Jesus Kicked My Legos

Vizzini: “He didn’t fall? Inconceivable.”
Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”           –The Princess Bride

Jesus can bust some stuff up.

In Matthew 18, Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Jesus significantly broadened Peter’s understanding of the word forgive. Actually, he demonstrated that Peter didn’t understand the word at all. My brother Dan has always been like Jesus. Even when we were seven or eight, he was like Jesus. I would spend hours carefully constructing a magnificent Lego fortress, and say, “This fortress is indestructible!” Dan-Jesus would enter the room and demonstrate to me that I did not really understand the meaning of the word.

Jesus seems to get a real kick out of busting up our indestructible definitions. In the gospel of Matthew, he said, “Some of you guys are patting yourself on the back. You think that because you’ve never slept with someone else’s wife, that you’ve never committed adultery, but I tell you the truth, if you’ve objectified a woman in your mind, you’ve committed adultery.” Can’t go around using people to get mental happies—even if it’s “only” in your mind.

Back to Peter’s question: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

How does someone sin against you or sin against someone else? This morning, I was confident that I knew what this phrase meant, and then Jesus made a train-wreck of my Lego fortress. Like Saint Dan.

The way I saw it, for someone to sin against someone, there would have to be perpetrator and a victim, but the scenario also seemed to imply willfulness and action. When I see the word “against,” I think of impact, even painful impact: pushing against, fighting against, striking against. For example:

A mischievous boy named—oh, let’s see—Dana—deliberately and with malice kicks his foot against his younger brother’s Lego fortress and destroys it (There is, by the way, no connection between the Dana of this illustration and the previous illustration in which my brother Dan decimated my fortress. Dana is bad, but Dan was trying to teach me like Jesus, who of course was sinless).

Perpetrator: A mischievous boy named Dana
Victim: a younger brother
Willful: …deliberately
Action or commission: … kicked his foot against his younger brother’s Lego fortress and destroyed it.

And how? “…with malice.” This was not just any action, but a sinful action. Despite mischievous Dana’s successful effort to strike the Lego fortress, to sin literally means “to miss the mark.” While Dana did not miss his brother’s Lego fortress, he missed the most important mark; he “missed” doing the just thing. In the Bible, the word “sin” is used to describe bad behavior or injustice.

To sin against someone is to impact another person in an unjust, even painful way: kicking, punching, mischievously and deliberately breaking other people’s Lego fortresses (for the wrong reason), murder—for sure, as well as slander, unkind words and gossip.

Whether we use the phrase “sin against,” most people would agree that the aforementioned behaviors are unjust and painfully impactful. This morning, however, a short verse from 1 Samuel slammed against me like a foot against a Lego fortress, and suggested that my definition was lacking.

Samuel was preparing to step down from his duties as a judge over Israel when the people begged him to pray for them. Samuel’s response:

“Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.”

I could almost hear the sound of Legos falling against the floor and my brother’s laughter. Definition destroyed. The sin against in this verse is not an ACTION, but an INACTION: failure to pray for someone you should be praying for. God knows you can’t pray for everyone all the time—not effectively anyways. There are a few people however, whom God has gifted to us, and He has given us the special privilege of covering those people in prayer.

More startling, Samuel doesn’t say:

“Far be it from me that I should sin against YOU by failing to pray for you.”

but…

“Far be it from me that I should sin against THE LORD by failing to pray for you.”

God has entrusted certain people to us for whom He expects us to consistently pray, and when we don’t, He takes it personally. “David, I’ve entrusted Debbie and Jack to you because they are VERY SPECIAL TO ME. Your prayer could change their lives for the good. Why would you withhold that gift from my special ones?”

I’m glad God understands forgiveness and is patient with me. One day, I want to look Deb and Jack straight in the eyes and say with absolute honesty, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.”

P.S. Dan, I’m praying for you. Don’t hesitate to let me know if I can come to your house and destroy any definitions for you.

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