The rich young ruler. He is one of those individuals in Scripture that we sometimes judge. Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor and the young man walked away. And he walked away sad. Why? Because he had a lot of stuff.
He knew all the commandments.
He did all the things.
But his heart wasn’t fully devoted to the Lord.
But, before we shake our heads and point our fingers, let’s do a little plank removal.
I know the commandments as well.
I do all the things as well – in terms of what might be expected of a Christian. Church attendance. Tithing. Read the Bible.
And, yet… aren’t there times when I don’t have peace? When I feel far from the Lord? When I stray?
In those moments, I put myself in the shoes of the rich, young ruler and ask, “What is it the Lord is asking me to do that I am refusing to do and walking away sad?”
Maybe it’s forgiving someone.
Or seeking forgiveness.
Or turning from that sin.
Or volunteering my time.
Or humbling myself enough to enter the church building.
If I know all the things mentally and am doing all the things outwardly but still lack the peace that I know is available to me – it’s time to check my heart. What am I clinging to more tightly than Jesus? Because that thing? It will prevent peace every time.
I can’t speak for you but, for me, suffering often makes me selfish. Pity party of one, anyone? It’s often really hard to notice the troubles of others when we’re in the midst of something ourselves, right? This brings me to Joseph.
Just to set the stage, Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers, wrongly accused of inappropriate conduct by an angry woman, and unjustly thrown into prison. While in this prison, two other men who “committed an offense” against the King of Egypt were also incarcerated. The two men had dreams which were confusing and troubling to them. The next morning, Joseph noticed that they were troubled.
Imagine that you are innocent of any wrongdoing and are locked up with two men who are guilty of an offense. Would you even notice if those men were “troubled?” Joseph noticed. He looked at the men and truly saw them. His suffering did not blind him to the suffering of others.
I don’t want my suffering to be a source of distraction, but a source of compassion. May it cause me to see others more clearly. May it guide me to treat others more gently. May it remind me how vital it is that people in pain know that they are seen.
I’ll be honest; on my best day, I’m one of the least observant people you’ll meet. Throw in a little affliction and I can become oblivious to the world around me. But Joseph’s story is a great lesson in loving others well even, or especially, in the midst of suffering.
That’s what many of the disciples said and they walked away from Jesus. And, in my flesh, I am the same.
Love your enemy. Not simply, “don’t hate them back.” But love them.
Forgive those who offend you. Not just the ones who are sorry. Not just the little offenses. Forgive everyone.
In this world, you will have trials and tribulation. Even when you follow me. Especially when you follow me.
In my flesh, I would say, “This is a hard saying,” and walk away.
But, in my spirit, I am Peter saying, “Lord, to where would I go? You are everything.”
And, so I follow. I love my enemy – not perfectly as I wish. I forgive and, often, have to remind myself that I’ve forgiven. I endure trials and tribulations knowing that triumph is coming for those who keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Accept the hard sayings. Do the hard things. Walk the narrow, less traveled path. You won’t be sorry.
“I never met a man who accepted Christ and regretted it.” (Billy Graham.)