Reading my way through the latest fiction novel, I am following a character who is desperately trying to prove his innocence to a society all-too-ready to condemn him. The author is talented, and I do recommend him as a master of the thriller (At All Costs, by John Gilstrap). At any rate, I began to reflect on the cause of righteousness, and how we as humans seem to have a natural inclination to turn rather ferocious when we are self-righteous about something—particularly if it is our favorite cause, whatever it might be. I think most of us recognize others that are in the act of picking up the banner of righteousness, and we tend to get out of their way, and let them have the fullness of their tirade. I think recently of a friend who saw a dog being misused and, pulling her car over to the side, began to berate a much bigger fellow, on the way he should treat his dog. That particular fellow, tattoos, muscles and all, listened to the rebuke with humility, evidently recognizing the righteous light in my friend’s eyes.
I remember my father, willing to stand by his sons, right or wrong, and willing to go to the mat with others over issues that he felt threatened harm to his progeny. I remember being in high school, and being suddenly socked in the eye by another fellow, and having to defend myself. The coach quickly broke up the fight, sent us both to the office, where the vice-principal, in all the mustered wisdom of public school policy, suspended us both for three days.
My father showed up to pick me up from the vice principal’s office, and began to berate the poor fellow right in front of me.
“What in the h is a young person supposed to do when he gets punched in the nose?” asked my father.
The poor vice principal had not much to say to defend the policy, and sputtered somewhat ineffectively about it taking two to fight. I remember feeling somewhat sorry for him, even as a sophomore in high school, for I could see he had not much to argue.
Dad, not willing to let it go, asked, “If it was your own son and someone popped him in the nose, what would you tell your son to do?”
In that moment, I could see from reading the vice principal’s face, that Dad had won, and that the issue would have been resolved in a similar manner by his own sons. I remember feeling loved very much at that moment—Dad was not good at expressing his feelings well, and—like most of his generation—left his feelings generally unexpressed—but at that moment, the message was loud and clear. I love you, Son, and I will do whatever it takes to protect you.
The vice principal? He ended by reducing my suspension one day, and when later that spring, I heard that he had resigned his position, I was not surprised. There may have been a lot of other parents out there like my dad—and discipline at schools is always a daunting task.
Isn’t our Father in heaven just like that? He is going to defend us at the last judgment, not because we are righteous in ourselves, but because he has already poured his wrath out in judgment for sin upon his Son. The Accuser will stand with his list—a very long list when it comes to me, I am afraid—and he will accuse with all the skills of a professional. When he finally comes to the last of the issues, my Father in heaven will simply say that all of my unrighteousness has been wiped out in Christ, and that just as his Son stands now blameless before him, so also I am now his son, made forever blameless. What a joy to look forward to! What a joy that I can compare the actions of my earthly father with those of my heavenly father! Dad, I do miss you.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
2 Cor. 5:17