I am not a very good guy. Actually, I can’t even say that I am good at all. No, don’t judge me by what my friends say about me. I live with me, I am in my presence 24-7. I know my heart, and I know the evil that resides
there here. It is hard for me to imagine a moment when there wasn’t some evil scheme brewing in my mind or heart. Selfishness, pride, impatience, envy, faithlessness are just a few of the familiar residents in my heart. I can’t think of a time when I was selfless without also recalling how proud I was of my selflessness. I can’t think of a day when I was so patient without acknowledging that there was something to gain from the wait.
OF BAD THINGS AND GOOD PEOPLE
I must be living in another planet, because I seldom experience life the way other people do. At least, not the way they talk about it. And it’s not just my friends, it’s everyone around me. Whenever people talk about life’s struggles and hard times, they tend to follow a very specific pattern. 99% percent of the time, we talk about our circumstances, what happens to us. We talk about the layoffs at work, the betrayals at church, the broken trust in a friendship. In each account, what puts us down is what happened TO us, what was done TO us. Our sufferings always project us as victims in need of rescue. People are seldom guilty.
I have to admit. This is seldom the case with me. I guess that’s why I feel like such an outcast. I remember a few years back when I was contemplating writing a book with the title “When You’ve Been Wrong.” I recall how frustrated I was when, during my research, all the search engines kept turning up “When You’ve Been Wronged.” It seems that we are more worried about the wrong that happens to us than we are about the wrong that comes from us. Maybe I am just over-thinking this, but I am often to blame (albeit partially) for most of my negative circumstances. I can always trace the “wrong” decision that contributed to my missing out on that opportunity. I can always point out the immaturity and laziness that contributed to my losing that job. It is not so hard to identify the selfishness and pride in me that prompted that friend to leave me.
SELDOM A VICTIM
I am always to blame, at least to some degree, if not entirely.
And that makes it difficult for me to fully identify with many “victims”. It’s hard for me to identify with a friend who did “everything” right but still got fired. I struggle to empathize with that man who “loved”, “led” and “provided for” his wife but she still left him. In other words, I can’t say that I understand what it feels like when bad things happen to good people, because the only experience I have is that of bad things happening to a bad person. Me. I deserve everything I get. No, this is not a theological statement, but a very practical reality. I always get what’s coming to me. I am not denying that sometimes bad things really do happen to people who did nothing to contribute to the causes. This happens. That is not what I am disproving here.
All I am saying is that this could be why I always feel as if I am the only one stuck with the Gospel.
STUCK WITH THE GOSPEL
You see, most “encouraging” preachers and “motivational” speakers tend to focus on bad things happening to good people. To them, our circumstances are the enemy and we are the innocent victims. The underlying presumption is innocent or “neutral” people who have bad things happen to them. So, their sermons and messages will tend to emphasize changing our attitudes towards our circumstances. One of the many encouraging statements may go something like “we must learn to see every stumbling block as a stepping stone,” and then they would extensively quote the story of Joseph and that of Job as examples of how to persevere through trials. I have to admit, I don’t really identify with Joseph or Job. I am not “perfect”. I am the guy who got thrown into prison because I pursued Potiphar’s wife, not because I said no to her. I am the land-owner who lost all my wealth because I was corrupt and got busted, my loss was not in spite of my faithfulness.
I guess that’s why I love the Gospel so much. Because this is the only message that squarely addresses my problem. The Gospel is the only message that acknowledges my rebellious heart and tackles it head-on. The Gospel does not only present the Cross as inspiration for bearing my own Cross. Jesus is not just an example of how to “take” and handle negative circumstances. He is not just a good exampleof how to persevere through tough times. The Gospel primarily presents the Cross as the answer to the problem that is me, my heart, my rebellion, my sin. The Gospel primarily presents Jesus as the savior of me, not my circumstances.
That’s why I am stuck with the Gospel. This is why I have a passion for the Gospel.
Without the Gospel, my life will practically be meaningless. No amount of “encouragement” will be able to make me ignore and overlook the sin in my heart. The Gospel reminds me, rightly, that I am not that impressive. I am not that special. Jesus is. And it is only in Him that I can be truly and fully special.