Despite our depravity, God uses us as spiritual stones making up this thing called the church. And God uses the Church as the vehicle to bring people unto himself. God invites us, in all our self-absorbed, sin-sick, selfishness, into this disciple relationship; whereby, through submission to His authority…we…blemished and marred jars of clay, can be touched by the power of God and be utilized as His vessels of honor. Wow!!! Wait, let me say it again—Wow!!
One of my favorite humanity revealing stories is from 1 Kings 3. It is kind of a sordid tale that is often valued because it emphasizes God’s wisdom imparted to Solomon in a tragically delicate situation. Solomon has a way of cutting through all the garbage to get to the truth.
A couple of women appear before the King to get a dispute settled. The women are of questionable reputation…women of ill-repute…in other words, they get around. Their argument centers around the death of a child. Now both of these women were mothers, and because they may have been contractors in the world’s oldest profession, their children may indeed have been the product of their harlotry. Common experience and common identification may have been the driving force for these women to live together. As the tragic details of their dispute spill out in front of the king, we get a pretty balanced perspective of this paradoxical mess that we call humankind— people created in the image of God, yet stained by sin. Given any certain set of circumstances, we have the capacity to exhibit heroic feats of god-like greatness, or the most despicably sickening, satanic behavior.
So, the story goes— One of the women’s babies died during the night. Horrifically… tragically, one of the women had unknowingly, in her sleep, rolled over and smothered the infant. Solomon’s predicament? Each woman was pointing the finger in accusation at the other woman, claiming that she was the perpetrator of the accidental death. It was a "she said..., she said...," scenario. What Solomon knows for sure, is that one of the women, in realizing what they had done…pulled a switcheroo— she placed her dead baby next to the other sleeping woman and proceeded to take the other woman’s alive, but sleeping baby and place it back in her bed, next to herself. The next morning, the devious culprit would just do the business as usual routine, acting ignorantly surprised and playing it off that the other woman was responsible for the terrible tragedy.
As the women each made their case, verbally battling it out before Solomon, Solomon reached outside of the box to quickly bring the truth to the surface. He told one of his attendants to bring him a sword. He proceeded to tell his attendant to cut the surviving child in two and give half to each woman. Wow, kind of a head scratcher isn’t it? But, it elicited a quick response on both their parts; responses that Solomon was banking on. There were two entirely different responses that exposed the reality of the human condition. One woman says, “Yeah, that’s fair, we each get half.” The other woman says, “No that’s o.k. give the baby to her.” One woman reveals an expression of self-absorbed sinfulness, the other, a godly expression of unconditional love. Of course, Solomon immediately knows who the true mother is— it is the one who would be willing to sacrifice their own wants for the sake of the child.
I like this story, because, like the rest of you, I’m a mess. I have this treasure, the spirit of God, in an earthen vessel. And, even as a Jesus follower, crisis has tested the mettle of my integrity. At times I have stood firm and displayed feats of holy heroics, and at other times, I have folded under pressure and exhibited unholy ugliness.
At the risk of being repetitive, we have such a hard time accepting struggle. Not only should we accept it, we have to embrace it. We are a country of culturally induced obsessive compulsives. ”We want it all and we want it now!” And, if we can’t, we have this underlying, fatalistic feeling that we should just throw in the towel. This mentality even invades the way we approach spirituality. We forget that we must maintain an ever conscious awareness of Jesus’ words to Peter— “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is week.” We must stop thinking that we can just snap a finger and ta-da! I’m godly! We need to get down to the slow, sweaty, painstaking groundwork of building our faith. This takes time, struggle…a methodical plugging and plodding away…choosing to say yes to what feeds our soul and say no to what feeds our carnality.
It is not always fun, and it will always take longer than we want it to. But, as we commit to the process— small smart decisions over a long period of time— we will see an increase in feats of holy heroics and a decrease in displays of unholy ugliness. Charles Spurgeon once said, “The way to do a great deal is to keep doing a little, the way to do nothing at all is to resolve that you will do everything.”