A couple weeks ago one of the teens jokingly told me (at least, I hope she was joking!) that I was an evil dictator. As it turned out, her comment fit right into the lesson, because I was talking about how we deal with authority.
Last night I built on that lesson some more. After welcoming the sixth graders (last night was the first youth group Bible study they were invited to attend), I started picking on one of them.
"Suppose I walked out behind the church, and I discovered that Marissa was out back there smoking a cigarette. Of course, I wouldn't be too impressed with that, since smoking is not just unhealthy, it's also against the rules. So I would probably scold her pretty good." (By the way, Marissa has assured me that she does not smoke, which I'm very glad of!)
"Now suppose instead that I didn't find Marissa smoking -- in fact, suppose that Marissa wasn't smoking at all, but Rachel came up to me and said, 'Doug, Marissa is out back smoking!' So I go out back and, without giving her an opportunity to speak or defend herself, start scolding and yelling at her. After all, I am an evil dictator, right?
"In one of those situations, I'm being completely fair and reasonable, in the other I am not. But how should Marissa respond in these two situations?"
This question is exactly what Peter talks about in 1 Peter:
It's not enough to respond graciously and with submission when treated fairly -- Peter says that the true test of your character comes out in the way you respond when treated unfairly.
And it gets worse...in the next verse (1 Peter 2:21), Peter tells us that we have been called for this purpose -- to bear up patiently under unjust suffering. The question is not: Will I be treated unfairly? -- that's just a fact of life. The real question is: How will I respond when I am treated unfairly?
Peter tells us that in bearing up patiently under unfair and unreasonable treatment, what we are really doing is following in the footsteps of Jesus, who willingly submitted to the most unfair and unreasonable of all punishments -- the cross of Calvary.
How often we say, "I want to be like Jesus," but we certainly don't want to be like Jesus in this regard! Instead, we are likely to respond to unfair treatment with anger and bitterness, instead of with love and forgiveness.
I was thinking recently about the time I spent in the university orchestra while I was a college student. I particularly remember our orchestra conductor, Anatole, who told many stories. Here's one he told during an orchestra rehearsal.
He was once part of a quartet that was working on a piece of music by a modern composer. It was a piece of music that had "more black than white on the page," which is a way of saying that there were lots and lots and lots of very fast notes! So this quartet worked and worked and worked to get every last note perfect. Then, a couple weeks before they were supposed to perform the premiere of this quartet, the composer showed up to hear them practice.
"WHAT are you doing?" he demanded as they played his composition for him.
"What do you mean?" they asked.
"Why are you playing all those notes?"
"That's what's on the page," they said.
The composer was disgusted. "I didn't put those notes down because I wanted you to play every single one of them -- they were just to give you a general idea of what to play."
Now, I don't know about you, but I would have been pretty disgusted with the composer if I'd worked for so long to play what he had written, only to find out "he didn't really mean it."
That got me thinking, I'm awfully glad God isn't like that. God doesn't play guessing games with us...he makes it very clear what He expects of us.
In the book of Micah, the Israelites are asking God, "What do you want us to do to please you?" And God essentially says, "This is no guessing game...I've already told you!"
These are the "notes" God has written on the page, and they are the notes he wants us to play. Unfortunately I think we lose sight of what is written on the page because we think God is playing guessing games with us. We spend all our time worrying about "What school am I going to go to?" or "What job will I take?" or "What color shirt does God want me to wear this morning?"
Perhaps if we spent our time worrying about the notes which are actually written down, everything else would just fall into place. But, of course, if we spend all our time worrying about those other things, we'll lose sight of the really important stuff...
...and once we've lost sight of those things, it really doesn't matter what school we go to, what job we take, or what shirt we wear, because we're not playing the music God has written for us anyway!