“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Relationship or principle

On my last submarine we had a great disappointment.

A first class petty officer Missile Technician was the best on the whole boat. He had recently come from shore duty as a shining star there, a leading instructor at that school command. This MT1 had professionalism, he was self-disciplined, he had a close, healthy rapport with the junior shipmates under his supervision, he had respect from the rest of the crew and the chiefs, and he was a balanced Christian. The command had voted him as the leading E-6 of the ship and the chiefs were giving him special mentoring. The command awarded him letters of appreciation and well-deserved accolades and medals. All this was to confirm to the Navy that this sailor should put on khaki at the next chief’s promotion board. MT1 was an example for the whole crew and we all held him in high esteem.

Then came the fateful day when one of his guys, with whom he had a tight relationship and in whom he trusted, while performing some minor maintenance, skipped over a step and forgot to return a little switch to its correct position. It was not as important as causing a casualty; it caused no nuclear weapon detonation, nuclear accident, or even a nuclear incident. But MT1 had the supervisory watch when the event happened and he signed off that the maintenance had been completed per procedure. MT1 did no wrong in this because he had not witnessed the oversight.

Later the discrepancy was discovered and MT1 was brought into the investigation. Now MT1 was thrown into a quandary. Should he join with writing up charges against his beloved junior sailor and testify against him at the captain’s mast? Should he hurt that close-knit love he had for his shipmate, that rapport that had been a beacon of light to the rest of the divisions on board, and which had provided such a wonderful learning atmosphere in which the junior MTs could develop into knowledgeable technicians?

Or should he try to cover it all up? Would he protect his guys from punishment? Or stand for the Navy’s high standard of compliance to procedure and attention to detail?

He wrestled with these questions. Whose side should he go with? What weighed more, the authority of the United States Department of Defense, or a soul whom he sought to help? Both decisions seemed right; yet both were brought into a mutual conflict. Before the disobedience to procedure the two principles of righteousness worked together beautifully. But now they were irreconcilable. Would he benefit the Navy or his shipmate?

Of course, as hard as it might be to decide at the time, it seems obvious to an outsider that to benefit the Navy’s standards meant to protect the lives of many sailors by devolving upon each sailor compliance to the rules of safe procedure, without which the deterrence ability of the United States government against the use of nuclear weapons by rogue nations with nuclear capability would be potentially affected. However, MT1 threw in all his weight which he had accumulated at the command and even with the squadron, on the side of the beloved sailor, seeking to shield him from harm.

Thus, he had to lie and cover up. He had to go against everything he had learned as a Christian and as a professional sailor in the U.S. Navy.

But the truth came to light, and far, far down he fell from the command’s good graces. He went to captain’s mast. And although he was not demoted and lost no income, yet he was censured and he lost the one and only opportunity to ever be promoted to chief. He had been put to the test and had proven that he could not be a chief. He could not hold the standards of the Navy as his highest standards. He did not believe that the Naval standards are unerring and carefully thought through, but sailors are faulty and often guided by self-interest. He could not separate himself from the personal relationships even when it meant upholding the authority of the military. His highest loyalty was to his friends.

I’ve learned a lot from that experience. I’m glad it wasn’t me who had to make that choice because it would have been a difficult one. And what about God? When Adam, God’s most wonderful and beloved creation, disobeyed the law of the government of God, what should the Lord God do to him? Should He do to Adam as Adam had done with Eve, and look the other way, repudiating His Law?

Adam is working in his heavenly garden of Eden which the Lord God had given to him and his beloved wife, when she appears with her arms full of the forbidden fruit and a big smile on her beautiful face. Instantly, he knows what all this means. Oh, the sorrow and trouble that immediately racked his soul!

He must instantly choose. Should he remain loyal to his Creator who had so lovingly and abundantly rained His blessings upon them in every conceivable way, and lose his beloved wife forever? Or should he join in disobedience with her, who had been such a huge source of human support and joy? Adam trembled terribly with the thought of losing her, and then without more weighing of the far-reaching consequences of obedience to God’s government he quickly took of the fruit and ate it. At that very time, Lucifer was charging God and His laws with intolerance and mismanagement.

Did the Lord God approve the decision of Adam, His favorite of the sons of God? Did He excuse this disloyalty because Adam’s motive for Eve was love? No, there is not a word of condoning disobedience to God’s government in all that transpired in the garden before their expulsion.

“Unto Adam He said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:17-19).

So, the Son of God did to Adam what Adam should have done to Eve. And like, MT1, Adam forever lost his kingdom and his kingship. His high office and status was never restored. MT1 stayed on board, having to relive that horrible day, never rising above E-6 and sharing that fate with his friend and shipmate, who forever felt guilty and ashamed for what he had caused his supervisor and mentor.

We all have this same scenario to reenact. We all have loved ones we want to protect. And protection is all part of love—so long as right-doing is part of the equation. But when some kind of disobedience enters, suddenly love cannot protect the loved one from the consequences of that disobedience—true love just cannot.

True love will seek to soften the impact of the consequence, but it will not stop the impact. Love will blend mercy with the justice, but it will not obstruct the work of justice. Neither will it join in the disobedience in the hope that it can overturn the definition of the law, simply by out-numbering it with transgressors of it. Right will always be right; and wrong is never right, even if the whole world says so.

But, the Lord God did something before executing justice on Adam and Eve. He executed it on Himself. He took two of His beloved sheep, and killed them, and used their skins to clothe the guilty couple. They were informed that what they now must suffer for the rest of their life, He would suffer also with them. The judgment He was giving them, He would one day suffer in their place and in the place of their children. He was crucified with us.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Jn. 3:16).

“Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He hath poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Is. 53:12).


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