Saturday, October 5, 2013

Conflict and Grace

     I'll never forget my first best friend.  Bruce and I knew each other from the time I was six years old until he moved to another part of town 4 years later.  We did the usual little boy things during our time as buddies, playing sports and games, riding our bikes, climbing trees (and building a tri-level treehouse), practicing war games as soldiers of fortune ("I got you!" - "No way, you missed me by a mile!"), and having such good times together that I still remember Bruce with a smile of nostalgia almost a half century since our days together.  Our birthdays were also just a day apart, and every year on October 28th, the day before I celebrate my own, I think of Bruce and pray for him, wherever he may be.

    Bruce and I also had our times of conflict, as all friends do.  Something would get our dander up, a push would result, then a shove, and maybe even a half-hearted punch or two.  At some point, one of us would get in a last good lick and then take off running for our house.  I still recall breathlessly making for home with Bruce in hot pursuit, flying into our house, and hearing Bruce crash into the door as I slammed and locked it.

     It never seemed to take very long before I'd peer out the living room window to see if the coast was clear.  Making my way into the front yard, I'd look toward Bruce's house to see if he'd come out yet.  He usually had, and we'd gingerly make our way toward each other.  I don't recall ever actually apologizing in verbal terms, but we'd do the little boy thing of bumping shoulders, or giving each other a gentle and non-confrontational push unlike our previous aggression.  We'd smile, and things were patched up so that we could go back to that treehouse or football game.  The interesting thing that always puzzled and intrigued me is that after our tussles, Bruce and I seemed to be even better friends than we were before the push, the shove, and the punch.

    "And He turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for My feet: but she hath washed My feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss My feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed My feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little" (Luke 7:4-47).

    In a conflict completely begun by us, God nevertheless works to draw human hearts to Himself through the redeeming grace of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Those who respond in faith enter into a relationship with our Heavenly Father so reconciling that we discover aspects of His character and nature we would never had known apart from our previous alienation.  Of course, this does not mean that the Lord led Adam or ourselves to sin against Him.  The Bible plainly states that God does not determine our sins, nor will He even tempt us to evil (James 1:13).  According to His perfect wisdom, however, He does take advantage of our conflict in the hearts of those who trust the Lord Jesus.  We love Him in a gratitude of faith that could not exist within our hearts apart from His forgiveness for our many sins.  More importantly, He loves us in a gracious mercy that would have remained hidden in His heart had we never required the sacrifice of His beloved Son for our pardon.  Little wonder that the Apostle Paul became overwhelmed as he pondered and wrote of the glorious mystery that is our Lord's marvelous purposes and redemption: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33).

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