Monday, December 05, 2016


It would do me well to ALWAYS remember these two little facts.

One___Every coin has two sides.

Two___There were two brothers in the story of the prodigal son.

So, "What's the deal with those two statements?" you ask.

FIRST the two brothers thing.

When I discovered the "far country" brother in the story of the prodigal son, I was ELATED because I could see myself in him. Grace IS wonderful, is it not!

Then I discovered the "In the field" brother and I saw how he condemned the "far country" sibling and I got ANGRY at the "In the field" guy and all those like him who condemn those who had been in the "Far country."

And to this day many Christians often condemn other Christians who may find themselves acting like the "Far country" guy, in their opinion.

"Boy, those 'In the field' people [elder brother] are REALLY filled with pride and they don't even see it, shame on those 'in the field' characters." I have said or thought judgmentally MANY TIMES.

But as I said that or thought that it was OBVIOUS I had failed to notice that the Father LOVED THEM BOTH. How novel is THAT!

NOW the coin thing.

It's amazing how so many so-called "Christians" can often be downright hateful and condemning in their words about the behavior of others, especially sexual behavior or divorce, and then excuse it with, "Oh I'm just expressing tough love by telling them the truth about their sin."

Can I say it? Baloney.

If we Christians REALLY want to tell the truth about SIN, let's deal with the pride, gluttony, selfishness, egotism, lying, hatred and anger, found in our own lives. Oh, wait, we can't go there, that’s our stuff!

I believe “tough love” REALLY means doing just that. Actually going there. Going down deep in our OWN life to do battle with the reality of our OWN garbage. Especially the stuff like our OWN temptation to be MORE concerned about being RIGHT than being GRACIOUS. Deep enough to face our OWN twisted need to have the LAST WORD and to WIN an ARGUMENT even if we have to be ARGUMENTATIVE and ANGRY to do it. In other words, facing our OWN propensity for winning at any cost.

Tough love means the love of Christ in us is tough enough to help us see the TRUTH [log] about ourselves before looking at the SIN [splinter] in someone else. The funny thing is, I think we’ll find REALLY ourselves being able to be far more gracious once we’ve seen our OWN “log.”

That’s having tough love.

That's what I would call side "A" of the coin.

But the flip side [B] of that coin is important too and it is being willing to know that our opinion on ANY ISSUE is NOT the last word. We would ALL do well to ALWAYS remember that our opinion is NOT the most important thing in any conversation whether in person or on the Internet.

When I remember this, I WON'T get caught up in thinking my opinion NEEDS to be heard. I think it MAY WELL BE that the ability to know what I say ISN'T the most important thing in any REAL conversation, is ALMOST as important as being willing to stand for truth. That's side "B" of the coin.

I guess you could call that the heads AND tails of the coin of sharing ideas and learning to do so with genuine humility. I need both sides of that coin in my life.

It may be good at this point to be reminded that TRUE HUMILITY, at least according to a friend of mine, isn't thinking LESS of yourself. It's thinking of yourself LESS. When my friend said that, he was paraphrasing what C.S. Lewis said with this, "An humble person will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can tell him the first step is to realize that one really does suffer from PRIDE, and that really is a problem."

What both my friend and C.S.Lewis said points out to me that WHEN I think that WHAT I think about other people's OPINIONS or BEHAVIOR is the FINAL WORD and MUST be heard, I've really got a pride problem.

My love for them and grace shown to them SHOULD be my final focus. When that's true of me, THEN I'll leave the "JUDGMENT" of their opinions AND behavior to the One Who knows the HEART of the matter! [Owe NO person ANYTHING except to love that person.The rest we can work out in a true relationship.

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


It literally thrilled me to read your words this morning. Does that sound a bit "over-the-top"? It's true!!

For some time now I've been speaking of this parable in a similar way. Why, oh, why has my eyes been opened to these truths so late in life??

The story simply resonates with the love of our Father and His amazing grace towards us.

I love that short sentence,"It's thinking of yourself LESS."

That last paragraph says so much. If I was to consciously deal with others as our gracious God has dealt with me, I would never have the temptation to be the sheriff on the block!

Great reminder about what this Christmas season is all about!

Thank you!

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

You are ALWAYS more than gracious with your remarks! Thanks for reading AND commenting.

Tom said...

Paul, the manifested sins of "pride, gluttony, selfishness, egotism, lying, hatred and anger" when we only focus on them hid from our view the underlying reason for these sins to begin manifesting in our lives.

The two brothers committed the same sin towards their father by turning away from him. The younger brother turned away when he went away to another land. The older brother turned away from his father when he disagreed with his fathers forgiveness of the younger brother when he returned.

The Jewish tradition provided "laws" by which we could mask the underlying sin in our lives by dealing exclusively with the resulting manifestation of the underlying sin in our lives. Kind David's sin of killing and adultery only masked his sin of turning away from God.

That sin was dealt with when he repented of that sin, but the consequences of the manifested sins remained with him for the rest of his life as can be observed in the OT's account of his life.

We need to repent of turning away from God so that we can deal with the manifesting sins of having turned away from God. When we do repent of turning away from God, God is able to heal us and change us such that our changed heart can begin to shine and show our love of God to others.


Rex Ray said...


Glad to see you writing again after about two months. I’ve been missing you. Out pastor told us you’d be coming to our neck in the woods pretty soon.

Sometimes I think of my twin brother as being the prodigal son. We had never been apart over three days in 22 years and were to finish our senior year in college. I asked if he had gotten enrolled OK.

He said the ROTC program had changed and they turned him down because he wore glasses. He said he was going to the University of Alaska. I said I’d go with him, but he said we didn’t have enough money. He was right about that as he got there with less that $20. He left in four hours in a 5 year old beat up car we bought for $300. He didn’t tell our parents. I felt like I’d lost my right arm.

Our dad said he wasn’t going to eat till he heard from him, but after three days he started eating after saying, “That boy never was good about writing”