December 30, 2012

Like a Charlie Brown tree

Every Christmas some artist in the cartoon world honors Charlie Brown’s spindly Christmas tree. It shows up as a humorous yet needed reminder that beauty is often only in the eyes of the beholder.

When the world was new and people began to fill it, the sin of Adam and Eve spread to every living soul. As the population increased, so did human rebellion against God.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:5–8)

The grief of God over sin isn’t a popular topic. It isn’t easy to explain either. We are so accustomed to the way that we are, that we don’t realize the seriousness of our sinful rebellion against our Creator. Parents who love and want the best for their children may get an inkling of this grief if their offspring make dreadful choices and ruin their lives. Instead of the pride and the joy of seeing them grow into fine men and women, there is sorrow over the loss of potential, sometimes even the loss of life.

God felt that sorrow to the uttermost. He regretted His creation and decided to do something about it. He is criticized for this decision, but who would criticize a parent sorrowing over the birth of a wayward child? Besides, God is holy. For Him, sin is worse than muck on a rose or pollution in a crystal stream. Unlike us, He cannot bear it.

Yet something in His great heart would not give up entirely. He looked down on humanity and selected one man whom He would bestow favor. Noah was singled out, not because God looked for and found something special about this man (all have sinned), but because God decided that He would selvedge someone out of the chaos that humanity had become. Noah was picked.

This choice is about grace. God had every right (and every reason) to wipe out the human race and start over. From Adam to Noah, none of them were righteous, no, not one. Genesis 5:24 says that Enoch walked with God, and that he was not found, for God took him, indicating some sort of unusual death or translation into eternity, but this also was by God’s grace. No one deserved His favor then, nor does anyone earn or deserve it now.

We are like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, barren and stripped of anything that is beautiful in the sight of God. We cannot earn His favor. Yet God is full of grace and mercy. He cannot and will not give up entirely, not that we deserve it, but that this is how God is — tender-hearted toward the mean and dejected, gracious toward the bent and twisted, willing to take home that which others pass over and reject.

Salvation isn’t about our merit. It is about the goodness of God’s heart. 

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