“Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, ‘But Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.’” John 21:21-22
“And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh” Jeremiah 45:5
Over the years I have learn in my walk with Jesus that there are two questions that we should never ask. They are two of the most common questions that seem to come like a cold drizzle upon our minds nearly every day. They are subtle questions and yet they are the very thoughts and words that have pierced through so many hearts to give birth to bitterness and pride. I find these questions to be like a nettle in my brain, pricking my thoughts when the injustices of others intrude into my world. And when we are prompted deep down in our souls with frustration these two questions seem to bleed upon those around us that can literally pollute an entire family or community. As you can see in the verses above, even the greatest of saints are not immune to these tempting morsels of misguided words. Peter asks the first question and it is Baruch, who penned Jeremiah’s prophesies, who asks the second question.
Question 1 (John 21:21-22): “What about him (or her or them)?” There’s such a strange thing in the Christian faith when we really stop and contemplate all that God has done to forgive us of our sins. We deserve eternal separation from our Holy God because of our rebellion against Him. And yet, God loved us so much He sent Jesus into the world to pay the debt for our sin. Once forgiven and in relationship with God, there’s a sinister prompting of the flesh to judge and condemn others for their sins. Jesus shares a punctuated parable in Matthew 18:21-35 about the unforgiving servant. The servant was forgiven of millions of dollars but wouldn’t forgive his debtors of just a few bucks. Why is it that our sins look so much worse on others?
One evening after work my wife and I went for a walk in our neighborhood. These are always such special times for us to share about our day’s activities and experiences. However, on this one evening I was bothered about the dealings of someone who had caused a number of injustices that were affecting me personally. As I started to spew out my criticism, my wife quickly brought me back down off my high horse and said, “Honey, you follow Jesus.” What was funny was that the very next morning at work another pastor relayed a parallel experience on the very same night before. He and his wife had gone on a walk where he was stewing over the very same thing I was, though he wasn’t aware of my struggle. His wife cut him off in the middle of his tirade and simply told him to keep his eyes on Jesus. Rather humorous that these two Godly women gently guided their husband-pastors back in line with the Holy Spirit through Jesus’ tender words of correction. Guess we were in good company with the Apostle Peter.
There are so many times when life and ministry seem unfair, yet I’m often reminded of God’s encouragement through the prophet Ezekiel (18:25) that His ways are not unfair, but our ways are unfair. His ways are so far above our ways and His thoughts are far above our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). We are greatly limited in our perspective of things. We definitely don’t have all the facts. Even David who was the king over the entire realm of Israel and Judah learned that there are a lot of issues he didn’t have the facts straight. When David penned Psalm 131, I can only imagine that he also struggled with some of the injustices of life. However I get the sense that he humbly learned that his perspective was limited and that he needed to entrust any judgments to the Lord. “LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” (Psalm 131:1-2) What peace to come to the conclusion that there are things too high for us to get frustrated about. When you feel a surge in your heart to burst forth with the question, “what about…?” Let the Lord quiet your soul as you trust Him to make things right and then simply follow Jesus.
Question 2 (Jeremiah 45:5): “What about me?” In reality, this question is really the same question as question one, but asked from a more subtle root of pride. It is not as overt in attacking others but is instead the perverse poison of promoting self. “What about my needs?” “What’s in it for me?” “Why didn’t I…?” “Do you seek great things for yourself?” Though asked in a variety of ways, it all comes down to the same self-centered core where sin is birthed. Even Satan’s fall found its origin in the “I will…” “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:13-14) Some call it egocentrism. Others call it narcissism. It is also labeled anthropocentrism (wanted to impress you with all the big words I know). These are all variant terms describing a very destructive reality. It is this issue that corrupts a leader. It is this essential trait that dissolves families. It is disguised and covered up with many other vices but ultimately it is sin at its essential root. But what is God’s heart towards the darkness of people’s hearts. Is He full of wrath and fury? Is He strategically waiting for a time to annihilate the filth of His creation? Interesting verse that I read this morning in my journey through the Bible, “I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the LORD…” (Ezek 6:9-10) It breaks God’s heart as He sees that such a self-centered view leads people to loath themselves and to find themselves apart from all the blessings that God had intended for them.
Every day it is all too easy and natural to let these two questions surge up to the forefront of one’s mind and heart when befuddled with the troublesome circumstances that invade our lives. The temptation, so subtle and often unnoticed, to burp out “What about him/her?” “What about me?” “This is unfair!” When this dark cloud of enticement comes upon you simply pray, “I will follow Jesus!” Always LOOK UP as opposed to looking at others and yourself. It is there that your soul will be quieted and your heart will find a place of perfect peace. “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.” (Isa 26:3-4)