Whoever pursues righteousness and love
finds life, prosperity and honor. – Proverbs 21:21
“Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. – John 1:46-48
Wednesday evening at church our men’s group study considered a few key passages in John. We recently finished Max Lucado’s study of the gospel and decided to highlight some of the stories he skipped over.
We started with one of my favorites in the first chapter. Jesus is in the disciple-choosing process and Philip, who had just met the master, is anxious to share the good news with Nathanael. Rather than browbeat his friend, or convict him of his need for salvation, Philip simply offers the following – always powerful – “Come and see.”
Jesus sees them approaching and says, “Here is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” The fact that Jesus knows him impresses Nathanael and the relationship is an instant “go.”
What Jesus obviously values about this man is his lack of pretense, his honesty, his what you see is what you get-ness. Or as one of the guys at my meeting said, “Jesus knew right off he could trust this guy.”
I don’t know about you but the thing that concerns me the most about our culture right now is the sense that we do not trust one another. Everything that works about a free society is based – has to be based – on the fact that we can (or choose to) trust. There are so many unwritten rules that govern our conduct, our business dealings, our relationships, the way we do recreation – and they are all predicated on trust.
- “Is this legal?” is nowhere near as good a question as, “Is this right?”
Jesus saw the exacerbation of this human tendency in a religion that was built around 10 commandments that soon became a thousand regulations that eventually morphed into a complex and restrictive code where running your fingers through a single ear of wheat amounted to a violation of the Sabbath. There is no trust when there’s a checklist a mile long, and there is no love either.
“So I say, love God with all that you are,” the Master said, “and love your neighbor the same way. If you do that you have fulfilled all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22).
When we are committed to a partnership with God via following Jesus we are in a relationship based on trust and God does not judge us according to check marks on some divine spreadsheet.
Likewise we will not be free again as a nation until we can look at the people we oppose so much at every turn and say, “I’m not sure I agree with you on this, or that, but I choose to trust you.” Because while we all understand that mistrust breeds mistrust, we must also learn to understand that trust breeds trust, with the added power that light is always stronger than darkness.
Wouldn’t we love to be like Jesus and look into the hearts of people and say, “I know you, and you are a person without deceit.” But we are so very suspicious, and we are prepared to argue that we are suspicious with good reason.
All I can do is remind us of the story of Jean Valjean and the old priest, at the very beginning of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. Against all evidence, against all expectation, against all good sense, the priest decided to trust the desperate convict. It is not Valjean’s initial behavior that sets up the rest of the story, it is how the priest responds.
This is my challenge. Can we be the priest to the “other”? What is it that God requires of us? In love, and because love always wins – DEREK