A few weeks ago, 50 youth and leaders from The Tree Youth Ministry attended the Outcry Concert Series in Columbus, which featured Elevation Worship, Vertical Worship, Bethel Worship, and speaker Christine Caine from Hillsong Church in Australia. It was an incredible experience as thousands of people packed into the Schottenstein Center to spend the evening worshiping together. As I stood there, surrounded on all sides by people fully engaged in worship, I noticed something odd. Just a row in front of me, a few seats to my right, there was a couple sitting down scrolling through Facebook.
First thought: WHAT ARE THEY DOING?!?! Second, almost immediate, thought: How many times have I taken a similar posture in God’s presence? That question stung a little because you would probably be ashamed of me if you knew the answer. How many times have I allowed my own troubles to be my focus during church instead of focusing on the truth God wants me to hear? How many times has my prayer time turned into a re-hashing of past events and conversations? How often have I missed God’s open-handed offering to change my situation because I’m distracted? The answer is too many.
I was so quick to judge that couple, but immediately God challenged my perspective as He often does. I began to think of the criminals who were crucified beside Jesus, whose conversation is recorded in Luke 23:39-43: One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The first criminal completely misses Jesus despite being literally in His presence, but the second criminal seizes his opportunity to speak truth and seek forgiveness. Unfortunately, I’ve been both criminals in my life, but I pray I can consistently acknowledge the presence of God and get out of His way to allow Him to move in my life. Make it your goal this week to find God wherever you are or however you feel, and take the posture of the second criminal: Jesus, You didn’t deserve it…I do, but please remember me in Your kingdom.