Saturday, June 12, 2004

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

I remember a particular class session during an American History course that I took in college. I was a history major, it was an upper level course, and the teacher was marvelous. She gave us an assignment during the class. I listened very carefully to her as she described it. It seemed hard and I was not sure I completely understood it.

After class I went up to the professor and I asked her about the assignment. I described to her what I understood it to be and I expressed to her my uncertainty about it. She said that I understood it correctly, that I should go ahead and deal with the assignment the best I could, and "let the chips fall where they may". For some reason, that answer simply clicked and, rather than feeling frustrated by the answer, I felt relieved. I think she probably understood that the assignment was not all that easy. She also handled my inquiry with respect and her response indicated that she had a certain level of confidence in me, confidence that I lacked up to that point. I went ahead and did the assignment. I have no recollection now about what it involved. But I have remembered the circumstances and that conversation with her to this day. And it helps me with whatever problem I am facing.

Really, no one can expect you to do more than you can do. You don't always know exactly how to accomplish something you need to accomplish, but you have to start on the project, you have to do it as best you can, and you can't run away from it So you do it and you let "the chips fall where they may". It doesn't matter what third parties think about how you did. It is a secret thing between you and God, just as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4 1-5.

This reminds me of the dynamics of committing a sin. When someone else is involved, we think of that person sinning against us or of us sinning against them. But David wrote in Psalm 52, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." When I sin, then, it may be obvious to third parties, but it is really a secret thing between God and me. I remember how careful my father was to avoid humiliating me before others when he needed to correct me, and I also remember the fear in my heart when he took me into the bedroom and closed the door behind us and dealt with the problem more or less in secret.

And the same thing applies when another sins against us. We think, "I am aggrieved!" And all sorts of destructive behaviors proceed from our sense of righteous indignation. But the sin was against God, not against us. God will deal with the sinner, he will deal with that person perfectly. There will be perfect justice meted out to him or her, we can count on it. As for us, the person who was hurt by the other's sin, we are released from our grievance and can proceed with our lives.

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