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Reflecting the Pursuing Heart of God

Happy Day of Saint Patrick! When we lived in New Orleans, we always looked forward to St. Patrick’s Day. Schools and businesses closed, families got together for more feasting and merry making at the parades. It was at one of those parades that our lives almost changed forever.

My wife loves a good parade, and I’ve never seen parades like they have in New Orleans. Literally hundreds of thousands of people will line up in a three-mile stretch to watch the floats, listen to the music and catch all the lagniappe (i.e. extra/over the top trinkets and beads) thrown from the attendants (i.e. drunk people). Sounds fun, right? At the St. Patrick’s Day parades, attendants actually throw cabbages into the crowd based on some tradition years back that people would get their cabbages, carrots and potatoes at the parades for their St. Patrick’s Day stew. So, imagine a bunch of intoxicated attendants about ten-fifteen feet above you in their floats raining down bombs of cabbages into the crowd. It’s always fun until someone gets hurt.

Did I mention my wife loves a good parade? Well, parades for me are like shopping as a couple. For the purpose of marital harmony, some activities are best done apart. Standing among throngs of people for hours to catch some doubloons and beads that I’m going to wind up throwing away later, watching drunk people wobble precariously on top of floats, and listening to one high school marching band after another is not my definition of a good time.

But, as I said, it was at one of those parades that our lives almost changed forever. As I recall, it was a beautiful day. The kids, who were quite little, and I were waiting for Laura a safe distance from the crowds, while she tried to squeeze her way to the front to get one of those cabbages. (We were living off a church-planter’s salary after all.) Laura’s job was to get a cabbage. My job was to watch the kids—three little, squirmy kids who were on sensory overload. While I reached down to make sure my youngest son was fastened securely in his stroller, and while I was grasping my daughter’s hand tightly, my oldest son, who was probably about six years old, took off to join his mom near the front of the line. The problem was that he didn’t tell me. He just took off. I turned around, and Will was gone, swallowed up in a sea of noisy marauders. My heart began to race, as my eyes darted back and forth in every direction. I couldn’t leave my other two children, but holding on to them slowed my quest, especially in our attempt to squeeze through the jostling crowd.

Right as I was about to begin yelling for Will and implore the crowd for help, I saw Laura walking towards us with a cabbage in one hand and Will in the other. Mission accomplished. No harm, no foul.

Most parents have probably experienced something similar where you turn your back for one second, and one of your children takes off running in the other direction. I believe the reason we have such a deep panic in those moments is because we were created in the image of the God who pursues. God has relentlessly pursued us from the very first moments we hid from God in the Garden. “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Like the father who ran out to meet his wayward son, so God runs out to meet us at our point of brokenness and shame (Luke 15:20).

The heart of God is filled with compassion and mercy (Hosea 11:8). When we run from God, He is patient toward us, not wishing that any of us should perish, but that we would all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). God has planted the seeds of His pursuing heart within us. We water the seeds through prayer and His Word. We watch the seeds grow as we open our hearts to others in selflessness and kindness.

Let us rejoice and give thanks to the God of pursuit. Let us reflect His character and love for all things lost. Let us be willing to enter the sea of marauders and feel compassion for those who are still far off. In the words of the old hymn, let us “rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save” (Fanny Crosby, 1869).

Depraved Beings We Are

Ashley Madison is a company that profits from people who are interested in committing adultery. This past Presidents’ Day (February 17), they advertised through a billboard along Interstate 30 in Little Rock, AR. The billboard showed a picture of three former U.S. presidents—Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Bill Clinton—along with the message: Who said cheaters never prosper? Happy Presidents’ Day!            

The company has a highly profitable website that states: “Long gone are the days of working late and having an affair with the office secretary. With today’s technology the ability to have a discreet emotional or sexual affair is at your fingertips. You have definitely come to the right website. Ashley Madison’s married dating services can help you find that special someone who makes you feel young and alive again.”

The company’s founder, Noel Biderman, is a Toronto entrepreneur who claims to be happily married with two children. But he also states that, “Monogamy, in my opinion, is a failed experiment.” When confronted with how his company is promoting marital infidelity, Biderman responds by saying that they merely “facilitate cheating rather than promote it.” Even though the company’s trademark is, “Life is short, have an affair,” it also advocates marriage counseling: “If you are having difficulty in your marriage or relationship, you should seek counseling.”

My friends, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t provide a service for people to commit marital unfaithfulness while at the same time encourage people to work out their marital problems. When asked how she would feel if her husband cheated on her, Biderman’s own wife said she would feel “devastated.”

The Bible says, “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water” (James 3:11-12).

Ashley Madison is just another example of our broken humanness and cultural degeneration. As Princeton professor, Robert P. George, puts it,

Consider how common it is for people to reason as follows: “My conscience does not tell me that X is wrong; therefore X is not wrong for me.” Or, even more egregiously: “My conscience does not tell me that X is wrong (or wrong for me); therefore I have a right to do X as a matter of freedom of conscience.” Every manner of evil and injustice is today rationalized, defended, and insulated from rebuke by appeal to conscience.

Our culture is sliding down the slippery slope of turning conscience into a green light for whatever feels right or expedient and then claiming that right to engage in the conduct. As Chuck Colson says, “And if it’s a right, why not claim it’s a constitutional right? And if it’s a constitutional right, why not claim a legal immunity even from criticism by others?”

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the Supreme Court declared, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concepts of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” The concept of self-will was unheard of until the nineteenth century, and now it is a constitutional right!

The issue is “self-will” vs. “God’s will.” If we do not accept objective standards of truth, universal principles of morality that transcend cultures, then we will become like the people of Israel at the end of the Book of Judges, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). That may not bother some who think self-will and individualism trump all values, but once their self-will competes with someone else’s self-will, then we have a problem. This is the case with four-year olds fighting over a toy and governments fighting over who is in charge. Typically, in these battles the old adage rings true: “Might makes right.”

History has proven this time and time again. When there is no higher law, each person defines the law and moral obligation based upon his or her own “concepts of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” And when those definitions clash, which they always will, those with power make their ideology supreme.

Not all agree, but depraved beings we are, and we only have two options for restraining the evil that resides within: One is through our surrender to the higher law established by God Himself, and the other is our surrender to those with the power to enforce their concepts of existence and meaning on everyone else. As Colson writes, “You take away the internal restraints of the heart and conscience, and you are controlled by force. Take away a nation’s Bibles; polish up the bayonets.” Bibles or bayonets? History has proven that Bibles are always the better choice.

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