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Gray and Plaid

The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
    to see if there are any who understand,
    who seek after God.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
    there is none who does good,
    not even one.
Psalm 14:2-3

I’m reading through the kings again. A decade ago I tucked into my Bible a chart detailing the names, dates, years of reign and “character” of each of the kings of Israel and Judah.  The character column lists simply, “good” or “bad.”  Yesterday a Sunday school student showed me his Bible’s updated table. It adds “mostly good” and “mostly bad” to the characterizations.

Saul-“mostly bad.” Recall: Early pardon of his enemies AND spears aimed for David.

David-“mostly good.”  Recall: Goliath, psalms galore, grace to bloodthirsty Saul AND Bathsheba.

Solomon-“mostly good.”  Recall: Prayer for wisdom, temple construction AND 1000 wives, princesses and concubines.

Fast forward a half dozen or so kings to wicked king Ahab.  Ahab who “did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel before him.” Whose hundreds of priests of Baal faced off  against Elijah on Mt. Carmel.  Who, with his lovely Jezebel, knocked off righteous Naboth. For his vineyard. The murderous thug.  Big, ugly, sin.  Selfish,ugly, melancholic king. 

But Ahab humbled himself.  God saw his contrition.  Bad king (mostly).  Repentant king, shown mercy.  Maybe enough to move from the “bad” to “mostly bad” category?

It works both ways.

Three kings later: Jehu- zealous for God.  So zealous that he executes Jezebel, slaughters Ahab’s 70 sons.  Not satisfied, Jehu “with cunning” manages to gather the prophets and worshipers of Baal worshipers and wipe them out too.   Such a righteous warrior!  Good-er, make that “mostly good.”  

Jehu didn’t “turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam” the worship of the golden calves.  His zeal was incomplete; Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord with all his heart. 

As I make my way down through the royal annals one truth is inescapable: the good kings are not all good, and the bad are not all bad.

I think God does not want this inconvenient truth obscured.  No one is righteous, no not one. Neither is His arm too short or his ear stopped to the cries of the humble and contrite.  Ezekiel preached it to God’s exiled people. 

Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. (18:25-27)

A few days ago we received a letter from the Voice of the Martyrs ministry.  It explained that Tom White, VOM’s longstanding director and public face, had taken his own life. On April 25th, with allegations of sexual molestation of a minor becoming public, he quit the fight.  (See a beautifully written letter to his victim at http://www.wadeburleson.org/2012/04/sin-and-suicide-of-voice-of-martyrs.html) I have long supported VOM and its ministry to persecuted Christians around the globe.  I pray for God’s blessing on its leaders, especially now.  Tom White’s front cover inspirational editorial of the May issue was still sitting atop my reading pile. 

My stomach still churns, my mouth grimaces at the thought of it all.  The impact on the ministry, the victim, his family, the suffering saints in North Korea and Columbia and Nigeria whose causes he championed all these years.  A seasoned and mature seeming saint, imprisoned in Cuba decades ago for his faith.  Good?  Mostly good?  A sexual predator and hypocrite.  Bad?  The Lord only knows.

If you envision “good”  (or “mostly good”) in the column after your name in listed, 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 has a word for you:  Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

And if you’re feeling like your epitaph would more likely include “bad” (or “mostly bad”), take heart from persecutor turned apostle Paul, The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.(1 Timothy 1:15-16)



Pondering this with my mom she nodded, smiled knowingly and recited:

No one whose good is all good, 
Or whose bad is all bad.
Rather we’re all shades or gray
Or plaid.

That’s me.  Us.  We’re gray and plaid.  Not all good, not all bad.  Serving with joy one moment and then wallowing in jealous, self-pity the next.   Check out Jon Bloom’s blog “You don’t have to obey.”  His depiction of the war that rages within is right on. 

I know it.  I live it.  I hate to admit it, but I lose sleep over my desires, turned demands, turned idols.  I don’t always fight sin hard enough, drawing strength from my union with Him, from His Spirit within.  Ugly, sinful, melancholic.  I, Abigail, am Ahabesque. But I am not a slave to sin. No sir! 

We have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end eternal life.  (Romans 6:22)

Good.  Very good.