Okay, we need to get one thing straight right from the top – you should be very grateful that your salvation does not depend on me. I mean, just in case that had not heretofore dawned on you. To quote my mother, “You would be SOL!” (Mom never wanted to explain that acronym to me, felt it was beneath her). So, we’re good with that, right? We all agree we are better off with me NOT being responsible for your salvation? Good. With that firmly established, we can move on with this little devotional thought.
I once listened to a physician explain exactly how one died on the cross. It was vividly explained and grossly vicariously experienced. After 2-3 days, breaking the legs of the victim hastened their death, by leading to asphyxiation. The whole experience was beyond cruel. And that was just listening to the story. Anyway, Luke records Jesus’ words as he was hung on the cross between two criminals, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). See, I would, at this point, stop the conversation because it seems to me these centurions knew exactly what they were doing. They were driving roughly hewn metal spikes through the wrists and feet of Jesus, and dropping his cross in a hole with a sickening thud, all the while listening to the screams of the dying. Seems pretty obvious to me.
Yet, Jesus said something like, “Dad, they don’t have a clue what they are doing, so please don’t hold this against them.” Really? Since the only thing that separates us from God is our need for forgiveness of sin, these brutal soldiers just got a pass into the Kingdom of God. “For crying in the soup!” (another of mother’s expressions… don’t ask). These pawns of history didn’t even express an ounce of remorse and here is the Lord, giving them a “get out of jail free” pass. Again, it is good that I am not in charge of anyone else’s salvation.
Would you consider yourself an open-minded person? Would you? Hey, what do you know! That makes you a liberal. The root of the word liberal means, “open-minded.” This has nothing to do with what side of the aisle your voting proclivity abides. I once heard a pastor discussing a very closed-minded individual, “Oh, he died a long time ago, he just hasn’t laid down yet.” I never wanted to be that person, so I have held to the desire to be liberal, that is, open-minded. Sometimes that has left me open to very difficult conversations. This past 4th of July being a case in point.
In the spirit of Black Lives Matter, I have tried this year to look upon Confederate monuments that extol the economic virtues of slavery through the eyes of a black man. I listened to an African American woman explain her beautiful chocolate skin as the consequence of slave owners who believed it their right to sexually take slave women, but refuse to take their offspring as their own. This 71-year-old “liberal,” who grew up in a very multi-cultural setting, tried to see our systemic racism this past 4th through the eyes of a black man, and I felt ashamed. For all my progressive idealism, I confess there is much I have not gotten. To me also, Jesus says, “Dad, you’ve got to forgive him, he doesn’t get it.” To which I would add, “Yet!” Still trying, Lord, still trying.
Including Pastor Jim, the 139th Psalm is a favorite for many of us. For those of us who continue to struggle with their humanity, the last two verses encourage us:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and
_ know my anxious thoughts. See if there is an offensive
_ way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Looking in the mirror is sometimes fatiguing work. But at least we are still looking. That should give us hope. The Psalmist prays that God would look at the integrity of his devotion and not the failure of his choices. I am so glad God is liberal with us. Uff da.
Keep fighting the good fight. God’s peace,
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