Have you ever noticed how untroubled we are by the number of people who get killed in an action movie — as long as the hero remains alive? Good guys, as well as bad guys, are getting wasted right and left. But that doesn’t bother us as long as the protagonist emerges triumphant at the end of the flick.
This is the nature of an engrossing story. It is built around a central character. We grow to care for that character — and if he or she is still standing when the credits begin to roll, all is well. But what about all the other characters that weren’t so fortunate? They may not have been important to us, but were they not important to somebody? Were they not the central characters in other people’s stories?
OK, so I over-think some of the movies I go to. But I’ve noticed this tendency in my life (do you see it in yours?) to care deeply for the people who are significant to my story, while being far less concerned for those who are not. This is especially true when it comes to children. I have three of my own — and now two of them are married and have children. They mean the world to me.
They are the central characters in my story. And so I’m vitally interested in their lives, praying for them regularly and fervently. I resonated with the Apostle John when I read his words in 3 John 1:4 this past week: I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. The spiritual status of my kids is extremely important to me.
But what about the spiritual status (and general well-being) of other parents’ children? The day prior to reading 3 John 1:4, I saw something quite similar in 2 John 1:4 — but with a subtle difference. That difference caught my attention. (And one of the four kinds of observations to make while reading a passage is to look for something striking—something that, for whatever reason, catches our attention.) John writes: It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth.
Did you catch the difference? In 3 John 1:4, the apostle expresses his interest in “my” (i.e. his own) children. But in 2 John 1:4, he states his concern for “your” children. I like that balance. It reminds me to ask about and pray for other people’s children. Although these children are not central characters in my story — the stories of other parents revolve around them. So, in my conversations with moms and dads this week, I made sure to inquire about their kids.
By the way, did you notice how my observation became a message, which then became an application for my life? That’s the O–> M–> A of the COMA Bible study method that I coach in this blog and in my book, Walk. I hope you’re picking up the hang of it as you follow my posts, which comment on the daily Bible readings of Scripture Union’s 5-year schedule. (You can find a link to that schedule under “Resources” on the Bible Savvy website.)
And speaking of Scripture Union’s Bible reading schedule — today’s passage (at the time of writing) is Jude. This one-chapter epistle (just 25 verses long) is the second-to-last book of the Bible. It’s also the focus of my sermon at Christ Community Church this weekend. So, if after reading it, you want to know more about its content and application for your life, I encourage you to check out the sermon “Abusing Grace” at ccclife.org.