I got to speak to Phil’s Junior High group this weekend on his 24 Retreat. It was a fun time even though I only got to stay for a few hours just to speak and then I had to head out. He’s got some great leaders helping him out there and his kids are all really great. I talked to the kids about repentance and how repentance (not the individual action kind) as a lifestyle was the basis for all relationships with God and with people. Here is sort of a summary of what I said, I’ll try to make it sound a bit better on here, keeping in mind I was talking to grade seven and eights.
I first showed a clip from 24 season 1 where Presidential candidate David Palmer finds out his entire family and close friends had been lying to him and keeping something a secret. Now the media had found out about it and it was going to air in a few hours. Palmer was in a rut and he had a choice. He could either scheme and figure out a way to keep the media out of it, or he could confess and let the public know that this secret was true. (Secret: his son was involved in a murder). He is being encouraged by his advisor to suck it up and tell the public the horrible truth and hope that the public will forgive him. So Palmer had to make a choice. Was he willing to show that he messed up or did he have some sort of standard that he had to keep to win his election? Later in the season, he decides to tell the public of everything that was going on, he decided to tell them the truth. He told them that he wasn’t perfect and that he screwed up and that he hopes it won’t affect their decisions. It never did affect their decisions for the negative at least his ratings went up and eventually he got into office.
All of our relationships are built on this idea of repentance. Not simply walking up to someone and saying your sorry when you do something bad, but an entire lifestyle of repentance. The knowledge of the fact that we are all messed up, and that in no way am I better than the person next to me and in no way trying to make myself better than others. It wasn’t until President Palmer admitted that he was no better than the public he was leading did they trust him to do so.
There is a parable in Luke 7 about a conversation between Simon the Pharisee and Jesus. Simon sees a prostitute cleaning Jesus’ feet and he gets upset because he believed that if Jesus knew who was cleaning his feet than he would have told her to stop. Jesus knowing what he was thinking asks him a question. Two guys have a debt, one is ten times bigger than the other and then both debts are cleared by the master, Jesus asks who Simon thinks would be more grateful. Simon answers (the way we would all answer probably) that the guy with the largest debt. Jesus tells him he is right and then drops a bomb. “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
Now at first we are under the impression that for us to love more we need to sin more so we can be forgiven of more. But really what Jesus is saying here is points out Erwin McManus is not that Simon didn’t sin enough, it’s that he never realized how sinful he was. See, Simon thought that he was ‘ok,’ that he had things together and that this prostitute was the dirtiest one around. He put himself above her. Jesus points this out and acknowledges how much the prostitute can love him because she recognizes her sinfulness. She recognizes her state of need. Simon on the other hand didn’t get it. He didn’t understand how much forgiveness he really needed. He had created a scale and placed himself at the top of it, after all he was a Pharisee, the cleanest of them all. If Simon would only recognize that he is in the same boat as the prostitute, then he would realize his need for repentance and be able to love more. Relationships with God are ruined because we don’t think we really need all the forgiveness he has to offer and relationships with each other are ruined because we put ourselves on our scales and put everyone below us like for instance in this story of these two ants I know.
There was two ants and they were hanging out one day and one ant decided that he was tired of just being an ant. So he decides that today he is going to be the queen ant. So for the whole day he pretends he’s the queen ant. The other ant goes to talk to him and he says “oh no, I’m sorry I’m the queen ant, I don’t associate with regular ants only the king ant.” The ‘regular ant’ walks away disappointed because he just lost a friend but then he gets an idea: what if he pretends to be the king ant? So he goes up to the queen ant, and announces that he know is the king ant, so the queen at feels good about this and starts to talk to him. Then the king ant tells him “sorry man, I don’t talk to the queen ant, I get my servants to do that, I only talk to the beetles to work on the negotiations for where we will settle. So now the queen ant walks away sad because he isn’t good enough to talk to the king ant. This cycle went on for days and days, until eventually they were both pretending to be humans with different secret powers and they eventually forgot they were pretending. This story is absolutely ridiculous. The cycle will never stop and these ants will never be in a real relationship with eachother again because they are always trying to up the other ant.
It’s ridiculous, but growing up through the public school system and in high school I realized that it was no different there. The cool group wouldn’t talk to the uncool group, the Christian fellowship wouldn’t talk to non-Christians unless they were trying to convert them, the football team thought the chess team were wusses and the honour role students thought the applied students were unfit for their company. Constantly the cycle went on through schools, and goes on all over the place in the world, of people trying to be better than the other. We do it by dress, activities, how we talk, where we go, what we participate in and all kinds of other things, anything to separate those we don’t like.
All this stems because we like to be considered better than other people because we honestly believe that we are better than them sometimes. We become just like Simon in thinking we are better than those that society/friends/schools deems as unfit. If you think about it, I’m sure you can think of one way or another that you are better than any person you know, and that one thing will always haunt you and ruin your relationships unless we start to listen to Jesus and realize that we are all on the same boat.
This is why Jesus said that unless you’ve been forgiven much you can’t love much. Unless you live a life of repentance; a life of always turning away from the desire to want to be better than everyone else; a life of constantly finding reasons of why we don’t like someone then we can never really love people, and we can never really be in a relationship with God or with other people.
God calls us to love people as ourselves, not love ourselves better than other people. If we all start really wanting to be in relationship with each other then we need to start realizing that because of our sin, we are no better off than the person sitting beside you and the ‘uncool guy’ in your math class. Unless we learn that we need to be forgiven just as much as everyone else, we will always love little.