Allow me to introduce my guest Arielle Rothbard. She is a fellow blogger committed to excellence. I asked her if she would guest post for me with something tasteful, relevant, and timely and I think you will truly be blessed by this message. You can read more from Arielle HERE.
“The nuns taught us there are two ways through life: the way of nature and the way of grace. We have to choose which one we’ll follow.” -Terrence Malik, Tree of Life
Last Yom Kippur, which I had the pleasure of spending with Sean and his wife, Sarah, made me pretty hangry (hungry + angry). This past Monday I technology fasted for Sean from my iPhone, which has unfortunately become as precious as food #firstworldproblems. It was good to keep the phone off for a solid 32 hours.
When I realized there wouldn’t be much to do, I responded to a last-minute email invite to a prayer meeting. On the way there, I read Follow Me, a book by a rather intense pastor named David Platt. Platt also wrote a book called Radical, which was a key component in my decision to move out to California to work in Christian nonprofits over a year ago. As was Sean.
Follow Me touches on something I heard described yesterday as “human attainment v. divine accomplishment.” Pharisaical law burdened the Jewish people of Jesus’ day. Jesus (Y’shua in Hebrew) offers, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” in Matthew 11:28. “These words… resound in a world where every other religious teacher says, ‘Try harder, work harder, do more, and become better’” (Platt 56). Jesus offers us replacement for this “Harder Better Faster Stronger” Daft Punk gospel. The truth is our work can be over.
“Our greatest need is not to try harder. Our greatest need is a new heart” (Platt 57). This has become undeniably clear to me, especially as the depravity of the human heart is constantly spot lit. For example, over Thanksgiving I heard my friend’s father discussing the corporate greed of a car company’s having sent off their product to developing countries with fewer safety bells and whistles, yet identically marketed and sold. All customers were told they received the same benefits. These stories, though popping up daily, still shock. But we cut corners on individual levels, too. Especially when no one is looking. I bet the toilet paper roll would be refilled a lot more readily if everyone knew just who was forsaking their refilling duties each time.
We don’t do what’s right when it’s up to us. No one has to teach a toddler to take what they think ought to be theirs. Actually, good parenting takes a lot to de-program this natural tendency of putting self first. We all need that parent who is so committed to the child’s success that the parent will sacrifice to ensure it. If you chose to accept it, this story is most greatly evidenced in God sacrificing Himself, His son, in our place to ensure our reconciliation to Him.
I was reminded of this during that Monday prayer meeting. An American family in this church sought to adopt. After some time, the couple had their own biological son. They had meanwhile committed themselves to an orphan, whom they visited and named Louis (not his real name) and flew overseas to collect. Ultimately, political unrest caused Louis’ government to shut down, trapping him there. In fact, the mother, whom we’ll call Miri, is likewise stuck, while her husband was released back to the States, able to care for their child. Furthermore, Louis’ to-be parents are painfully aware that Louis is HIV positive which they hope to treat as well and as long as possible, once he’s in the States. Miri has been stranded there with Louis for the last six weeks. Several other will-be parents are similarly captive with their adoptees on strange soil, yet their overwhelming love for these undesirable, unpromising children compels them to risk everything. Each of us could only dream of such a love. Or could we?
You may be familiar with certain songs sung around this year. “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is one of the first I learned in third grade. Some of the lyrics go, “God and sinners reconciled” through “the new born king,” and “Now He lays His glory by/Born that man no more may die/Born to raise the sons of earth/Born to give them second birth.” If you’re wondering what this means, in a sense, each of us was utterly unloved and stranded, terminally ill in our native country. Thankfully, we are extended this same, sacrificial and unconditional love from God. Yet, without it, we are sentenced to punishment and separation from Him forever.
Sean and I had a good friend who passed away over a year ago. He was the child of Holocaust survivors, and as a kid, remarked of a nativity scene on a church’s front lawn, “Daddy, what is our king doing on their lawn?” If you find yourself asking questions like that this season, either of us would be happy to tell you more about why we, as Jewish people, have placed our hope in Jesus as our messiah.
If you enjoyed reading this, Arielle would love for you to read more from at Metropolitan Paisley which primarily contains snippets of offbeat city life.