Dan Behrens, Co Pastor EFC
Peter once said to Jesus, “What becomes of us, Lord? We have left everything to follow you.” Shortly thereafter, Jesus tells Peter a story: “A mob of field workers forms in front of the payroll table, intolerably impatient for the day’s wage. Somewhere among their ranks a rumor starts that late-comers receive equal pay. Unhinged even at the notion, a spokesman for the morning crew lets out: ‘you dare spite us when we have bore the burden of your field in the scorching heat. You are not only crazy, you are unjust.’ Here the landowner himself steps in. ‘I do you no injustice sir; didn’t we agree to the wage of a dollar a day? Am I not free to do what I want with what is my own? Or are you envious because I’m gracious? Take your pay and go, but know that in my kingdom many who are first shall be last, and last first.’
When we last see Peter and Jesus together, they’re on the shore of the sea, revisiting this very issue. “Follow me” Jesus says, “and feed my lambs.” “But what about him (John)” Peter asks. “What about him?” Jesus replies. “If he is to remain until I return, what is that to you? You follow me.”
Even after everything we’ve been taught since we were kids, we still compare ourselves to others. We still judge others against ourselves. We hastily draw up conclusions about the posture, position, and workload of everyone else around us. And on both sides we are left wanting. We may even be angry with God, envious of his manifold grace toward everyone—the burden-bearers and the late-comers. Here is one of those rare occasions where Jesus goes in for our individual need over that of the group: “never you mind all those others” he says, “you follow me!”
You remember that David and Goliath story from church when you were a kid? The one you heard every year as part of a packaged “kids-church” curriculum? Conversely, its hardly a children’s story. The whole account includes a high level of brutality. The head of a giant is removed. An enemy empire is hunted down and slaughtered. As adults, the David meets Goliath construct is familiar to almost everyone almost everyday, the mighty favorite over the puny underdog. Yet even a casual re-read makes the whole thing fresh. For I am weak. I am forgetful. I need reminders. I need ancient histories to constantly assure me that somewhere under heaven giants do fall. Giants do fall. They fall with a violent crash. We all need to know this and cling to it tightly. The challenges of this life and the chaos of this world will come to a head, and that head will be removed. That is what our scriptures tell us. So hang in there. The Lord is your defender!
Just so we all know, parents don’t know everything. Parents make mistakes. Parents do their best, most often with very little time to think, training to rely on, experience to draw from, or reciprocation to expect. Equally, parents may be faithful Christians, have wonderful supports in place, feel confident in the leading of the Lord, and still get it wrong. I tell you, with the speed at which our culture bombards, parents are most often shooting from the hip. I do not judge them. For I am one of them. Shooting from the hip is not an enduring recipe, but callus ridicule and dismissive indifference is no recipe either. If you are a parent or you know a parent… extend much much grace.
On occasion I take this risk. I write something direct to you. I do so because I believe it’s how I can genuinely express a certain kindness. I want you to know that God is for you today. He is. God is for you. And he intends for your life his peace, his comfort, his favor, his hope. I really do believe this. It motivates my day. If, for whatever reason, you are not so sure about this. If you are not all that convinced of God’s favor and comfort. If you are emphatically opposed to any such notion, that’s okay. I do not wish to challenge you on this point or try to convince of something else. Nor do I wish to dismiss how you might feel differently; I don’t think that helps either one of us. Instead, you get to be you. I get to be me. Perhaps the two of us could unite around this one thing: that a certain kindness will not hurt us. In fact, it might keep us talking and learning and loving differently, loving better. There are enough daily difficulties to wear out our wits and deplete us of all hope. I certainly don’t want to add to that list. I come in peace. God comes in peace. He is for you today. So am I.
The scriptures are a living testimony of persons who saw things and heard things and believed things when they didn’t see or hear anything. Their experience was paired with language that only the Spirit of God could carry through the ages. When we open ourselves up to the scriptures, we are hearing echoes of songs sung in sadness, joys celebrated in victory, prayers offered in gratitude, and praises lifted in agony. If we really listen, we can almost hear ourselves in there somewhere amidst the rushing stream of faith. Even more, in working the scriptures through, we find that our collective story—ours and those before ours—together put before the world, not a science about God presiding over man, but a portrait of God present with real people.