So today in church we started a new sermon series entitled "legends" where we're basically learning about the lives of biblical legends. Today we kicked it all off with Gideon. I was super stoked about this because Gideon is my favorite old testament figure. (Not including Jesus, because he should be everybody's favorite, Peter's my favorite new testatment guy)
There are a lot of parts of Gideon's story that I could talk about tonight but then this would probably be longer than one of Sadie's posts and I wouldn't want to do that to any if you ;)
When we first meet Gideon he's in a winepress, threshing wheat to keep it hidden from the Midianites. He's an average farmer working hard to keep his crop from his oppressors. And then an angel just comes and sits down under a tree and says to him " The Lord is with you, mighty warrior" or "mighty man of valor". Nobody had any reason to believe that Gideon was a warrior. Let alone a mighty one. He was just a farmer. But, as Pastor Mark said today, God loves to give nicknames. But these aren't names for things we are or have done. They are names for what He knows we can and will do. (I mean, Abraham was childless when he was called the father of many nations. Peter was anything but solid and strong when Christ told him he'd be the rock on which the church was built) Gideon was by no means a mighty warrior when that angel met him under that tree. But God knew what was in store for him. He knew he would go on to glorify Him by defeating the Midianites with only 300 men.
I know I am not God (shocking, right?) and I do not have the ability to see or know what people will do in the future. But what if I started thinking like that. Not so much in an "I'll like you when you change" kind of way but in an "I'm going to love you now because of who you will become" kind of way. How differently would my interactions with people be if I truly considered their worth in the Kingdom of God?
I've realized that I have no trouble feeling compassionate towards the weak and downtrodden. I know that I have a heart for the outcasts of society. It is not hard for me to see Christ in the lowest of the low - and that makes it easier to see them as the warriors they can become instead of the farmers they may be. But I am not a very merciful person. Especially towards those I feel have control over their situations. And I saw that this week. When my group didn't answer my questions during debrief or seemed uninterested in digging deeper into their experiences to see what God was showing them, I got frustrated. They had all the resources they needed to make this a meaningful experience but they weren't willing to put in the work. It was their fault. They deserved whatever they got out of their time here. I saw them only as the young, immature junior high students I saw in front of me. But what if I had taken some time to consider the men and women of God these kids are going to grow up to be. What if I had taken time to think about how this experience would shape the people they would eventually become? Maybe I would have been a little more patient. Maybe I would have probed further. Maybe I would have gone out of my way to help the kids feel comfortable opening up to me. I don't think it was a bad week by any stretch of the imagination. But it definitely could have been better. I think the group learned a lot and they certainly worked hard and had hearts for all God's children. But I don't think they quite grasped the purpose behind their service. And I can't help but wonder how much of that is my fault. There's nothing I can do to change this past week, but I can learn from it. The next time I see somebody who appears to be an Industrious Farmer* like Gideon, I need to look deeper for the Mighty Warrior they will become.
When that transformation from farmer to warrior occurs there is room only to praise and glorify God. Gideon led 300 men into battle against the Midianites and came out victorious. Abraham fathered Isaac from whom an entire nation was born. Peter, probably the most ridiculous of all the disciples, became the leader of the early church -the best model of Christian community we could ever ask for. Joseph, the arrogant young dreamer, saved multiple nations from a deadly famine.
In each of these individuals God looked past the farmer to the warrior He designed them to be. I'm not God. I can't know what that warrior looks like for each person I encounter this summer. But I can look for it. And I can have faith that God knows the warrior inside each farmer. And He knows how that person will eventually be able to boast only in His triumphs.
*I do not think there is anything wrong with being a farmer, I am merely using an illustration from the story of Gideon to make the point that the Children of God are more than they appear in the here and now*