December 17, 2014

Human motives are not like God’s motives

Why would anyone enter a school and shoot children? Two years and three days ago, a man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and we never slept for days without horrible images in our minds and incredible sorrow in our hearts. Yesterday, a handful of men entered a school in Pakistan and slaughtered students by the dozens. My heart is filled with grief and even helpless rage at such an atrocity. What these men did does not make sense.

While the world cries, “Why?” I am considering that motives are difficult to discern. The evil people do may not have a logical reason, even though we demand it. The good people do is sometimes accused of having an ulterior motive. When I look at myself, I cannot always understand why I do some of the things that I do.

Today’s Scripture is not about those horrid things that people do, but it is about the folly of trying to understand what motivates others. In this case, it was not a terrible thing done, but a good act. Jesus was freeing people from the oppression of demons. Some were amazed, but others gave His good actions a very strange motivation . . .

“Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Luke 11:14–23)

When I read this, I thought that saying Jesus was casting out demons by the prince of demons would be just as weird as saying the shooters in Pakistan shot up that school because the students were from their own household. Their actions are impossible to understand, but to give them that motivation is absurd.

I realize this is an odd parallel. I cannot get yesterday’s news out of my mind, but am wondering if my sense of confusion about “why did they do it” is anything like those in Jesus’ day who wondered why Jesus did what He was doing? It seems obvious to me that He was nothing like the demonic forces that always crippled and destroyed people. Instead, He was God the Son determined to rid people of those demonic forces that were causing them great pain. To say that He was part of that evil army makes no sense at all. What were they thinking?

Jesus must have known that His accusers were determined to discredit Him, but He was incredibly patient with them. He responded with logic. His answers made sense. Everyone knows that a house divided against itself will not last very long. Inner division quickly produces outer disaster. He could have laughed or defended Himself, but He did neither.
This passage shows me again that the mind of Christ is undivided. He had one single purpose —to seek and to save the lost. No matter what they accused Him of, no matter if the lost were oblivious to their need, no matter if their words and accusations made no sense, He was there to offer them hope.

They were speaking nonsense, but the mind of Christ does not pit itself against lesser minds and mock them (which I would have been tempted to do.) This great mind is accompanied by incredible good manners. Eventually He did go after them with stronger language, but at this point, Jesus gently rebuked their ungodliness and illogical thinking. He must have known that they were jealous of His power and threatened by the fact that some were in wonder over Him, but He didn’t let their foibles stop Him from showing them grace and even mercy.

If I lived in Pakistan (I have friends that do), and if I had children in that school, even children who died in the gunfire, would I be able to think with the mind of Christ? Would I even know what His mind was thinking? Or would I be so overcome with outrage that I’d seek a weapon and retaliation?

We are living in a world with many questions and no easy answers. To know the mind of Christ on this, or on anything else, means being in His Word, being yielded to Him, and spending much more time with Him than I do.

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