, they lacked substantial faith, they cowered in fear at the capture of their leader. Why?

I am the Pharisees.

They were the most educated and religious of the day. They knew how to mask their own sin and appear blameless to the masses. They did what the law required and nothing more. They were proud of their high societal position. They were highly trained and highly skilled at their skill. They knew everything conventional wisdom could allow. After all of this, how could they miss Jesus so completely? Somehow they did. They mocked the followers of Jesus, they tried to earn the favor of God, they believed they were above the rest of the faithful and they completely rejected Jesus as their Savior.

If you were to read the story of my life, from beginning to end, you would see the same things. Stories of God's amazing faithfulness – forgotten. Stories of God's tremendous power and protection – neglected. Stories of God's loving kindness – ignored. Stories of God's discipline – rejected. My life story would be equally as frustrating as the Israelites, the Pharisees and the disciples.

It is this realization that provokes me to examine my relationship with the same God of the Israelites, Pharisees and disciples to see how I have forgotten past faithfulness, past providence, past goodness and to look forward to the future. A future of hope filled with faith over fear, action over immobility, love over rationale and freedom over slavery.

God is the author and perfecter of my story – thankfully, I am not.

Am I A Polytheist?

Just because we don't sing to it doesn't mean it isn't our god. It was never an issue for me to not worship Baal. I never had an inclination to worship Zeus, Poseidon or Aphrodite. Those gods were foreign, mythical and fantastical. Polytheism just didn't make sense. Why worship a different god for each area of life? A god for the ocean, a god for the sky, a god for rain and a god for beauty was all too much.

What I didn't realize is that polytheism is not a middle eastern or historical concept. It's in the fabric of human depravity. Yes, I do not sing worship songs to my gods, but they are enshrined in a unibody aluminum enclosure. They are liquid crystals pressed against glass. My gods are music, movies and entertainment. Of course, I believe fully in the triune nature of the one true God, but my lifestyle insists that I allow devices, entertainment and media to command my attention.

Somehow, polytheism is not that far off. When I am in pain, I run to be numbed by the latest sitcom. When I am bored, I choose to be occupied by my devices. When I am lonely, I turn to entertainment for comfort. In much the same way that our ancestors would worship Poseidon before launching into an ocean voyage, I pay tribute to my weakness by honoring the things I hold in high regard. I don't sing songs or bow down before these things, but I allow them to take me away from the realities of my own pain, sin and temptations.

The parallel is poignant for me to let sink in. Instead of being comforted by the Comforter, instead of being cared for by the Creator, instead of being loved by love itself, I keep choosing the world's offerings to do the trick. It's a well that continually runs dry and a drink that never satisfies.

Head Versus Heart

I wish my head knew less and my heart loved more. The biggest obstacle to myself being a lover of people is the knowledge of those people. The knowledge of what they have done, the knowledge of who they are, the knowledge of what others have said about their type. The most damning could even be my perception of what they appear to be. In a singular moment, my head is able to determine whether or not any one person is worthy of my love and attention. My heart is so often stifled by my rationale.

With the "ability" to use my intellect to judge whether or not people are worth my affection, I am able to refrain from being hurt, dodge awkwardness and hide from emotional pain or sorrow. Simply put, by finding the fault in others – my own sin is terrifically neglected. There is no need to become transparent. There is no need to become emotionally connected. A safe distance is rationally acceptable in every way.

Therein lies the central issue. I recognize my individual pride has allowed me to carry a judgement on everyone I meet. I elevate myself above their downfalls instead of humbling myself (in my own depravity) and loving them, irregardless of both my sin and theirs. I forget far too easily that we are all sinners. I have given my head far too much ammunition against a very defenseless action-prone heart. I readily understand that love is so unusually unrational, but my greatest hope is that it would become a verifiable process.

It's just not that simple.

There is no checklist for who will not let you down. There sadly is no code or governing law when it comes to understanding who should be loved. There is just a simple decree: love everyone. Enemies, friends, gays, haters, lovers, poor, rich, lowly – love all these and more.

Love is simply difficult in every facet, yet I have been charged with the task along with every other believer across the world. My heart is willing but my head is a snare of immobility.