This or That

Have you ever been forced to make a choice? I’m sure you have. But have you been in a “this or that” situation where either choice available is unwanted or embarrassing? Not a “between a rock and a hard place” situation but one where either outcome leads to something worthy of a meme? Maybe your African parent gave you a choice between a leather whip and an electric cable as the tool for delivering discipline to you? Or a choice between wearing the oversized trousers your dad gave you or the jeans that you’ve overgrown both in height or in width to that class party in high school?

There was a time during courtship with my wife when I was broke. Most people will agree with me that being romantic can be difficult when you’re broke. We would plan a meet-up having different pictures in mind. My wife, bless her heart, might have been thinking of a simple date sharing a snack or meal at an eatery (especially since she was always hungry back then… and now) while I was thinking we should take a walk or sit on a stone bench somewhere. The problem was that, for me, the words “date” and “inexpensive” did not go together; I can imagine my empty pocket shrink back in horror at the idea. Of course, her ideas are always better for our relationship. The first struggle was choosing a venue for the “date”. I didn’t know any place cheap enough for someone who is broke and doubted she would go to such a place if I found one. The second struggle was greater. I was quite familiar with the prices on the menus for any of locations I knew since I frequented those places when my pockets were fuller – and I had a tendency to imagine the worst case scenario for my pocket. So, how was I going to say to her, “I can pay for the food (#this) or the drinks (#that), but I can’t pay for both”? Yikes! Though she was always gracious and usually didn’t mind my preferences, it didn’t make it any less embarrassing for me, being the believer in the Gentleman’s code that I am.

It’s usually easy to choose between a beneficial thing and a harmful thing. When the stakes are high, it is often hard to choose between two harmful things or two beneficial things. The story of the paraplegic in Luke chapter 5 is loaded with two high stake choices for one man who was brought to Jesus.

One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal those who were ill. Some men came carrying a paralysed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus – Luke 5 vs 17-19

This!

It would have been very easy for everyone present to see the man’s physical condition and conclude that his life was weighed down with the burden of his paralysis and didn’t look like it was going anywhere. Mildly put, he was a broken man. He had to be carried by his friends. And while he must have been grateful for the love and tenacity that propelled them to do such a thing as tearing a roof open for his sake, it would only be human for him to feel whatever little was left of his manly pride slip away with each step they took in lifting him up to the roof and lowering him down before Jesus. He could have looked at his four friends and recall beating them in a race or overpowering them in a wrestling match. He was probably their ringleader. At the very least, these guys believed in him; in who he was and could become if only he could get up on his own.

I think we can all relate to a sense of powerlessness to some degree. There could be conditions in our health, relationships, finances, career or character we can’t seem to get up from on our own. We may feel crippled in a pursuit of meaning and purpose. There may have been times when we had to depend on other people more than we want to and live off their love and support. Their support for us in such periods often seems more like comfort than encouragement; they know what could be but are helpless in the face of the paralysis, unable to ask us or help us to stand. Or maybe you’ve not had it that bad. Whatever the condition and however grave it is, there is One who is renowned for his ability and willingness to do that which you cannot – Jesus. It was this Jesus before whom they brought the paralysed man. What immediately happened, though, was not what anyone expected.

That!

Every society has a bent or bias that stems from its culture. The Jewish society this man belonged to had a lens of religion that colored everything they saw. In this man’s case, they would have looked at him through those lenses and saw someone who was living with the consequences of his sin. Almost certainly, the religious leaders (Pharisees et al) present as Jesus taught would have looked at him and thought or said, “he must be a terrible sinner and surely deserves to be lying there under the weight of his sin”.

Interestingly, it seems they were at least half-right in this situation. We humans might be confused about what our deepest needs are but Jesus is never confused. He looks into the most remote parts of our hearts and souls – those hidden parts of us that we often try to mask with achievement or possessions or pursuits of power and pleasure – and clearly sees our bankruptcy so that he can enrich us with Himself. Jesus looked at this man and saw what his heart really desired. The biblical account continues;

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, ‘Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, ‘Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the paralysed man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God..’ Luke 5 vs 20 – 25

Isn’t that wonderful? This man, like all of us, wanted… needed something he couldn’t earn and didn’t deserve. The world had judged him unworthy, echoing what his situation or his own sense of guilt may have told him over and over again. He wanted forgiveness and a reconnection with God but could not find a way to it. Every word Jesus spoke to him was deliberate and weighty: 

‘FRIEND’ (I invite you to a relationship with Me); ‘your sins are FORGIVEN’ (no strings attached to your past failures, this is a clean slate. You are fully restored).

Jesus gave him hope when all hope seemed lost. The rejected and castaway now became the accepted and beloved through amazing grace. THAT was what he wanted more than anything. Yet, there was more:

“…GET UP …and GO HOME’. (I am healing you and setting you free from this condition so that you can live out this hope to the fullest. Now you’ve got it all ahead of you). You should indicate somehow that the words in bracket are yours.

This man became totally free from every limitation and burden. Now THIS was what his friends brought him to Jesus for. And no matter the objections raised by those who had condemned him, he was walking away healed AND forgiven. EIther would have been a miracle enough but Jesus does not play by the rules of enough. He plays in the realm of the over-and-above. Because of Jesus, this man didn’t have to choose “this” or “that”. Neither do we. He gives it all and we can take it all.

What is the narrative you may have bought? Where have you been told or have you told yourself that “God can do this but not that too”? Who says you can have a good job but your family has to suffer [Psalm 144:12-15]? Who says you can’t have a successful business and peace of mind [Psalm 127:2 AMP]? Or that you have to be irrelevant on earth to be heaven bound? Who says you have to choose between two God-things?

When He gives you a vision for your life, he supplies provision also. He does not only send you on a mission, he gives you power to run with it. He’s not just about giving a law that gives life, He’s about giving the grace to obey it [Titus 2:11]. It’s not just healing, it’s restoration to wholeness [Luke 17:12-19]. Not just deliverance, it’s also lasting victory [John 8:36]. His peace is not just an absence of conflict, it’s calm in the midst of chaos [Mark 4:35-41]. His presence is inside you and around you. His promise is for this life and the one to come [1 Corinthians 15:19].

Yes there might be persecution but there is also compensation beyond words. There might be opposition but He is a shield and He gives grace and glory [Psalms 84:11]. There might be troubles but there is also an exceeding weight of glory in the works [2 Corinthian 4:17].

A disciple, Peter, who was present when his Master healed the paralysed man- in writing to the believers in his time – said His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.’ [2 Peter 2 vs 3].

Can you see that? Yes, it’s true. You can believe it. Everything we could ever need has been given. He has every angle covered. Can you have faith for it all? Can you abandon yourself to the over-and-above life He has promised? It’s time to ignore every voice that says “God might do this but, surely, He won’t do that too”. Put together every “this” and every “that” and let the cross of Christ be the bridge that joins them.

©King of Fools, 2020

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