Thursday, October 23, 2014

Scars

Until you understand a man's scars ..... you don't understand the man.

Until you know a woman's scars .... you don't know the woman.


And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. (Luke 7:37 - 47)



Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13, 14)
 

Have you ever wondered why people act the way they act, or do the things they do? Of course you have. We wonder about it from the time we're children. And, very often, the people that we know the best, or think we know the best, are the ones whose actions surprise us the most. And our actions often surprise them!

But God is never surprised. We seldom really understand each other ... and we don't always understand ourselves. But each of us has wounds, and those wounds turn into scars over a period of time, but they never completely go away. And until you understand a person's scars, you can't understand the person.

Here's a young policeman. At the age of 22, he finds a sweet and godly young woman, and they fall very deeply in love. (Is the young man a Christian? I don't know, but he's active in his church throughout his adult life.) They marry, conceive a child .... and the girl dies in childbed, of typhus.

The young man, deep in his heart, vows never to trust his emotions, or perhaps his God, in that way again. He begins a long line of affairs and lengthy cohabitations with prostitutes, and eventually finds another woman, with whom he stays for nearly fifty years. But they never marry. He gives that woman his name, lives with her faithfully on a common-law basis for half a century, shares wealth and poverty .... But he can never bring himself to marry her. That's hardly God's standard for a marriage, of course, and I'm not seeking to excuse it. But, looking at this strange man's strange brand of loyalty, doesn't his reluctance to marry make a bit more sense when you think of the lovely young girl dying of typhus?

Wyatt Earp was scarred. And, without excusing his behavior, we can't hope to understand his adult life until we know those scars.



Were you ever teased or taunted or bullied as a child? Teased about being too skinny, or too fat, or just too clumsy? Most of us were. And it scars us; we never get over it. I can recall embarrassing moments, really humiliating moments, from my childhood and teen years - - - and so can you. And, if you're a young person, I'll give you some bad news: when you're sixty or seventy, you'll still remember them! Childhood scars don't go away, whether emotional, psychological, or physical. And they play a part in making us what we are.

I'll tell you a secret about myself. If we're ever together in person, or on the phone, I can tell you how to make my old nature rise up, and threaten to break through. Say something; and if I ask you to repeat it, say, "You heard what I said!"


I'll come unglued; I'll get angry; I'll lose the sweet reasonableness of Jesus in a heartbeat. Because I probably didn't hear what you said: I have major hearing loss, as a result of childhood ear infections, and when people tease me about the subject of hearing, I simply see red. It's like rubbing sandpaper on a scar. Of course, nobody knows this; if they did, they wouldn't say such things. But until you understand a person's scars, you don't understand the person.

Here's a preacher sitting in his church study one evening. He's one of America's greatest preachers, in the era between Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. And, like Sunday, or the young Graham, he's a dynamo: he's an enemy of sin, and every purveyor of sin knows it. (He loves the victims of sin, but not the purveyors.) On this particular evening, some of the local bosses (booze or prostitution or gambling) have decided to remove him from the scene. They dispatch an assassin to the preacher's office.

The assassin enters through the window, and pulls a gun on the startled pastor. But this isn't Rick Warren or Joel Osteen: this is an old-fashioned, sin-busting, uncompromising man of God, whose life has been threatened many times. He simply opens his desk drawer, pulls out his own revolver, and shoots the assassin dead.

And from that day to this, J. Frank Norris has been known, in many circles, as "the preacher who killed a man." He was exonerated by a jury on grounds of self-defense, but no article about Norris omits the story. The question is, Why did he do it? Or, "How could a man of God do such a thing?" Or, "Didn't he trust God? Why did he have a gun?" Somehow, the questions always center on Norris, and not the men who conspired to murder him.



I don't think Jesus would keep a gun in His desk, but Norris was no Jesus. And I'm not going to criticize his faith; he had vision and faith enough for ten Christians. But until you understand a man's scars, you don't understand the man. And I know that Norris and his father had both been shot, almost fatally, by an estranged relative, 35 years earlier. It left a scar. And until you know the scars....

Why do we despise people who hurt children? Obviously, it's a tragedy when someone like Susan Smith drives her kids into a lake; but they didn't suffer long, and most of us believe that they're with the Lord now. But what of the parents who savagely beat their children, or sexually molest them? Why does that make us so justifiably angry? Is it just because they're "innocent," or is it something more?

It's partly the innocence, but it's also the terrible thought: "What's going to become of these children? What is this doing to their minds and hearts?" Well, we know: it's leaving scars that will lead to horrible consequences later. Abused children tend to become abusive parents; molested children tend to become promiscuous or even prostitutes. No one will defend a prostitute, or a child abuser: but, without resorting to the horrible, damnable "abuse excuse," we need to recognize: the stripper or the streetwalker or the "father" with the clenched fist might have some scar tissue inside. That excuses nothing; but it should not be disregarded when considering them as people. Or praying for them as people. Or witnessing to them.

Jesus is eating dinner at a Pharisee's house. Wouldn't you have loved to hear the conversations? As fascinating as they were, however, they were interrupted.

A woman barges into the room, probably from the street .... and not just any woman. This woman was a pariah, a woman whose immorality was known to the people of the city: she was probably a prostitute. Exactly and precisely the last person on earth you'd expect to find at a Pharisee's luncheon!

But she wasn't there for the Pharisees. She was there for Jesus. She was aching from a lifetime of scars ... or maybe from just a few scars that were unimaginably painful. She needed forgiveness. She was a "bad" woman, and she recognized the good Man (Mark 10:18) when she saw Him. She had to get close to Him!

She had saved her money, so horribly earned, and bought a very expensive alabaster box of ointment. Or maybe she didn't buy it; maybe it was a treasured heirloom. In any case, she knew what to do with it: she washed Jesus' feet with her tears (she probably couldn't look him in the face), and dried them with her hair (she probably wouldn't have sullied them with her sinner's skirts); and she anointed His feet with the ointment.

The host Pharisee was horrified. "He spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner."  (Notice, He didn't speak out loud; Jesus knew his thoughts, just as He knows ours.) In the Jewish world of that time, saying someone was "a sinner" was much worse than the way we use the term: we know that all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But when the Jews called a man or woman a sinner, that man or woman was a very rough customer!

So Jesus spoke to the Pharisee, pointing out that the "sinner woman" had been more courteous to Him than the Pharisee himself; and then He used the example of the debtors who were forgiven. Who would love the generous creditor more, the one who only owed a small debt, or the one who owed the huge debt? Obviously, replied the Pharisee, the one who owed the enormous, unmanageable debt. He'd appreciate the forgiveness more. If there's one thing the Jews of that time understood, it was money-lending and debt!

So Jesus came to the point: "Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little."

Why did Jesus understand the woman's behavior, apart from His omniscience as God the Son? Because he was looking at her scars ... and understanding them. The Pharisees saw the scars, too, but their only reaction was, "How ugly! I'm glad I'm not screwed up like that!"

You and I can't and don't (and probably shouldn't) know all of each other's scars. We certainly don't know the scars of the people we work with, or the people we sit with in church, or the people who repel and disgust us. But God does .... He understands their scars. He understands the scars of the child who's been savagely beaten. He understands the scars of the teenager who's mocked because of a bad complexion. He understands the scars of the young man who loses his bride to typhus. And, while He never falls for the "abuse excuse," God always, always considers our scars.

For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
(Ps. 103:13, 14)

Hallelujah! What a Saviour!


5 comments:

  1. Amen. A moving, thought-provoking post. Thank you.

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  2. Scars. I have many. I've tried to make it a habit that when I see, or am involved with people behaving "badly", trying to envision them, at one time, as babies born innocent, and they have a history that has formed their actions and reactions in life. The god of this world impacts everyone in one way or another.
    Do you think, William, that people can bury their scars and present themselves as having had a pretty good life?
    I think confronting ones' own emotional scars makes a person more compassionate toward others. Or on the flip side, makes them just like the ones who scarred them, or worse.
    I've always believed that people who do not confront, but bury their scars, hurts, loses, etc. can become shallow and tend to disregard other people who are deeper thinking in these matters. Perhaps this is what "hard heartedness" is. The lack of desire to confront their scars and frailties as humans. Perhaps they have the thinking that it makes them "weak". I don't know. But it drives me crazy that people lack compassion and think themselves above the frail human condition. Such a deep well of possibilities.
    Any thoughts William?
    Thanks for this blog. It reminded me that some people do think more deeply about the actions of Jesus, and how He demonstrated "actions speak louder than words". God bless you brother. Carol

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  3. Thank you, Carol. I agree with what you've said here. I've dealt with some very tough cookies, like violent felons in prison, and I've always done the same as you: envisioned them as little boys or girls inside, still reeling from their past. That doesn't excuse anything, but it certainly increases our empathy (if not sympathy) for them. I knew a woman who had murdered her husband, but I was able to see the little girl that she had been, bright and full of promise, even if the promises fell apart.

    I think a lot of people, perhaps most people, do try to ignore or bury their scars. That's a mistake, because it causes them to be a little coarse. But the opposite extreme is just as bad: holding on to the hurts, dwelling on them, wallowing in them. This can completely ruin the present and the future, and can actually drive a person crazy.

    We Christians should do what Paul did: acknowledge the experiences, good or bad, not pretending the past isn't there, but move on, looking to Jesus, not ourselves. Introspection has a very limited value, and is only profitable when done with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 11:28 ; 2 Corinthians 13:5)

    Then, we follow the scriptures: "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3: 13-14)

    God bless you, sister!

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    1. Thank you for that response William. Exactly what I needed. The family of God is such a blessing, especially when they quote Scripture. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path".

      We serve a most gracious God and Saviour! All glory is His. Keep on pressing toward that mark William. Be encouraged for you have encouraged me!

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    2. Thank you, sister: it's a very real encouragement to me. Your comments are not only welcome but very helpful!

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