Busted Bamboo

Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
    and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
    and deprive the innocent of his right! – Isaiah 5:22-23

For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. – Matthew 7:2

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This cut-off bamboo stalk reminds me of the promise of God in Isaiah 42:3, “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.” Photo taken at Mercer Arboretum, February 2016

Have you ever been busted? Not by the police – though that would certainly qualify – but by your son or daughter, a co-worker, neighbor or friend? I have. It’s amazing how undone I was when it happened.

It was 1992 at Rosswood Country Club golf course. Our family membership there (in Arkansas) cost just a bit more than a membership at the local pool, and provided free golf, tennis, and pool privileges. It was quite a deal for a young family on a tight budget: built-in entertainment and family fun. Once in a while we would go there for Sunday lunch after worship – a real treat!

On the day of busting (probably a Friday afternoon) I was finishing a round of golf with a couple of pastor buddies and heading toward the 18th green when suddenly my second-oldest son shows up. What’s the problem you say? Well, I was smoking a cigarette and as far as my family was concerned I didn’t smoke! I was so busted. Undone.

There is, however, something far worse than being discovered to be a golf course smoker. (I’ve since moved on to a very occasional cigar on the golf course during the 5 or 6 rounds of golf per year that I play.) The far worse thing is to be found to be more stern on others while justifying my own affluence; making the poor bear the burden of my ease of life; being a heroic wine-drinker while mocking the wino, or mixing drinks like a master bartender while making fun of the alcoholic who has just fallen off the wagon. It’s pretty easy these days of festive abandon.

The judgment of God is without fault on any of these fronts. He has done nothing wrong of which we can accuse him; we’ll never bust him. Nor has he made fun of those who sin in an attitude of smug superiority. Rather he searches for the lost and parties with the repentant sinners.

For that to happen he had to take on human flesh and dwell among us. And that he did 2000 years ago. For that we can thank God. Because of that, we may also remember to be gracious to others – just as God has been gracious to us.

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