Greetings one and all – welcome to 2014!! I hope that you have had a wonderful Christmas break and enjoyed all the turkey, mince pies and bad 80′s music.
I had a great Christmas and start the year refreshed and ready to go but I should perhaps add at this point that I am still nursing a potentially broken big toe.
Well, let’s just say, there’s a reason I retired from playing football a couple of years ago! I love playing football and it was a church match between the whipper-snappers (or youth as they prefer to be known) and the slightly older (and rounder) 20-30′s congregation. It ended with a 2-2 draw but I spent most of the match wondering if my toenails had come off in my boot after the rapid lad I was marking got to the ball before me and I ended up booting him instead of the ball! I then spent much of the Christmas period hobbling around!
It made me think though – it’s funny how life works sometimes isn’t it? How in the midst of some of the best times there can still be pain; there can still be a cost.
This morning as I was reading the story of the rich young man in Mark 10 (go have a quick read of it…) on the train into work I was struck by the words of Jesus from the conversation he had with the young man who had a bit of money. When he met Jesus he asked the question – ‘what do I need to do to inherit eternal life?’ What was Jesus’ response?
Jesus looked at him and loved him… Amazing!!! Isn’t that exactly the response you would want?!
But read on cos here comes the hard bit… “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:21-22 NIV).
Sometimes life is a mixture of highs and lows and it doesn’t necessarily come one after the other, but often they overlap. Jesus loved him. And then knocked the stuffing out of him.
The clue lies in the opening lines of the conversation. The young man called Jesus ‘Good Teacher’ to which Jesus responds ‘Why do you call me good – only God is good’. Jesus is not asking him a trick question – the answer is in the question but the young man misses it.
In that culture wealth was often seen as an indicator of God’s blessing and so it is reasonable to assume that the young man’s obedience to the six of the Ten Commandments that Jesus refers to, together with his wealth, led him to the conclusion that he was ok. But note the four commandments that Jesus deliberately doesn’t refer to – all are about putting God first in life…Have no other gods before God, have no idols, don’t misuse God’s name, remember the Sabbath.
Jesus is gently (and then not so gently) trying to lead him to realise that he shouldn’t trust in his own goodness or what culture told him about himself but to recognise his need to become a wholehearted disciple of Jesus.
In short, his money isn’t ‘good’; Jesus is – because only God is ‘good’.
Now I realise that this blog is supposed to be about justice and I don’t know what your year looks like from here – maybe you’re really looking forward to it or maybe you’re dreading it.
I want to kick off 2014 by urging you with all that is in me to pursue faithfulness to Jesus whether it’s good or it knocks the wind out of you. Whether being obedient to him in our day to day choices is easy or seems pointless. Whether Jesus calls you to give up things you don’t want to or to deal with parts of your character that you thought were ok; let us determine now, right at the start of 2014, to permit Jesus to point out and transform us, even the tough bits, because then we will become agents of his justice in a whole new way.
Sometimes pursuing God means that we end up with a limp but if that’s the cost of doing something I love then I’ll take it. Following Jesus isn’t always easy and sometimes it costs, but it is always worth it…
…Because Jesus looks at you, he sees you, and he loves you.