The Unmerciful Servant

Hello all!

I “randomly” ran across the following passage of scripture (while looking for a different passage for school) and wanted to share it with y’all.  This passage is Ecclesiastes 7:20-22.  It says:

Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins. Also, do not take seriously all words which are spoken, so that you will not hear your servant cursing you.  For you also have realized that you likewise have many times cursed others.” (NASB)

I find this passage astonishing in an “aha!” sort of way; not because it is astonishing in and of itself.  This passage is in fact remarkable (to me at least) and above all plain common sense to my way of thinking.   It jumped off the page at me anyway, but maybe I’ll not find it so startling after I’ve had a bit to think of it.  All that aside, I believe this passage contains essential truth for our everyday life for two reasons.

First, big surprise here, people are not perfect, and because they are not perfect, we should show them grace.   Grace is shown to us by God precisely because we have great need of it; not because we have no need.  Why then, if we are to imitate Christ, should we show less grace when it is most needed?   It’s just not logical. 🙂  

Second, none of us are in any way superior to our fellow human beings.   Though grace may have more evidently worked to build Godly character and Christ-likeness in certain persons, we have all started from the same basic state of depravity, all have fallen short of the goal, all are equally helpless to save themselves, and all are equally in need of the abundant love and grace of our Lord and Savior. 

If God has shown us grace, how can we not likewise show grace to others?  The best illustration of this point is found in Matthew 18: 21-35 (the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant):

21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.

 24 “When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.

 25 “But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.

 26 “So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’

 27 “And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.

 28 “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’

 29 “So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’

 30 “But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.

 31 “So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.

 32 “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.

 33 ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’

 34“And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.

 35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

We are forgiven of so much by our Father, how can we and why should we not forgive our brethren of very little sins towards us…sins almost immeasurable  in comparison to our own sins already atoned for by our Father? 

Lastly, as illustrated in the parable above, the refusal to forgive a fellow debtor could actually be worse than their debt to us.  God is offended that we would take His Grace to us and use it for selfish purposes, for it is indeed selfish and foolish to want or think we can on the one hand benefit from God’s grace to us and on the other refuse to extend that same grace to our fellows. 

May that not be a description of our lives!

God bless and Veritas Supra Omnis!

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Michael Phelps: what have we learned?

Many of you are probably aware of the recent photo released by a British tabloid paper “News of the World” showing newly minted swimming legend Michael Phelps inhaling a substance from a marijuana pipe (commonly referred to as a “bong”).    Phelps has since admitted to inhaling marijuana, delivering the following statement:

“I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment,” Phelps said in the statement released by one of his agents. “I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.” 

While this apology left me very disappointed, I found even more disappointing the results of a poll from an article on Fox Sports.  The poll asked the question, “How do you feel about Michael Phelps smoking pot?”   The two answers to choose from were:

1) “I’m dismayed.  I can’t believe he would do that!”

2) “He’s 23 years old – can we all relax?”

As I am writing this, 149, 802 people have taken the poll.  Roughly 8 out of 10 (79% to 21% last I checked, down from 81% to 19% 20 earlier this afternoon) chose number 2 as their response.

I find the results to be very sad. Why?  Because it doesn’t seem to be bothering many people that Phelps did it…because of his youth.  The young part makes it all okay because we expect young people to behave in such a fashion; if it were someone older then we wouldn’t be so accepting of the situation. 

It’s bad enough that Phelps pulled the, “I’m young-so-give-me-a-break,” angle in his apology, but to have his sentiment verified by thousands upon thousands of people is much, much worse.  I already knew our culture has cripplingly low expectations for our young people, but every painful reminder (like this poll and Phelps’ apology) just makes it more painfully sad to me.  It only gets worse when you consider that many of the 20% percent disappointed in Phelps actions only expected more because he makes a bunch of money, not that he is an adult and should act like it regardless of his monetary worth.  

There are many factors contributing to the conditions of today’s irresponsible, reckless, dependant, free boating, shallow, ADD youth; our culture’s low expectations is one of the most significant reasons.  If there was one thing I could say to Michael Phelps I would say the same thing I say to any other of my peers…I expect better.   I don’t believe we should be respecters of persons in applying the proper standards.   We should expect the same sort of proper behavior from young people coming from low, income single parent homes that we expect from rich kids, athletic phenomena, or an average kid from an average middle income suburb.

I could start really ranting, but I’ll wind down instead.  To answer the question in my blog title, we have learned the myths of adolescence are just as strong today as they have ever been, if not stronger.   We have also learned that Michael Phelps should read the articles linked below, as should you, if you haven’t already. 🙂     

The Myth of Adolescence Part 1

The Myth of Adolescence Part 2

Adolescence is Permanent

I don’t want to pile onto Phelps or sound like I am laying our culture’s problems at his feet.   Regardless of his mistake(s) he has achieved great and extraordinarily difficult things.   He has demonstrated dedication in driving towards a goal that I would love to demonstrate.   But, all that was done in pursuit of medals and endorsements.  The true test of every persons character comes when the limelight does not seem to be on them, and people aren’t pushing you forward.   As mentioned above, I don’t expect Phelps, Miley Cyrus, or Vanessa Hudgens to act exceptionally, only the way I expect any other young person to act…properly and maturely.   Let’s see how Phelps handles it from here on out.

God bless and veritas supra omnis!

P.S. Here is an update for the poll numbers given above.   With 153, 583 votes in (the last two minutes have yielded 500 votes) the percentages are holding steady at 79% for number 2 and 21% answering with number 1.