Monday of the First Week of Lent
(Click here for readings)
By KATIE GROSS
(Click here for readings)
By KATIE GROSS
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof…” I am convinced that one of the greatest obstacles to our faith is our own shame. Our world today is a very unmerciful world. We are told that in order to survive, we must constantly be on our guard. If we are struggling with some kind of sin, wemust hide it—how dare we struggle! If we have family or relationship problems, we must quickly sweep them under the rug—how dare we not maintain a perfect life all the time! This is the way humans think—pride first, reality second. However, contrary to everything that has been instilled in us by this culture, God rejoices when we admit our weakness and guilt.
I recently had an experience that made me think about this. School has been absolutely crazy this year! Many of you out there can probably relate—sometimes it feels like I barely have time to breathe. More times than I would like to admit, I haveput the finishing touches on a paper after a long night and then realized… whoops, I forgot about God today! Then comes the thoughts of shame—“You were so on fire before! You will never get that back! You are so selfish! You may as well not pray. God has been waiting on you all day and you weren’t there.” Howterrible are these lies I am tempted to tell myself! Although I am at fault, God never abandons me. Even the smallest prayer of sorrow is better than abandoning prayer altogether because I wasn’t “perfect.”
Many other sins can turn our walk with God into a game ofhide-and-seek. You weren’t perfectly nice to that coworker? “It’s too late to reconcile, and God is sooooo irritated with me!” You made a wrong choice one time at a party? “My entire Christian life is lost!!!” We have gotten sucked into a culture of perfectionism where one mistake can make or break us. But when did we forget that God came to save us because he knewthat we would not be perfect? By becoming discouraged by our own sins, we say to God that His passion was without purpose. We tell Him that we don’t believe that we were redeemed. We tell him that we don’t believe in His mercy.
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” How is it possible that God can be so pleased with a confession of guilt, as he was with that of the centurion? Shouldn’t the opposite thing happen? Even if he were merciful, shouldn’t he first chastise the man? No—he responded in just the way that God responds to each and every one of us when we confess our sins: with joy!
We all need to learn how to separate repentance from discouragement. David was a great example of a goodrelationship between a sinner and God. Talk about a “mess-up” by today’s standards! David was appointed by God to be the King of Israel, and what did he do? He stole somebody’s wife and killed her rightful husband. Many political leaders today have been condemned for much less. But David knew how to express his sorrow for his sins in a healthy way, consistent with who he knew God to be: he prays in Psalm 51, “My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.” He knew that while he was incredibly guilty, God would not strike down somebody who sincerely repented and tried to get back on the right path.
David would say this to the centurion: thinking in a strictly human way, we don’t deserve to be healed by Him. We aren’t worthy that He should enter under our roof. But that is quite alright. God does not operate in the same unmerciful way that humans do: “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). For this reason, we owe God praise! We can point to every weakness in our life and know that God has an attribute that is the exact opposite. We are unmerciful? God is merciful. We forget God? God never forgets us. We are self-obsessed? God is selfless.These aren’t just romantic words—this is reality. Let’s pray that we will come to believe in this truth.