Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Matt. 9:4-6
I was in the post office yesterday to set up a P.O. Box to make all our address changes easier. I waited in line for almost an hour while the two employees dealt with one person at a time. I had been there earlier in the day for a related issue and one of the employees, who I didn’t see right away this second time, was greeting customers with “What can I do for you on this marvelous morning?!” I noticed even then that most of the people didn’t respond in kind, some even glared. By the time I saw him reappear that afternoon, his smile had been wiped off and he was dodging the angry comments and grimmaces of those customers whose afternoon plans were being thwarted by this long wait.
Here is what struck me: There seemed to be a disproportionate amount of anger from people in line in response to the inconvenience. Yes, that is a long time to wait for a simple task. Yes, greater efficiency is surely possible. But when one woman went to the trouble to complain passionately about the injustice of her wait, very disrespectfully taking out her “suffering” on anyone who they could find in the back to meet her demands of “your superior” and then when that didn’t feel sufficient, “well, who is above you?”, I couldn’t help but to think of the universal expectation that the world bow to our needs at the moment we command. It is easier to rant and rave and blame and complain than to wait, readjust our schedules and be flexible. Its is just plain easier to be me-centered than to be the least concerned with the stories of the people in front of us. The idea that I am important and my time is important too easily trumps any call to love others well. The more important need of the paralytic was to have his heart addressed, his sins forgiven, and his hope restored. But because the people around him, just like me today, thought the idea of his walking would be more impossible, Jesus acknowledged that to be the “harder thing”. If I am honest, however, the harder thing is that my hyperactive self would be comfortable with stillness. The harder thing is that my high need for order and predictably be transformed into a peace in the midst of environmental chaos and uncertainty. The harder thing is that Jesus take my heart, which is paralyzed by my self-absorbtion, need for control and wide assortment of other “personality type” excuses, and make it walk in the humility of the One who came to serve rather than be served and to love not because He was loved first but because He is love.
I am so inclined to be “that woman at the post office”, or in my new apartment infested with fleas, or when someone side swipes my parked car or…But thankfully Jesus is committed to the harder thing which is taking my default mode need to rule and reign over my own circumstances and increase my trust in His redemptive and loving purposes behind each moment in the post office, in traffic and even waking up covered in flea bites.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Matthew 23:23-28
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Matt. 5:17
Apart from Him, I am paralyzed and unable to clean the inside of my dish, incapable of righteousness, and totally lacking in anything that resembles justice, mercy and faithfulness. Yet because He fulfilled the Law exhaustively by His life and work, I will be comformed into His image through each circumstance. May I desire the harder heart change more than I desire the world around me to change for my convenience!