We read from the gospel of Matthew (1:1-16) yesterday morning. There’s a similar story in Luke (3:23-38) and we could have just as well read that, but for some reason I chose to go with Matthew. And probably for the same reason (the one that starts with ‘I don’t have a clue’) I chose to read from the New International Version. Could have read the “begats’ from the King James, or read how Abraham had Isaac who had Jacob in the Message, but I went with the NIV.
Matthew starts with Abraham and works his way down to “Joseph, the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ”. Luke starts with Jesus, “the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,” and works his way backward to “Adam, the Son of God’. Basically the same thing in each account: Jesus is assumed to be the son of Joseph; and these long lists comprise Joseph’s family tree. Two long lists, one longer than the other, but they both tell the same basic story: the lineage of Jesus, which along the way shows the connection to David required by the Messianic Prophecies.
Now included in each of these lists are some pretty strange people; strange in the sense of how in the world did they get to be included in Jesus’ family tree. There are liars, cheats, thieves and all sorts of unsavory people in that lineage, and we spent some time talking about how God can use the most unlikely people for His purposes. And I admit that when it comes to strange and unlikely, I have to raise my hand. Actually I should raise both of them, but God still uses me…
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve come across this idea in several places: a magazine article, a blog or two, a couple of tweets, and tonight in a book I was skimming through to see if I want to buy it. (Still haven’t decided but probably yes). And one of the main sub-points is that Satan tells us that because of our past, God could never use us. God on the other hand, says that He uses us despite our past.
So if God can use us regardless of the past that we have managed to create for ourselves, why are we so insistent on letting that past define us? What we did is not who we are; and who we are and what we are doing as a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) is much more important in the eternal scheme of things.
If God insisted on using only perfect people to do his work, then He would be doing everything Himself.
My challenge for the upcoming year is to really let go of my past and quit using it as an excuse for staying away from God, for not doing what He asks me to do, and for not following where the Resurrected Jesus leads me.
Should be an interesting ride!
(BTW, the correct answer is: He can use anybody He wants to use – me and you included)