Tag Archives: repentance

Two Men. Two Failures. Different Tears.

 

Here’s a riddle for you. It’s one that intrigues and gives me pause at about this same time every year.

Two men, two mouths,

    both tongues betray,

almost but not quite

    on the same day.

One fails and weeps,

   shinnies up and up

       and falls putrescently;

one fails and weeps,

    bows down and down

       and rises taller, finally,

           than before his perfidy.

   Love’s victory!

       Who are they?

I’m neither a poet nor the son of a poet, and not much riddle-writer at all. But onward I hint.

Two men. Two world-class failures. Two very different endings.

When I say “failures,” I mean deeds, not men, though a failure one of these men certainly was.

Though in our society, all it takes to be called a “success” is a lot of money—even if you’re sad, pathetic, miserable, dishonorable, unfaithful, cowardly, brutish, and completely lacking in every other aspect of life and character—the first fellow I’m thinking of who fixated on money and had more of it, for a time, than the other individual, is the failure.

Both of these men failed miserably. Both betrayed the same man. One betrayed for money. One betrayed to save his skin. Both betrayals were predicted by the same man betrayed.

You’ve already cracked the riddle, right? Apostles both. Judas and Peter.

Judas, of course, betrayed his Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Many have postulated that a significant motive may have been his desire to rush the Lord into quickly and powerfully inaugurating an earthly kingdom. I think they’re probably right, though the Bible never says that.

Scripture does tell us that the man was a thief, a thief who whined about his concern for the poor. Maybe he did want to rush Jesus to take up the throne—he was not alone among the disciples in looking for an earthly kingdom—but I’m quite sure he also wanted to take his place in that kingdom thirty pieces of silver richer.

When it all goes wrong, Judas tries to cast away his guilt by slinging the silver at the priests’ feet. But the guilt covering his hands and heart is gangrenous and won’t be flung away. Fatally self-centered even in his sorrow over failure, Judas ends up focused completely on Judas.

And Peter? Ever impetuous, though Jesus has warned him and that famous rooster is already calibrated and cocked to crow, Peter blubbers and blusters, “I don’t even know the man!” He punctuates his denials with sea-salt curses before rushing away and weeping bitterly, wondering in anguish how everything could have gone so wrong.

But though his flesh is weak, Peter’s heart—before, during, and after his failure—is the Lord’s. When Jesus later asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” they both know the answer. Blood-cleansed, Peter is not centered on Peter; his focus is on his Lord.

Two men fail; two men weep. Since we fail, too, we do well to consider the two very different types of tears.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


When God Posts a Warning, It Pays to Pay Attention

It had to be a government production, the sign I saw. Only a glassy-eyed bean-counting bureaucrat with common sense completely and laboriously expunged by years of mind-numbing training could have produced it. (Your tax dollars at work.)

Posted above a busy tramway, the sign proclaimed in large letters: TOUCHING WIRES CAUSES INSTANT DEATH. Good information, that.

But then in smaller letters was posted this message: “$200 Fine.”

Well, fine indeed. But I’m not exactly sure what to make of that.

I’m always as willing as the next guy to avoid shelling out two hundred bucks, but if paying up is presented as the alternative to sudden and gruesome death, I’d likely shell out a couple of C-notes.

Does the second warning belie the truth of the first? “Touch these wires, moron, and you’ll surely be quick-fried to a crackly crunch! But maybe not. In which case, you’ll be fined, and that’ll teach you!”

Or maybe there’s no contradiction at all. Maybe the long arm of the bureaucracy involved will reach right past death. The dead dumbo, smoky and smelling a lot like an electrical fire, finds himself waiting almost eternally (in a long line, no doubt) in front of a desk in the afterlife. He waits forever to file the forms in triplicate needed to remove the $200 lien on his account that’s got his posthumous processing locked up in limbo.

I’m not sure I get it. The sign’s message, I mean.

But I am sure I won’t be touching tramway wires if I should happen to run across any. I don’t like the sound of that stiff fine.

Some governmental signs and warnings can be a bit baffling. But it occurs to me that when God gives a warning, we do well to pay very close attention. Some things that we touch will hurt us worse than even an electrified tramway wire.

Touch adultery, God warns us, and we will get scorched. Count on it.

Grab hold of greed, and we’ll end up with some awfully bad burns. We can be sure of that.

Grasp bitterness and embrace an unforgiving and critical spirit, and, even if we’re sure we’ve been terribly mistreated and have a great excuse for the chip on our shoulder, we’ll still end up alone. Resentment is a very chilly friend.

Grip such tempting wires, and so many more like them, and we can end up with scorched souls and in deep pain. God knows it’s tempting; that’s why he gave us the warnings. And, thank God indeed, his grace and healing are real, available as often as we fail, as present as our next breath, as rich and deep and life-giving as our Father’s loving heart.

But the truth is that when we ignore his warning and choose to play with that which is deadly, pain is always the consequence. Worse, if we hang on to those hot wires long enough and are burned so badly that we refuse to ask for healing, death can come even before we die.

When God gives a warning, it pays to listen.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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