The Classic Spiritual Blunder
I routinely make certain mistakes:
Banging my head on our oven hood.
Not bringing flowers to my wife frequently enough.
Failing to write down my passwords.
Forgetting to put out the trash and recycling on Wednesday night.
Hoping the Colorado Rockies will have a winning record.
I don’t learn.
I’m part of a massive cohort called “humanity” that repeats mistakes. Over and over and over. Again. And again.
The Classic Human Blunder
Princess Bride fans know the classic human blunders are “involvement in Asian land wars and going against a Sicilian when death is on the line,” but there are also classic spiritual blunders we have repeated throughout history.
Classic blunders often disguise themselves as good things – that’s why we repeat them.
Humanity’s classic blunder was apparent as Jesus entered Jerusalem for the final time before his death. On the surface, the following Scripture in Mark's gospel looks good; the blunder is disguised. See if you can spot it:
Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,
“Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David! Praise God in highest heaven!” (Mark 11:8-10)
Do you see the blunder? It’s subtle. (Hint: it’s hard to spot because it’s one word).
Jesus is the source of life (John 1), the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12) and the beginning and end of all things (Rev. 22). He is the center of everything – our lives, forgiveness of sins and all creation.
So what could possibly be wrong with this outpouring of affection toward him?
Affection Toward Whom?
The puzzle can be solved by remembering Jesus’ primary teaching is announcing the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God declares every person on the globe is loved equally by God, whether they acknowledge God or not. It’s a broad Kingdom that defies physical borders. Jesus embraces a world he came to serve, not a globe of “Us and Them.”
But the people don’t praise Jesus for bringing the Kingdom of God.
Their praise is directed toward the Kingdom of… David (v.10).
David was a "man after God's heart," (1 Samuel 13:14) but his Kingdom became synonymous with nationalistic dominance. So when Jesus didn’t lead a revolution, they killed him. We reject things that don't serve us in the way we desire - even God.
Praising the Kingdom of David means the people were praising:
Nationalism. Power. Themselves.
How else do you explain their sudden shift of allegiance a few days later?
The world’s equation looks like this:
Kingdom of David > Kingdom of God
Why? Because it benefits us.
Jesus’ equation looks like this:
Kingdom of God > Kingdom of David
Why? Because it benefits others.
The Classic Spiritual Blunder summarized: I want God to serve me.
“I like this God stuff as long as I benefit,” is the mantra, even if it's unspoken or subconscious.
I do it everyday:
As long as God keeps me from trouble, I’ll take this risk…
As long as God answers this prayer, I’ll involve him…
As long as my finances are up and to the right, I’ll be generous…
As long as I continue to be successful, I'll keep following his desires...
Our allegiance is conditional.
We put ourselves (Kingdom of David) in the center of our lives and push the Kingdom of God to the periphery. That strategy makes life primarily about me - everyone else, including God, gets to play a supporting role (lucky them).
I will hit my head on the hood over our oven today. The only mystery is if it will be while making my morning or afternoon coffee.
And today I will try to use God for my advantage, ironically, sometimes at the expense of others.
In what ways is your faith in Jesus actually about you and not about God's work in the world?
It's a risky question to ask. Few people do. Fewer yet change their lives based on the answer. I'm still trying to determine if I've seriously asked that question, or dabbled just enough to look good to the outside world.
And... somehow... Jesus loves me; a selfish man who will bang his head and repeat a classic spiritual blunder over and over. While my love has conditions, he will love me unconditionally. My unavoidable habit drives me to selfishness. Jesus' unavoidable habit drives him to forgiveness.
I suppose we're a perfect match.
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