Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cutting Switches...

(photo from
My mom will probably argue about this, but I believe I remember one time growing up when she told me to go cut a switch. She wasn't one of those "Wait til your father gets home" kind of moms. If we got in trouble, she took care of it. I believe I remember that one time, when I was told to go cut a switch, and you know what that switch was for.

There was a field that lined our backyard, with a fencerow that ran beside the house and all the way to the back of the field. If memory serves me, I chose a wild cherry tree to pull the switch from. I really don't think I imagined this, but we'll see. The dilemma, whether I was the one cutting the switch, or whether your parents made you cut one, was what kind of switch to cut. A skinny switch would sting more, but a thick switch would be just as bad, or even worse.

I really didn't get into that much trouble as a kid. I've probably gotten into more trouble as a pastor than I ever did as a kid. I do remember one time in high school where I had to "cut a switch." My girlfriend at the time and I were in the hall between classes, and I wanted to sneek a quick kiss, just a peck on the cheek, but got caught. There were no PDA's even then (Public Displays of Affection) and the English teacher across the hall drug us both to the principal's office. He looked at me and said, "Jamie, what are you doing in here?" All I could say was, "Mr. E, I got caught." He told me, "You know the rules, 1 day or 3 detentions."

I had to cut a switch. Taking 1 day suspension would be quicker, but the 3 detentions would probably be less painful, so that was what I did.

I found a place in scripture this morning where one of our Old Testament stars had to cut a switch. David had done something that God didn't approve of, and God gave him three choices for his punishment. I don't think I had ever noticed that before. 2 Samuel 24 is where it's found.

I don't really understand why what David did upset God. It looks to me like all he was doing was getting a count of the number of fighting men in the kingdom. But for whatever reason, God was displeased. Here are the choices he sent to David through a man named Gad: Three years of famine in the land...Three months of fleeing from his enemines...Three days of plague in the land.
David chose the three days of plague. Unfortunately, during those three days over 70,000 of his subjects died.

What if, and I'm just thinking out loud, what if God made us cut our own switches? What if, each time we displeased God we had to choose the punishment? I have found that most folks who realize they have messed up, and actually care, punish themselves enough. Yet there are mainline denominations who are all about the punishment, and very ready to condemn someone to hell for a mistake they have made. Is that the message we should be sending a hurting world?

Now, I admit, I knew what I was doing in the hall in high school was wrong. I knew that if I got caught there would be consequences. But I was willing to take the chance. I took my punishment, and it was over. God doesn't operate like that.

There should be consequences for our mistakes, at least that's what the world would tell us, but there is also this thing called forgiveness. That is the message we should be sending the world. Not just the importance of having a repentant heart...realizing our mistakes and seeking to restore the relationship...but of the reality of God's forgiveness, leading to forgiveness of self. That last one is the most difficult.

I don't think God makes us cut our own switches anymore. I think the last switch cut was formed into the shape of a cross, but that's just me. May you find peace through the forgiveness of a loving God.


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