Dream word – SLAP
“Paul surveyed the members of the council with a steady gaze, and then said his piece: ‘Friends, I've lived with a clear conscience before God all my life, up to this very moment.’ That set the Chief Priest Ananias off. He ordered his aides to slap Paul in the face. Paul shot back, ‘God will slap you down! What a fake you are! You sit there and judge me by the Law and then break the Law by ordering me slapped around!’” (THE MESSAGE by Eugene H. Peterson.)
Recently, I hired the services of a mystery shopper. Via a Christian organisation I paid for a non-Christian to go into a local church and report on a set of criteria ranging from welcome to worship, the accuracy of notice board facts and even friendliness. The report back was very instructive and as a side issue, the church in question appeared to fair very well. In our text for tonight, the apostle Paul is visited by a mystery slapper. However, the report back, is maybe not so good. Even so, I reckon we are all in need of a visit from some mystery slappers and it would appear that God in His outrageous goodness, sends them along quite regularly!
Observing and reporting on the apostle Paul’s reaction to this mystery slapper, both here and later in the passage, does gives me some hope as to my own humanity. Not excuse for sin mind you, no, but hope as to the imperfect kind of vessel God still deems to use. Later, just a few verses down from this, Paul’s political machinations are going to open a whole can of trouble for him! But here, please note that the slap in the face, is followed by an instantaneous fight response from Paul in the form of a strong verbal threat and then a swift following curse in the shape of a desire for of God’s largest of hands to be sent slapping across the face of the seeming source of his present humiliation and pain, that being, the High priest himself. It has always been the best test of a man’s sanctification to first falsely accuse him and then publicly slap him. Our response to such treatment, will always reveal how far we have gone, how far we have left to go in our own google.com sanctification.
If you know someone who exhibits an “holier than thou, I have arrived and have much to teach you” kind of attitude, may I invite you please, to just walk up to him and slap around the face a bit. If he is wise, then he shall find his response to such treatment most instructive to himself. I wonder if mystery slappers should be employed by most selection committees and then following employment, should be recruited to go slap the pastor on at least a bi-annual basis? I think it’s a thought worthy of further consideration, especially if the pastor has not been thoroughly weaned from seminary yet.
If you have been around long enough, you will undoubtedly have had one of those condemning conversations, maybe one of those spiritually castrating letters, which question your heart, question your morals, question your calling, question your integrity? If you haven’t had yours yet, well just wait a while, it’s coming! Maybe the following instruction will be of help to you when it arrives.
I spoke with a man who had this happen to him, and he told me that after his initial Pauline response to the slap in the face, a good walk to both talk with God and to work off the adrenalin had brought to him a quiet revelation, which was followed on by almost a fit of giggles! For he realised in full, that what had been said about him was in fact nowhere near the truth of just how bad he really was! He certainly was not fit to be in any holy calling, indeed, he was there only by the grace of God. More than that though, if what was in his heart had been manifest much more externally than it had been, then he would by now be the only person still locked up on Alcatraz. “If they knew how bad I really was,” he said, “They wouldn’t come anywhere near me.” The fact that he was much worse than the mystery slapper had said, and that God still loved and used him, simply made him giggle.
Paul knew he was better than those who had slapped him around. Paul also knew that he was as bad as and if not worse than them.
If the boiler of your actions, if the rudder of your choices, if the aiming ballista of your own fiery tongue, yes, if your heart itself is to be judged by others, then in all possibility, every accusation will stand true....and then some! Once you see that the ridiculous response of self-protection to such a small slap in the face from a mystery slapper, is of slight regard in comparison to the unseen and hidden, raging drives and actions of your heart, then I can see how such a realisation, how such a revelation, can lead to fits of giggles. I am sure, each one of us are all far, far worse, than anyone else could ever realise. If you don’t think you are, then my friend, I prophesy that a slappin’ is a comin! Watch out now.
Listen: “The power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realise that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” (Romans 7:17b-25 from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.)
Pray: Lord, thank You for the gift of the mystery slappers. Help me to take note of the white spittled mess slapped from the bowels of my soul, that I later will find lain across my bright red, stinging cheek. Amen.
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