Stephen’s cell phone chimed. The caller ID showed Nathan was calling.
“Hi Nathan, what’s up?”
“I need to ask you to check on something for me.”
“Be glad to. What is it?”
“My son is missing his Black Ops Call of Duty game for his Play Station. He thinks maybe your twins took it after they spent the night with us. Could you check on this for me?”
“Yea, sure,” Stephen replied. He ended the call and was at once angry that his friend would accuse his twins of such a thing and incredulous that they would take something that didn’t belong to them.
But, he would check on it anyway.
Stephen called his two 12 year-old twin boys. “Matthew, Michael, come here.” NOW!”
The two boys hurried into the kitchen knowing their dad meant business.
“Mr. Miller just called. He said Zack’s Black Ops game cartridge is missing and that you boys took it. Is this true?”
“No sir,” they both answered simultaneously. Matthew fidgeted as if guilty.
“I guess I need to take a look around your room and see for myself,” their dad responded.
Michael confessed. “Uh, we were just borrowing it for a little while.”
“Borrowing it, huh? Well, I don’t think so. That’s not what Zack’s dad said. Boys, you took it without permission, didn’t you?”
Michael’s face reddened. “Yes sir, we did, but it was Matthew’s idea. Matthew was the one who wanted it and talked me into putting it in our overnight bag. It’s his fault!”
The boys argued back and forth blaming each other until their dad finally had enough. “Both of you are guilty. I can’t let this go without some consequences. I’m taking your Play Station, computer, and TV out of your room where you will be confined for the rest of the day and tonight. And, we will all go over to the Millers’ and you will apologize to Zack and his mom and dad and return what isn’t yours.”
“Ah but dad, you’re not being fair!” Michael argued. “It’s not a big deal, and we were going to give it back to Zach.
“Oh shut up, Michael, and take your medicine,” Matthew told him.
After they returned from the Miller’s, Stephen took out their game console, computer, and TV.
“You boys can come out for supper, and then spend the rest of the evening in your room.” Dad put down the law to them.
After a quiet, tense supper, the boys returned to the bedroom they shared together.
“Dad’s just not fair!” Michael whined. “He has the money to get me that Black Ops game and knows how bad I want it. I’m going to get it too one way or the other. He’ll see. He’ll see how unfair he’s been to me. I’ll show him!”
Matthew replied, “But Michael, we really did steal that game. And you know as well as I know we weren’t going to give it back to Zack.”
“Well, we’d have gotten away with it if you hadn’t opened your big mouth,” Michael replied in anger.” Why did you do that? I hid it good in our room. Dad would have never found it. NEVER! It could have been mine! I hate my dad. He’s never liked me. If he did, he would have gotten me that Black Ops game!
“Oh, come off it,” Matthew told him. Dad was right and you know it. He could have done a lot worse than take out our stuff and send us to our room. This has taught me a lesson. I ain’t never goin’ to do anything like this again! I don’t like dad being mad at me and...”
Matthew interrupted him and exclaimed, “You’re a jerk!” You’re just a jerk, and I don’t like you either!”
Time passed by. Matthew continued in his ways making his dad very sad and grieved. Stephen didn’t know what to do with his son. No amount of talking and no kind of restriction had much of an effect on his rebellious son. Stephen tried to reach out to his son through reasonable and loving discipline, but Matthew would have none of it. Matthew went his own way which wasn’t a good way at all. Father and son became more and more estranged from each other with each passing year.
Michael continued in his ways too. He took correction from his dad with grace. He was grieved when he disappointed his dad by something bad he occasionally did. He tried to fly right and did most of the time. He and his dad became the best of friends.
The two boys went off to college. One weekend, Michael came home for a visit.
“Hey dad, I’m going out with Beverly tonight for dinner and a movie. We haven’t seen each other in quite a while.
Yea, OK. Be careful. It’s a rough night out there with the rain.
It was a nice evening for them. But as Michael neared home, a car ran a stop sign and plowed into him.
Michael regained consciousness in the hospital. He had a concussion, broken arm, and a couple of bumps and bruises.
As his eyes focused, he made out his dad and mom standing beside him. They were there for him. To comfort and care for him. To see him home.
Matthew and Michael, two identical twins with the same father and mother. One shook his fist at his dad and said that his dad didn’t love or care for him. The other confessed when he had committed a wrongful act and accepted his father’s loving and fair discipline.
One grew up the hard way with a lot of hard knocks, bumps, and bruises. The other grew up respecting authority and accepting responsibility for his actions even when he was wrong.
It wasn’t Stephen’s will that Michael ended up in the hospital that night. Yes, he bought a nice used car for both of his sons. He gave permission for them to use their cars and didn’t object when Michael went on his date that rainy night.
Bad stuff happens, but Michael’s dad was there for him. He was always there because he cared.
Michael finished college. Matthew dropped out and blamed everyone else for his failure. It was the professors being unfair. It was his dad putting pressure on him. It was this, and it was that.
As Matthew grew older, he tried to make it in this old world. But, his bitterness and resentment and thinking that everyone was unfair to him nailed him to the wall of hard knocks. He hardly ever spoke with his dad much less visited him. And, he decided that there was no God, and if there was a God, he certainly didn’t think He cared a hoot for him. Needless to say, he never darkened the doors of a church.
And so ends the parable of Michael and Matthew. I’ve seen it many times. I’ve seen the Michael’s and Matthew’s. I too have been both. Bitter and convinced God was my foe. Happy and convinced that God was my friend. Ready to drop out of church and the ministry. Ready to persevere and fulfill what God called me to do.
It isn't that God is hostile to us. It is that we are hostile to God. The Scripture records, “The sinful mind is hostile to God...Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8).
And thus, we come under the judgment of God. It’s not pleasant. Ask Jonah about his time in the belly of the great fish or the time God destroyed the crops of a rebellious Israel with a locust invasion.
And ask Saul of Tarsus. Jesus met Saul on the Road to Damascus. He told him, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads" (Acts 9:5). It’s painful to run through God’s roadblocks which He places in our paths to get our attention. “The way of transgressors is hard” (Proverbs 13:15).
Yet, his judgment is a component of His grace and mercy. Stephen punished his boys after they stole the video game hoping to redeem them. Matthew kicked against the punishment. Michael accepted it and vowed to change.
Matthew became estranged from his dad convinced his dad was mean and uncaring because he wouldn’t give him everything he wanted. On the other hand, Michael developed a loving relationship with his father convinced that his father really cared for him.
Two identical twins. Two different outcomes.
And what about Michael’s accident? Stephen didn’t will it. Did he allow it? Yes. He bought his son a car and allowed him to drive it. But it was not Stephen’s act that caused Michael pain. His pain was caused by another person. His pain represents the pain we receive from just living in a fallen world. People run stop signs. People disobey the law. People sometimes are mean and cruel too. But, let’s not blame God for living in a fallen world.
Instead, see the Father of us all as coming to the hospital to comfort and care for us. To pay the bill. To take us home to the place of refuge and recuperation.
Michael saw. Matthew didn’t.
Jesus said, “They have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them” (Matthew 13:15).
And may our eyes turn to that Friday which forever showed God’s highest and most supreme effort to prove to us that He is friend and not foe. It was on that Friday when Jesus suffered inexpressible horror, suffering, and death on the cross. There, He demonstrated once and for all that God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit loves and cares for me and you.
By this act, Christ broke down the wall of hostility that we have toward God and validated that God is our Friend, Savior, and Redeemer.
“For Jesus himself is our peace and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility...His purpose was to reconcile us to God through the cross, by which he put to death our hostility toward God” (Ephesians 2:14-17).
So then, let us lift our eyes to the cross and see. Let us see that God is our friend even if it takes spending time in the belly of a great fish or having everything wiped out by a plague of locusts. Sometimes, it takes a time-out in our rooms stripped of everything fun.
God’s punishment is meant for us to open the window toward heaven and see, think, and understand God’s beautiful and wonderful intention to redeem us and have a love relationship with us. Open the window. Lift up your eyes and see, really see that God is our friend and not our foe.
Let us also see that bad things happen to us just because we live in a fallen world.
And when these bad things happen, let us know and feel the Father standing beside our hospital bed through the Holy Spirit and through caring, loving people he sends to comfort us.
Jesus paid the bill with his blood and will take us home to the place of refuge where no tears fall, no sickness is known, and death is swallowed up in victory.†
Lord, the light of your love is shining
In the midst of the darkness, shining
Jesus, Light of the world, shine upon us
Set us free by the truth you now bring us
Shine on me, shine on me.
Lord, I come to your awesome presence
From the shadows into your radiance
By the blood I may enter your brightness
Search me, try me, consume all my darkness
Shine on me, shine on me.
Rev. Dan White is a free lance writer and founder and pastor of North Columbia Church, Appling, GA You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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