“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come” ~1 Cor. 5:17
I once went on a job interview right after my melanoma surgery. I had a large, 8-inch open wound on my back and was instructed not to lift anything. But as a mentor had warned me, “Do not tell the church you’ve had cancer, they won’t hire that risk.” So I dressed myself up in my finest suit to cover the bandages and stitches. I wheeled my luggage onto the airplane, having to ask the short stewardess to hoist it into the overhead for me. I then skillfully maneuvered through the weekend interview. But as I hopped into the taxi cab to return to the airport, the senior pastor slapped me on the back–right where the wound was–telling me how great this opportunity would be. Like Freddy Benson, the tears began to emerge while I desperately tried to stoically hold it all together.
For some reason in our culture, we cannot show a chink in our armor. If we do, we become anxious that others will exploit that weakness.
Whether it means that someone else’s kids got onto the Y’s flag football team because you forgot to register soon enough. Or your son’s teenage indiscretion means that the top notch college is no longer available. That the client signs with your competition, because you were busy being a father rather than responding to an email.
We worry: What will happen if your neighbors knew that your home was about to go into foreclosure? How embarrassing if somone found out about that rendezvous at the hotel bar while on a business trip? What if someone saw you drop those bottles of wine into the neighbor’s recycling? Think of the lost business opportunities if your coworkers knew about the separation, or the cancer, or the crushing debt.
So we build up a facade to hide the wounds, the scars and the truth.
I am currently reading the Old Testament book of Kings. In it is a short story (1 Kings 14:25-28), where we see a man desperately seeking to hide the truth.
“In the 5th year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. He carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made. So King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them and assigned these to the commanders of the guard on duty at the entrance to the royal palace. Whenever the king went to the Lord’s temple, the guards bore the shields, and afterward they returned them to the guard room.”
Seems like another paragraph to gloss over in the Old Testament, right?
But note some things–
King Rehoboam was Solomon’s son and the rightful king. But rather than serving his people, he chose to use force to rule his people (1 Kings 12). He takes the advice of his friends rather than listening to the wise men who served his father. This causes his father’s kingdom to split into two, leaving him the tribe of Judah and the pathetic tribe of Benjamin (they’d nearly died off earlier). Mercifully, he is also allowed to be the King over Jerusalem–where the Temple is located.
Five years into his kingship, however, the King of Egypt comes and steals all of the gold that Rehoboam’s father had brought into Jerusalem. The city is ransacked: “He Took Everything” is the cry.
How embarrassing. Under Rehoboam’s leadership he loses everything his father established: his father’s kingdom, wealth, wisdom and even the golden shields.
So what is Rehoboam left to do…he makes bronze shields…to protect the empty royal palace and the empty temple.
He covers his mistakes and shame with these cheap trinkets; bronze shields, instead of gold.
Imagine being the soldier, who goes into the armory that morning to get the golden shields you had been conscripted to carry. You are used to the weight, the shine, the confidence it produces, and then your boss hands you some lightweight, dirty, hastily made bronze replicas.
You know this isn’t the real deal, but you just play along. Like the King without clothes, you march alongside Rehoboam, holding onto that bronze shield lightly. You know no one will want to ransack the empty palace and the defeated temple, but you play army-man for his sake.
It is at these moments, when we have lost everything–whether it is golden shields, our health, a marriage, a job, our hope–where we have a choice to make. We can continue to play the game by slapping some bandages over the seeping wounds and march right along-side.
Or we can lay down our bronze shields, and come before Christ. For Christ offers to take all of this old garabage and give us something new. He wants us to put down these shields and pick up a cross.
This is the place–where our desperate truth gets revealed–that Jesus wants to meet us. As David Platt writes, “God delights in using ordinary [messy and messed up] Christians who come to the end of themselves and choose to trust in his extraodirnary provision. He stands ready to allocate his power to all who are radically depedent on him.”
So, how radically desperate for Christ are you?
Be forewarned–if you pray that God will make you radically dependent on Him–know that the chinks, the rust and the stitches are coming your way, because you will be putting down your armor and picking up a cross. Thanks be to God.