My Thorn? Or is it Thorns?

The problem…

I’ve been really wrestling with some things in a social group I frequent. We’re told to be in the world, and not of it. If you truly seek to obey Him, that will eventually lead you to a fork in the road, and not an easy choice in most cases. When you’re in the world, there will be plenty of temptations. That’s a fundamental problem, but you can best them in most cases. At some point, inevitably, it may become too much.

Here’s what I’m trying to say. If you’re avoiding sin, but you’re in the world, you will notice it more all the time. I sat among some friends and watched them all revel in sin the entire afternoon. There was lying, cheating, stealing, planning to do harm to others, and blatant disregard for others’ well-being all the while. And not only were they fine with it but these sins were also celebrated. I was growing sicker by the minute.

This brought me to the proverbial fork in the road. Premise – be among sinners (be in the world). Possibility one – sin more, potentially, by repeated exposure. Possibility two – avoid exposure by leaving the group. Do you see the problem?

The reality for me is simple, but like most of us, it’ll be hard, so I’m reluctant. If I choose the path away from the social group full of sin, I may or may not spare myself. That is unclear. But what IS clear, is that I’d be going the way of the Scribes and Pharisees. They believed they were without flaw, and distanced themselves from the drunks, gamblers, prostitutes, etc. They even poked fun and ridiculed our Savior for going directly to that specific crowd. And our Savior’s response was, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” In case you need that unpacked, the Pharisees most assuredly needed the Doctor on high, but they preferred to not be questioned about such matters. Instead, elevating themselves above those they should have been serving. And, you’ll notice, Jesus headed into the world, rather than avoiding it.

How can I take this path? How can I justify a withdrawal from the world? I can hardly share Him with the world if I’m not in it. This path appears to be off-limits to me.

The reflection…

At a recent ministry discussion, I challenged the folks I was among to open the Bible on a daily basis and pray to God that He would guide them to a bit of Scripture that would speak to them. Then, in order to drive that point home, I tapped the brakes on the ministry bus and we paused as a group to do exactly that. Rather than driving the ministry bus over them, and letting the chips fall where they may, we practiced together what a humble prayer for guidance might look like, then we read the Word, and discussed a bit about what revelations had occurred. We asked respectfully for the Word to speak to each of us in meaningful ways. Don’t mistake this for some ham-fisted method of two-way communication with the Almighty. This is an important distinction to make.

As I opined internally over the fork in the road, it was revealed to me that I wasn’t taking my own advice. Thus, I offered the Almighty a humble prayer that my reading would illuminate something to me that ultimately glorified Him. …And it did. I think. I plopped open the Good Book and the tail end of 2 Corinthians was opened to me. I read and read and it happened that the story of the thorn in the flesh jumped out at me a bit.

Maybe, just maybe, it makes sense that I accept this burden. After all, we’re talking about a thorn here. We’re not speaking of a gunshot wound to the gut. The thorn represents torment, but consider the size of the thorn. Yes, it is an irritant, but not life-threatening. That’s the metaphor. Paul wanted rid of his thorn and he begged the Lord three different times to relieve him of it. We don’t know what Paul’s thorn was, and it is important we don’t. I believe the thorn is a much better example when we apply it to ourselves in our way with our specific burdens. Paul was left with his thorn, as are we.

Is it painful? Yes. And can you withstand it? Also, yes.

The answer…

I’m renewed. I may find that I have multiple thorns, and I need to prepare for that. But I also have the energy and desire to serve. I’m reminded in times like this of Isaiah’s Commission, and find myself willing, in fact, obligated, to plunge my fist into the air and exclaim, “Here am I. Send me!” Why else have I been offered these many resources, if not to allow His Spirit to do the work? Less me, more Him. A retreat from the world in this sense isn’t contained anywhere in the text. Rather, despite the numerous troubles, thank Him and share the troubles with Him, as you walk unashamed through the world. This is what I shall do.

Now, I must read carefully the best practices contained in the Word. Acceptance from the world is unlikely and there are better ways than others to approach this. I suppose it revolves around my typical sign-off prayer in many of these blogs when I pray that we’re the preservation associated with salt and the visibility associated with light.

Could it be as simple as the foray of disciples into the world???

It should be noted, that in my premise and conclusion exercise above, I initially had it wrong. If that were true, we’d sin exponentially by sheer exposure. I left that flawed premise possibility in the blog, in hopes you caught it. …And if you didn’t, let this be a lesson to ponder. In every premise, you must first ask yourself, “In order for this premise and potential conclusion to be true, what things supporting it must be present, and are they?” Had I done that properly, I’d ascertained immediately, the fallacy that was not only pondered but written. …For I don’t have to adopt sin when it is presented to me. Neither do you.

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