Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pablo's Choice

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. - Ephesians 2:8~9

There were two friends, Pablo and Paris, who came from a province and wanted to try their luck in the big city. Paris was smarter, more confident and more ambitious while Pablo just tagged along hoping to share in the imminent success of his esteemed friend. But in return he carried most of the belongings of his friend.

While walking the two talked about the reasons of their move to the big city. 

“I want to become very rich, very famous and very successful,” Paris said. “I want to become the envy of the folks back home.”

“Me, I want to become rich too, so that I can help my poor parents and siblings back home,” said Pablo. “One I can afford, I’ll let them live with me in the big city.”

“Don’t worry Pablo. Just stick around, and do as I say. I know exactly what to do.”

As the sun got hotter, the two friends became thirsty. However, they ran out of water.

“Come I have water for you,” a voice came from a distance. Not very far from them, they saw a man standing on a hill.

As Pablo drank from a water jug offered by the stranger, he studied his face. He looked peaceful, gentle and humble which a big contrast to the anxious, temperamental and arrogant nature of his friend, Pablo. Somehow, he felt at ease in the presence of the stranger.  

“Where is the two of you heading?”

“We are going to the big city,” replied Paris.

“I know the way, and I can guide you. By the way, my name is Manny and I am from the BIG CITY.”

Paris did not say a word, and there was an awkward silence. Finally Pablo said, “Thank you for your offer Manny. If you know that way to the big city then we will come with you.” He looked at Paris for approval.

"Alright," Paris finally spoke up though looking not pleased at Pablo.

Pablo cringed.

So the three of them continued on their journey, Manny leading the way. Pablo casually chatted with Manny, but Paris who stayed a couple of pace behind remained quiet.

On the next day, the three of them reached a fork in the road. The first road was cemented with a light post on both sides and a road sign that said ‘To the big city’. The second road looked old and rough, no electrical post and no road sign. Paris lightened up when he had read the sign post of the first road, and started to run for it.

“Stop! That way is not the right way to the BIG CITY,” said Manny, interrupting Paris.

“What do you mean it’s not the right way,” replied Paris. “Can’t you read the sign? Can’t you see the cemented road and the light posts? That road is yelling at us, ‘I’m the right way!’”

“Paris, I know that way because I passed that way before,” said Manny. “Down that road there are ten more Sign Posts separated by about 10km. To reach the BIG CITY you have to follow the instruction in each Sign Post. Truthfully, it’s impossible for you or Pablo to follow those instructions. So as a friend I telling you that Pablo and you should go the other way." Manny pointed to the old, rough road.

“What’s your agenda, Manny,” said Paris. “First you tried to win our confidence by giving us water and telling us about the glory of the big city, and now you’re saying that I should trust you because you are smarter than me? No way!”

Manny just looked at Paris gently. "I have your best interest in mind."

"Why should I believe you," replied Paris. "I don't even know you. We just meet."

Manny looked at him with sadness and pity, but strangely remained quiet. He didn't try to defend himself.

“Let’s go Pablo,” said Paris. “I am smarter than him, and I can figure out the way.”

Pablo didn’t move. He was confused – though Manny was still a stranger to him, yet around him he felt at peace and accepted. And he knew so much about the big city. On the other hand, he knew Paris all his life, but he always felt stressed out and not good enough around Paris. 

After a few minutes of silence, Paris turned around and went his lonely way. Pablo had made his choice.

This short story is a metaphor of Ephesians 2:8~9.

Manny is Jesus, Paris is the person who believes he can earn his salvation through his own effort -- by being a good doer -- much like the Pharisees during the time of Jesus while Pablo is the typical person who wants to be saved, but is unsure how.

The BIG CITY is the city of the Father, heaven. This is the city of love, joy, peace, and prosperity. Death has no power there. However, only the righteous person can enter into the city of the holiest of holy. Unfortunately, no man or woman on his own or on her own is righteous.

The first road, the cemented one, is the metaphor of gaining your righteousness through your obedience to the Ten Commandments, the pristine standard of God. On this road, your righteousness and salvation depends on your own effort, so the focus here is your own effort.

The second road, the old, rough road, is the metaphor of gaining righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. On this road, the righteousness of Jesus becomes your righteousness as a gift or a favor; not an earned reward due to your effort. In here, the focus is the effort of Jesus, not yours, and his completed work of salvation for man on the cross.

So what passage says is this – your righteousness and your salvation is a gift and favor because of your faith in Jesus Christ. You cannot earn it by exerting effort to fulfill the Ten Commandments because in the first place you can never keep; your sinful nature will always sabotage your efforts. So instead of putting your faith on yourself and your effort, put your faith in Jesus and follow him.

Finally, be aware that faith has a natural enemy deep inside you – your pride. Faith says, "I can’t do it on my own, I need Jesus." But pride says, "I don’t need Jesus for my salvation; I can do it on my own." Don't be like Paris who was blinded by his pride, but be more like Pablo who opened his eyes and choose the right way.

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