STRENGTH FOR THE WEEK: Flood Church’s Weekly Devotional
SERIES 1: The Voice of God
A Forbidding Voice
Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village…Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes, then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.” (Mark 8:23-26)
Before we begin following Jesus by faith, it seems to us a hardship to be required by Jesus to give up the sins we enjoy committing with others. Once we give them up and get over it, it seems to us a hardship to be required by Jesus to give up the sins we enjoy committing on our own. Once we resolve to give those up and get over it, it seems to us a hardship to be required by Jesus to give up the sins we have been committing without realizing it. There is an element of pleasure and addiction in all our sins, which make the experience of leaving them behind an unpleasant one. It is not that the sin itself is by nature pleasant, but that every sin involves abusing something good that God made with a pleasant nature or a capacity to be pleased. To sin is to spend our God-given currency of pleasure on things that are by nature truly displeasing (when one sees them as they really are). The pleasures of sin are the first things we hear Jesus forbidding us from pursuing. While the forsaking of sinful pleasures is hard, we are able to take comfort in the fact that Jesus forbids all his followers from pursuing such sinful pleasures.
However, following Jesus takes on a new level of hardship when he forbids you from pursuing things that are innocent, especially innocent things that he continues to allow others to pursue and enjoy. It is precisely the sort of restriction we have been conditioned to associate with unfairness and injustice. Our notion of fairness and justice is so closely linked to sameness and equality that we consider them synonymous without even knowing or questioning it. As someone to whom God gave a unique personality that is incomparable to every other personality he made, there are unique manifestations of the image of God and of the effects of sin. Even if two people face the same temptation or commit the same sin, the experience is always unique for each one. One implication of your individual uniqueness is that you should expect that above and beyond the things that Jesus forbids all his people, there will be things Jesus forbids only you; things he cannot forbid the whole world from doing because the things themselves are innocent, but which he must forbid you from doing because in his wisdom he sees that they are not part of his plan for you. As such, one of the greatest expressions of faith is to obey Jesus when he forbids us from an innocent pursuit which he permits to others.
There is nothing wrong with going into a village to live there or for a visit, but when Jesus says to you, “Don’t even go into the village”, it does not matter how innocent the village is, nor does it matter that you have unfinished business there, nor does it matter that there are people who need you there, nor does it matter that Jesus has allowed others to go into the village and blessed them there. All that matters is your trust that the voice telling you not to go into that village is the voice of Jesus, the one who loves you more than you could ever love yourself. He may allow others to drink a beer, but not you; to be missionaries, but not you; to get married, but not you; to stay single, but not you; to have children, but not you; to see their dreams come true, but not you; to have a long life, but not you. Whatever it is that Jesus allows others and forbids you to experience, do not let it trouble you. It does not define you as much as trusting and obeying Jesus does. He alone knows your uniqueness comprehensively enough to know what innocent things to refrain you from in order to accomplish his goal of refashioning you in his image. Jesus’ goal is never for you to like him more, but for you to be more like him, and he knows what it will take for you to get there. So, “don’t even go into the village.”
-Keep the Faith