We’re posted up in Phnom Penh, the biggest city in Cambodia. Rob and I got a room on the 4th floor, and you climb a million stairs to get up there. You have to look hard for a quiet place if you want to have a prayer time. Down on the street, there is a cafe where I sat for a while, but horns are blasting and people are coming through selling things. They peak through the plants repeating the same words until you acknowledge them. Back in the room, it’s better even though it’s not “out”. Rob went to a Gloria Jeans coffee. I’m surprised they even have one here.
Anyway, who cares about any of that. I am reading this morning in Deuteronomy, where Moses is giving the people an account of the history of the generation before them, so they can enter the promised land without repeating their mistakes. I found it interesting that he said,
“It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land…”
I think that’s so counterintuitive for us as people, especially as believers. We are in trouble, like the people of Israel, we cry to God to get us out of evil we walked into, then when he does, our hearts are “raised up”. We are proud, forgetting the actual accounts of history, twisting it and taking credit for “boundary lines falling in pleasant places.” We begin to take credit for righteousness or achievement. This is huge. If we do this, we are elevated in our own hearts, judging and condemning others as a bi-product. We are the older brother of the prodigal, the ungrateful servants in the parable of the 11th hour.
God loves everyone and offers grace to all people. He demonstrates this over and over in the Old and, obviously, in the New Testament. He is constantly “grafting in” Gentiles like Rahab even including them in the line of Christ. For some reason, I have met Jesus and he is working in my life. It’s not my righteousness that got me here, so I shouldn’t take credit for it. Period. In reality, it’s my sin that got me here. Without it, I wouldn’t even need to be saved from anything.
Last night, Rob and I were in a “Smile” convenient store and these guys came storming in. They were tattooed, loud, and loading up on goodies for the evening. As they stammered around the register, Rob nudged me and pointed to the legs of one of the guys. He had tattoos-one on the back of each calf in big, block, capital letters written vertically. One leg said, “F**!” and the other said, “LIFE”.
Here in PP, anything goes. It’s dirty, there are brothels everywhere, booze flows like a river, and drugs are cheap and easy to get. If you walk around, people emerge from the darkness with options I won’t repeat. If you’re out for that kind of a “good time”, this place is more than happy to accomadate. Rob and I walked back to the hotel talking about the tattoo. This guy gets THAT tattooed on his body. It’s permanent. What kind of a head space is he in? The words say a lot. He is on a rampage of self destruction. He’s going to show God and whoever else that he can kill himself if he wants. What happened to him?
First thing I thought was, “Wow, thank God I don’t have that written on my legs.” But the fact is, I have thought like that too… for sure. There’s a temptation to elevate myself.
Now, if I had a wife and kids here, I would hide them from that guy, no doubt. But the only reason I don’t think like that anymore is because God has been working with me. For all I know, he is working on that guy too and he’s just running away. Maybe I’m not “partying” tonight because people like my Mom and Grandma prayed for me. I wonder… when was the last time anyone prayed for that guy? What if no one ever has?
The moment I think I am somewhere because of my righteousness, I am in danger of forgetting who is who, and who did what. Like Moses told the people. You are not on your way to the promised land because of anything you did. It’s because of what Jesus did. It helps me to keep that in mind. It helps me love people more. After all, it’s simple isn’t it? Love God, love people. Number one and number two.
“And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”