May 24th 2012 No comments yet
Ever feel like Bull Meecham (AKA “the Great Santini” from the movie of the same name)? In an early scene, the Marine fighter pilot portrayed by Robert Duvall sits at breakfast perusing his newspaper.Â He mutters “Castro”¦”, “de Gaulle”¦” and then stands to his feet and bellows to the heavens, “God! Why did you put so many jerks in the world at the same time?” Those who daily drive the Tollway or navigate Preston and Main wonder the same thing.
Â As one who navigates Preston and Main twice daily, I am compelled to find that answer. If I call it “application,” I justify five years of seminary. So here we go: “Why did a loving, just, righteous, and good God fill the earth with jerks and place them in our lives?” Why did He do it in the past, and why today?
Â First, a definition: “Jerk” is the general term for a person in your life whose view of self is substantially higher than what is warranted by his or her personal qualities. Jerks are generally devoid of sensitivity and exercise no responsibility toward others, yet expect the highest of regard from others.Â The synonyms for “jerk” are mostly unprintable. Â Â Â Â
Â Applying the definition to the Biblical record, it is clear: Joseph’s brothers were jerks.Â Job’s friends were jerks. Jesus was surrounded by jerks: brothers who called Him a “secret Messiah” (John 7:3-5), disciples who saw Him as their ticket to importance, and religious leaders who saw Him as a threat to their position. How these heroes dealt with jerks reveals the divine purpose: jerks teach us about God and about ourselves.Â
Â Joseph’s brothers learned that God used their evil actions to bring about good (Genesis 50:15-21).Â Job and his friends discovered new truth about God.Â Jesus used every encounter with the jerks of His day to accurately present God to mankind.
Â He taught us why jerks are in our lives today: they teach us about ourselves.Â In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus presents a universal truth: we recognize the “jerky” fault in others (“speck”) because we see that fault in ourselves (“beam”). Think about it.Â When we encounter jerks, the easiest thing to do is (at least mentally) criticize them.Â Their faults and failings are glaring! Who can miss that speck? “She is so vain!”Â “He is an inveterate self-promoter!” “Boy! What pride!” We feel no need to apply political spin to describe jerks.Â
Â But when we apply Jesus’ words, reality emerges. “She is so vain!” (“”¦and I hope people are looking at me, noticing me, and admiring me.”) “He is an inveterate self-promoter!” (“”¦and in my private thought world I am Walter Mitty – “˜pocketa, pocketa'”). Â “Boy! What pride!” (“”¦and aren’t I really special for noting that!”).Â Jerks invade our thoughts and reveal the sins we prefer to keep hidden (Mark 7:20-23). We recognize jerks because there is a jerk lurking inside each one of us.
Â Jesus does not allow us to ignore our inner jerk, but He also does not permit us to privately navel-gaze or self-flagellate because of it.Â He commands action: “You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye“ (Matthew 7:5).Â In “churchy” terms, we pursue holiness so that we can aid others to also pursue holiness – if only as mutually irritating jerks.
Â I am tempted to channel “Bull Meecham” ““ muttering the names of the jerks in my life and railing to the heavens. But I am beginning to appreciate them.Â They challenge me to make changes and to gain insight into helping others make those same changes.Â
Â But I still have problems with those jerks who cut you off at Main and Preston”¦
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