If I asked you to tell me a few significant events that happened in the 1860s, I imagine you might start with the Civil War. You might mention a few other things as well, but I doubt something like the Boshin War would spring to mind. Like me, your response would be: “What is the Boshin War?” (For the record, it was the time when the shoguns in Japan lost power and the Samurai class almost disappeared.)
The difference between the two is perspective.
If you are Japanese and living in Japan, you study “your own” history. That time period was extremely significant for the Japanese culture – as was the Civil War for our own Nation.
I mention these things because, to be honest, I’m starting to lose a little hope.
The United States has been in a partial government shut down for far too long. Rather than seeking to meet and find a solution, it’s turned into a “nah nah” type of battle with BOTH sides thumbing their noses.
Then, during this time, a photo surfaced of a young man “smirking” in the face of a Native American. Rather than seeking to know what happened, it became an extremely false narrative of distortion and twisted reality.
A video was shared with me that presented a bigger picture of the incident. When I saw others continuing to put forward the picture and false narrative, I attempted to engage in three conversations about it – asking people to use caution because of the potential of far reaching ramifications impacting so many.
The first person watched the other information and removed the post. The second person said they would explore it more. The last person (and others who chimed in) said no. I was a bit shocked by responses in the last group who went so far as to accuse of racism because of the hat worn by the young man and even tell me that everyone needs to learn something about interacting. (NOTE: Irony define: refuse to discuss something and then say that people need to learn how to interact…)
While I am smart enough to solve all of the world’s problems, I know my solutions would never be accepted. So, in that light, I’m going to ask us all to consider something completely different.
What’s up with Herod, Cleopatra, and a toddler?
Two thousand years ago, Herod, the leader of Judea, and Cleopatra, the co-regent of Egypt, got along. Then they didn’t. Then they sort-of did. But in that back-and-forth, the bottom-line was that they would have their own areas. Herod controlled what we call Israel and Cleopatra had Egypt. (Yes, I’m jumping over a LOT of detail.)
In light of that, there existed a “safe-zone” in Egypt if someone, say a father, mother, and toddle, needed to get out of danger. Say some evil guy (Herod) wanted to kill any boy two or under, and say some not-so-evil guy (Joseph) was told in a dream to take his wife and Child (Mary and Jesus) to safety, well, they would go to the safe zone.
And then, say the evil guy (Herod) died, and say the not-so-evil guy didn’t quite feel safe enough to go back to one place (Bethlehem) but instead chose to go to another place (Nazareth), well, would that mean anything?
I’d encourage you to read through Matthew 2:13-23 for the full narrative, but I would like to invite you to consider a few simple things that I think will help us all.
First and foremost, God is sovereign. Now, what does that mean?
Simply put, God is the King. He is the ultimate authority over time and space. He is in control.
To be clear, God, in His sovereignty and love, has chosen to give us free will. What does that mean?
HE LETS US SCREW THINGS UP!
If that is a bit too blunt for you, I’m sorry. But it’s true. He has chosen to allow us to sin, to make mistakes, to do the wrong thing.
That said, He also has chosen to bring good out of our free will.
Take the example of Herod. This guy was evil. He was twisted and sick and demented. He was also intelligent and powerful. As all of those things mixed together, he killed his mom, wife, three oldest sons, etc. This guy had serious issues. Come on! He ordered the slaughter of all the boys two and under in an entire area because he was afraid of a toddler!
And yet, God had known before the creation of time what Herod would do.
· Hosea 11:1 told us that the Messiah would return from Egypt.
· Jeremiah 31:15 told us that there would be a cause for great weeping in the region Herod ordered the slaughter.
· Isaiah 11:1 told us that the Messiah would come out of Nazareth (branch).
Why didn’t God stop him? Why didn’t God stop Herod from being born?
That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works…
We should be grateful.
Are you shocked by that? Do you think I’m wrong? Do you think I’m crazy?
Let’s do what some call the “Flip Test”.
If you sin, if you make a mistake, if you do something wrong, then what should God do? Should God eliminate you? Or should God have never let you be born?
Before you counter with “well, I’m not as bad as Herod”, stop. Sin is sin is sin. Wrong is wrong is wrong.
Some applauded when a certain legislature approved abortions in the third trimester. For decades, the reality is clear. In the third trimester, a baby could be born prematurely and survive. There has been NO doubt that he or she is alive.
But now it’s okay to murder that living child…
And people applauded.
This is why I’m starting to lose a little hope.
It’s considered acceptable to take one photo and use it to ruin a teenager’s life, the family’s life, the school’s reputation…
It’s considered acceptable to call someone a racist because we don’t like the hat they are wearing.
It’s considered acceptable to murder an innocent, helpless, undeniable life.
But I still think we should be grateful that God allows us to have free will. In His amazing love and deep, deep compassion, He allows us to have the ability to be stupid. We can screw things up and the world doesn’t end.
He can then take our “wrongness” and bring good out of it.
This is why I keep reminding myself I CANNOT lose hope.
God knew the depths of my sin. He knew the depths of despair that my sin – and the sins of everyone one else – would cause. And so, God (that’s the Triune God) decided to allow silly humans to give it a shot. We could try to follow the Law (Pentateuch) perfectly. If (WHEN!) we failed, we could offer a sacrifice. And another. And another. And another…
And then, we have Jesus.
Jesus came to live the life we could not live and give the sacrifice we could not give. In so doing, he restored our relationship that was broken by sin. He reconciled us to God the Father as we were now washed whiter than snow.
We now have the Holy Spirit – present in us each and every moment of every day. We have a Comforter, and Encourager, a Guide.
I’ll be honest.
I don’t care what your hat says. I don’t care where you stand, how you smile, how you talk.
I care about you.
I want to know that you know Jesus. I want to know that you are living a life that is different. Not perfectly! Just different. Just one that is seeking to honor God with what you say and do. When you fall down (and you will), allow the Spirit to pick you back up.
So, let’s talk. Over coffee. Over the internet. Over the phone. Wherever. Whenever.
Life is precious. Let’s try to make it matter for good.
Yours in Christ,