And Yet…

Matthew 1:1-6 (the message)
The family tree of Jesus Christ, David’s son, Abraham’s son:
Abraham had Isaac,
Isaac had Jacob,
Jacob had Judah and his brothers,
Judah had Perez and Zerah (the mother was Tamar),
Perez had Hezron,
Hezron had Aram,
Aram had Amminadab,
Amminadab had Nashon,
Nashon had Salmon,
Salmon had Boaz (his mother was Rahab),
Boaz had Obed (Ruth was the mother),
Obed had Jesse,
Jesse had David,
     and David became king.
David had Solomon (Uriah’s wife was the mother)….

Recently I engaged in a somewhat vigorous, definitely good-natured and very healthy debate about credit and blame  (at least that is my take on the crux of the discussion).  When we take a personal inventory and feel marginally (or overwhelmingly) satisfied with our character and the choices we have made in life, temptation begs us to take the credit.  And when we take personal credit for strong character or the blessings of God in our life it is inevitable we will then cast blame and judgement on those with a lesser character and a history of poor, unfair or simply cruel life choices.

My perspective is not one that removes accountability or consequence for the choices we make in life.  I just have come to believe that character steers the wheel for decision-making and  character is profoundly influenced by our upbringing and how much of God’s love and Word is poured into our lives.  I have hurt people in my life.  I have made choices that hurt myself.  And like everyone else on the planet, I have been cut to the quick, a breath-taking blow or two, at the hands of another.  Although it’s absolutely complicated to sift through, God has helped me to see the ‘why’ behind my own behavior as well as the behavior of others at times.  Does that mean I can blame someone else for my choices when they are wrong or that I have permission to assume a victim’s posture when I suffer wrong?  No, I really don’t think so.  But in the messiness of life I discover mercy and grace.  As my life is healed and repaired by mercy, I must come face to face with the need for mercy in every person I encounter.  Sometimes we don’t like that.  The truth is we want mercy for our lives and judgement for others.  We know our own whys…the hardships and the gaping, unmet needs that drive us to make poor choices.  But we don’t want to hear the why in someone else’s life.  We just want them to do better.

This morning I planted myself in the book of Matthew.  Sometimes, especially when life starts to spin, I need to get back to the words Jesus spoke.  I really need to be near Him and reminded of how He saw people.  How He sees us still.  I almost skipped the first part of Matthew chapter one because it lists the genealogy of Jesus.  So glad I didn’t.  I did not get past the first six verses before I was struck and reminded of mercy, grace and how God is never about what we deserve.  I was reminded of the fruitlessness in taking credit for the “good” in my life or character.  I was touched by the evidence of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba).  See, no matter how much we want to judge others, God sees what we don’t see.  And sometimes it is those of us so satisfied with ourselves that truly miss out on the miraculous.

Tamar tricked Judah into conceiving a child and marrying her.  Rahab was a prostitute.  Ruth was a foreigner.  Bathsheba an adulteress.  And yet they were so much more.  And I whole-heartedly believe God saw the “more” even if others could not.  Tamar had been abandoned.  Rahab protected Israelite spies as they moved forward in taking the promised land.  Ruth was courageous and loyal to her mother-in-law as she followed her back to her homeland after they were both widowed.  And Bathsheba.  Perhaps a seductress on a rooftop, but soon used and widowed by the hands of the King…miscarrying a child.  In the end broken, along with King David, and yet restored.

All of these women speak with crystal clarity to us from the first chapter of Matthew.  But careful lest we gloss over the realities of their lives and that they were absolutely chosen by God for the ancestry of Jesus.  Careful lest we too readily congratulate ourselves on our own goodness.  Many times over in the Bible it is the men and women of God broken by their own sin and humble beginnings whose names we read.  Perhaps it is not the pristine character or better choices we make in life that draw us to Creator’s attention.  Perhaps it is the broken spirit, the willing heart, the humbled man or woman who in the end gives up every ounce of credit, or glory, to God.

Perhaps it is the life who crashes head-long into mercy…perhaps the life that takes a long and deep drink from the fountain of grace, realizing our God is bigger than blame or credit, who in turn is able to extend mercy and grace to others.  We all need mercy.  We reach God’s hand of mercy through grace.  Grace is never about what we deserve.  I can’t earn it and I can’t cross any line that causes it to vanish.  Really this changes me.  It changes my life and my perspective.  And yet with absorbing mercy and grace comes the letting go of the judgement I so want to exact on others.

We are not so unlike Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba.  Haven’t we all felt abandoned?  Haven’t we all sold ourselves in some form or fashion in hopes of filling an unmet need?  Haven’t we all felt like outsiders?  And haven’t we all cheated others, ourselves and God at one point or another?  I know I have.  I know sometimes I still do. 

I guess it’s that knowing that changes everything.

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