Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Wrong Kind of Great

8th Century B.C. It’s the same old story. Israel has once again gone off the reservation. Its leaders are corrupt. The poor have been kicked to the curb. The people are chasing around some new and shiny idols that are promising fewer commandments, shorter workweeks, and their neighbor’s houses. It's a redefining of good and evil, baby, where everyone can run around proclaiming his goodness while behaving like demon spawn. Can it get any better than this? Right on cue, however, Micah comes along and tells the partiers that God sayeth all of this has led to their destruction and judgment. Time to ditch the party hats and don the sackcloth and ashes.

People: We blew it. Big Time. Mike, tell God we'll square things away with Him by sacrificing a ton of sheep!  

God, however, wasn’t amused or impressed. Micah explains why, when he tells the Israelites that God isn’t after their sacrifices. Never has been. He is after their hearts. Always has been.

One of the more frequent experiences I have come across in people when they first realize that their past quests have been all about their idols-of-choice (greed, fame, power, wealth, being loved and admired, whatever it is by which they evaluated and defined their lives), is a desire to make sacrifices. “I’ll sell my business and go work with some primitive tribe in Africa!” The problem is that the sacrifice is about “me,” in all the wrong ways. I want to feel better about myself. I want to show everyone around me that I am good with God. “Look at my sacrifice. Man. I butchered far more sheep than the other guys…and all my sheep were primo, buddy!”  We totally miss the facts that, 1) God doesn’t need our sacrifices; 2) He is after our hearts; and 3) O yeah. Someone already made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.  

The whole my-awesome-sacrifices routine then morphs into wanting to make the big splash, doing the Great Deed(s) that will set us apart and mark us, either in the eyes of others or in our own minds, as a man or woman who is getting it done. “Look at me, I am slaying dragons!” We’re not going to piddle around with penny ante stuff like being eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, or fathers to the poor. No-siree. My quest is going to be the stuff of legends. But this isn’t about Legendary Leadership, is it? It’s about fame and personal reputation. It’s about me. It’s about asserting my ego, rather than surrendering my heart to God and being made into the man He intends for me to become.

Anyway, back to Micah and Israel’s wanting to establish Sheep Week, where they slaughtered as many as possible, showing God just how great they were … errrrrr sorry they were.

God (via Micah): Uh, no. I am not after self-promoting sacrifices. Actually, I have already shown you what I want: seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6.8) 

People: Come on, Mike. This is the best you got? You call this The Word from God? Point us in the direction of the nearest Goliath and we’ll take his head. All for the glory of God, dontchyaknow.

This is the mindset of someone who is going to have his head handed to him. And then?

Hey, look at me. I lost my head for God’s honor. Top that one, suckerrrrrs!

While each of our paths toward becoming who God called us to be and doing what He called us to do are unique, there are similarities. One of the similarities is that each of us is called to seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God. We are not called to be great, in the sense of being famous. We are all called to quest for transformed hearts and, therefore, lives: lives that demonstrate God’s goodness, love, and mercy, to the world around us.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

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