Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Best Question

Remember when Jesus was being interrogated by the scribes and priests? They asked him where his authority came from. He responded with a question himself: "Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?"(Lk. 20:4)
This is such a helpful question, although those men didn't find it so! Such a helpful question. Many times in life we stand puzzled in front of choices, trying to decide the right from wrong. Some things are crystal clear. A smile is right. Drugs are wrong. But sometimes ... sometimes we're not sure.
We forget the helpful question.
I've sometimes felt guilty about wanting things. Not expensive things or extravagant things, and definitely not bad things -- but things not absolutely essential. How bare bones should we make ourselves live in this world? Jesus said, "Take up your cross." Does that mean I can't buy a pretty dress or plant hydrangeas in my yard? I'm not a citizen of this world; I'm an ambassador from God's kingdom, right? Aren't I supposed to sacrifice, give up father and mother and brother and sister? Doesn't Jesus say that too? I suppose that means giving up dresses and hydrangeas and many other good things.
And occasionally I'd put my head in my hands and moan softly, "I'm so confused!"
(If you've never had this particular type of angst, please carry on with life and enjoy your pleasures. This post is only for worriers.)
Jesus's Very Useful Question is such a clarifier. Look at the thing you're wondering about full in the face, and ask yourself: Is this thing I'm interested in, of heaven, or of men? Is it something that will be in God's New Earth, or is it only of this fallen planet? Is it something I'm going to spend eternity with, or not?
This question sets things into helpful categories. I (personally) think we will have all beautiful things in God's New Earth, and no nasty ugly things. I should embrace the beautiful, stick my nose right in the middle of it and breathe deeply of its beauty.
Anyone remember this picture?
This image is from the movie Schindler's List. I won't describe the scene, but suffice it to say it was a horrifying, sad, terrifying moment in the movie. This little boy is in a Very Bad Place. After seeing the movie many years ago, I've never been able to get his little face out of my mind.
Is it of heaven? Or of men?
This is as fallen as it gets, friends. Our lives should also be given to rid the world of as much evil as we can. But we should never, ever mistake one for the other. Evil is of men, of Satan, and it is temporary. We should never get used to it, coddle it, ignore it, excuse it, or (God forbid) embrace it.
When faced with human behavior, and trying to determine whether it's okay, ask yourself: "Will it be in God's New Earth?"  That should help you decide. When tempted, when angry, when frustrated ... ask yourself, "Is this of God?" The question is useful in evaluating politicians, friends, crazy family members, strangers, and (of course) ourselves. Remember: sin has no place in the New Earth, but millions of forgiven sinners will.
Many things exist between hydrangeas and cesspools. Evaluate them all.

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