July 22, 2008

Testing Character

Luke 23:32-43; Romans 12:9-16; Philippians 2:1-11

I don’t know if it’s the case with everyone but a lot happened in my life when my father passed away. Sure there was the typical, “You’re the man of the family now” sort of stuff but the larger changes were under the surface. It is unknown what exactly my father died of but the process was slow . . . he had been going downhill for a while when he went into the hospital for a procedure just after his birthday, he never came home; a month and a half later he passed away.
Now I deeply miss my father, but I can never thank him enough for the lessons he taught me in the final days of his life. Dad was a decent guy, I would go as far as to say he was the typical man raised in the South. Showed respect, always helped others, didn’t make fun of anyone, laughed a lot, loved hanging out with family, and he didn’t seem to let things get to him too much. He was no saint by any stretch of the means, he had his flaws just like we all do.
You’ll note that I didn’t say much about him being a man of God. We went to church off and on growing up, I knew that dad believed in God and his faith was placed in Christ. I wouldn’t say that he was overly religious though. Todays reading reminded me of my father . . . especially during the last days of his life. I am the way that I am because I was raised to be who I am. If there are a few HUGE turning points in my life the death of my father was one of them. The reason was his strength of character stayed until the end.
In the new testament readings from today we’re given a guide on how to live. How to be humble, show respect, how to love, and so on. Romans 12:9-16 (read on to 21) gives us the groundwork for a peaceful society. In fact I’d go as far as to say that if a man were to model his life after this passage that few things could come along to rattle him. But Christ didn’t just leave us with instructions on life, but also in death. We are called to be salt and light of this world, but if we lose it in the end then what strength is there? If we should ever have peace it’s then isn’t it?
Christ was obedient to the end, but not just in following God’s will; Christ showed mercy and compassion as He hung on the cross. Asking His Father to forgive those that mocked Him, because they didn’t know what they were doing. I imagine the scene with horrific clarity as Christ hangs on the cross . . . telling the Criminal next to Him that “Today you shall be in paradise”. To the end, Christ showed love, compassion, humility, kindness even to His enemies; even to those that were driving nails through His body.
We all see hard times. We all have moments where we want to break and run. In being obedient through life, even unto death, we follow our King in likeness as we are called to do. If I were to have ‘cliff notes’ on how I need to act it would be these passages. They serve as a reminder, a mirror, and judge on my life. I’m not perfect, I often fall short of the mark. My hope is that one day, when the time comes, if I am in my father’s place towards the end of my life that I will be able to show the strength of character that he did in holding onto his faith and these verses, even to the end. Because of my father’s strength I sought out the source . . . because of the source I am the man I am today.

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