Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cheat Grass of the Heart

Last summer, we had a terrible fire.  It wasn't huge, but any time you watch a fire burn out of control, it feels epic.  The ground has been scorched black since last summer and all the surrounding trees are still black sticks.  With the snow covering the ground, it was a bit easier to forget the damage, but now that the snow is all but gone, the black ground reappears in all its ugliness.

But, something new is covering the ground...Look:
Yup, it's cheat grass.  Here's what the Internet has to say about it: "Cheat grass is notorious for its ability to thrive in disturbed areas—common disturbances include construction, fire, floods, poor grazing activities, and intense recreation."  So true!  It is covering, slowly but surely, the whole area that was burned.  The secret to its success?  A wide spreading root system!  Its invasionary tactics will lead to further fires as it covers more and more, because it's a highly inflammable grass.

Makes me stop and wonder:  I love the new green carpet that is being laid down over the scorched earth, but now that I know what it is and what it will bring, I am less excited and a bit more reserved in my praise of this new life.  

This is Easter Week and it commenced with Jesus riding humbly on a donkey into the city of Jerusalem, to the people's cries of acclamation and praise.  In less than a week, many people would be shouting to Pilate for His death.  The people thought that the kind of life Jesus was bringing was going to be Roman-free.  He would use His mighty power (having been demonstrated with miraculous healings and even bringing the dead to life) to remove the ugly Roman presence from the promised land of God's chosen.  The scars of Roman oppression were everywhere, and Jesus seemed to be bringing a new kind of kingdom to cover the ugliness and bring new life to the people.

But Jesus' kingdom was not "cheat grass."  He didn't come to merely cover over the Romans with a new kind of rule by the Jews.  His kingdom was not going to be on the outside, visible to all and springing up quickly wherever He walked.  He knew the hearts of men:  merely overturning the social order would only lead to new oppression--sadly, those who are victimized often, when given power, will turn just as vicious as those they replaced. 

Jesus came to set up a kingdom in a renewed heart.  As Jesus observed: "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:21-3).  So, we can change the system and overturn the existing order, but without a changed heart, all the same sins come roaring in again, and make even the best efforts fail.

The people turned on Jesus when they realized His kingdom would not meet their demands.  Their hearts were angry and then turned wrathful.  How quickly they wanted the "cheat grass" of overturning the existing order to come and yet Jesus has a much more long-term solution in mind:  the real inward growth in each person's heart.  In other words, Jesus wanted spring in our hearts:  slow, germinating seeds of change, nurtured by the warmth of the Son and watered by the rains of His presence.  A heart so grown would produce a bounty of beauty:  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Gal. 5:22-4).  

That's why He died:  so that such fruit could be brought forth from a scorched heart from sin, and that spring would arrive in the ones who love Him.  No cheat grass--just a heart made new.  May spring and Easter be in your heart as you seek the risen Savior.  Just go to the tomb and look inside:  He is not there.  Ask Him into your heart, and that is where He will be.

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