Loveable Leslie and the Valentine’s Day Parable

Loveable Leslie grew up like any other child. She was quite normal and fun. And she had a heart of gold. While most other kids picked best friends, Loveable Leslie just wanted to love everybody. It was part of who she was – loveable. She learned quickly though that love isn’t always returned. Sometimes love is met with hate and bitterness.

It happened one year during Valentines Day. All the children were to bring in bags or boxes that were decorated and then they would go around the room and put a valentine card in all of their boxes. Loveable Leslie made a very special valentine for a boy that she thought was very special – Tough Tony. On it, she wrote with the best of her ability, “Tony, will you be my very special valentine? Love, Leslie. xoxo”

Tony came back the next day with that valentine in his hand. Loveable Leslie was so nervous she could barely stop shaking. Then Tony did the unthinkable. He signaled the rest of the class: “Hey guys,” he said, “look what that Loony Leslie gave me!” Leslie’s face swelled as red as the valentine in Tony’s hand. She quickly shriveled into her seat. But nothing she did made the moment any less worse. Immediately after school, Loveable Leslie ran home and cried for the rest of the night.

Now – most people would find it hard to love or trust any one ever again after a moment like that. Not only did Tony embarrass Leslie, but he also embarrassed her in front of all of their classmates. It would be understandable if Leslie took a long time to trust again, even at such a young age.

But that moment didn’t faze her.

Even though Loveable Leslie wasn’t so loveable to Tony, she continued to love people. She loved her parents, she loved her friends, and she loved her dog. And sometimes people would take advantage of her. Sometimes they would abuse the love and trust she had for them. But she still loved them regardless. And by the time that Loveable Leslie grew old, she had hundreds of people who loved and cared for her. Through her love towards others she really became Loveable Leslie.

Christ truly taught miraculous things through parables. The way that he was able to use everyday circumstances and situations and transform them into vessels and vehicles of spiritual truth shows what an amazing teacher he was. In the parable of the sower, for instance, we know that Christ isn’t merely giving advice regarding agriculture. We all know that the parable of the sower isn’t about a sower at all, but is about the Kingdom of God.

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9)

So what kingdom principles can we learn from the parable of the sower?

The first is about the seed and the soil. No matter how good the seed is it won’t grow in some soil. The fact that there are different soils already tells us that not everyone will receive the message of the Gospel. There will be some that won’t understand it. There will be others that abuse it. Some will even extort the Gospel for their own selfish gain. But when those who understand the message allow it to take root, they will multiply.

Later, Jesus says that blessed are those who see and understand. This is not only talking about understanding the parable, but is also talking about understanding the message of the Kingdom of God. To those who are receptive and allow the kingdom seed to be rooted in their heart, God will give them more of Himself. He will give them knowledge and understanding of His Kingdom. That is why it says later in verse 12, “He who has, more will be given.”

The second thing about the parable of the sower has to do with the sower himself. I like to call him the “foolish farmer.” The farmer is to sow seed regardless of the condition of the soil. The foolish farmer here, much like Loveable Leslie, is acting quite foolishly. Leslie shouldn’t have continued to love people the way she was after being hurt. The farmer, if he knows anything about sowing seed, should know that he is only supposed to plant seed in good soil. But in the parable, Jesus has the sower spread seed all over the place. Any farmer would know that he would be wasting valuable seeds if he were to plant them on rocky soil or amidst thorns. Yet Jesus has the farmer spreading his seed, his livelihood, everywhere, not thinking once of how it might affect his crop.

Here Jesus is teaching a lesson. It is easy to look at some who are lost and not see hope for them ever receiving the Gospel. One might think, “What’s the point,” and ignore this person as a lost cause. “What is the point of wasting time and energy into someone who won’t receive the message anyway?” But here, Jesus is saying that it isn’t the responsibility of the one sharing the Gospel to decide who will and will not receive its message. The sower’s mission and responsibility is to merely plant the seed.

Lastly, the parable teaches that growth only comes through God. Despite the terrible terrain and the farmer’s foolish ways, there was still a magnificent crop that was harvested from the seeds that were sown. This wasn’t due to the soil. It wasn’t due to the farmer. Most of the soil was bad and the farmer was planting seeds like he knew nothing of agriculture. No, the growth of the harvest came by the miraculous power of God.

It isn’t our responsibility to decide who deserves to hear the message of the Gospel. Everyone deserves to hear it. And it isn’t in our power that they receive it. It can only be through the grace of God and the Holy Spirit. We, like Loveable Leslie, just need to keep loving people and sharing with them the Gospel, and by the end of our time in ministry, God will have used us to reach a multitude of people.

We just need to share the Gospel and trust in Him to bring in the harvest.

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Forcing to Fit the Part

Recently I had the privilege of being taken out to a very nice restaurant. It was the kind of place that had a man in the bathroom who would hand you a towel after you washed your hands, and he offered you breath-mints or a spritz of cologne before you left. It was the kind of place where formality was expected, and there was an unspoken but understood rule of class and chivalry…

I was completely out of my element.

The whole time I had to look at the other people around me and the people at the tables next to me to figure out what I was supposed to do. This is the order the silverware goes in. This is where I put my napkin. This is where I put my silverware to let the waiter know I am finished with my meal. It was very exhausting! This is not like ordering “Mongolian Beef” from the Chinese place down the road… but yet I had to blend in – I felt like I had to fit the part – because every one around had slipped into it so easily.

Before one finds Christ as their Savior, they are unaware of the evil they are doing. As Paul says, “The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” They are sinners, but since the law has not been given to them, they have not transgressed against God – they are disobedient but not rebellious (see Rom 5:12-21). Yet when the truth is made known to them, for them to continue the way they are is a willful disobedience – transgression. The same thing is true for those who sin who are in Christ. If you know you are sinning, that is willful disobedience, and is seen by God as more than just sin – transgression.

But once someone is saved, they now have to make an effort to put their sinful nature behind them (see Rom 6:1-14). It takes a conscious effort – trying to switch around the old way they once lived to the new way they are trying to live. It takes patience, and a lot of self-control. A person is not expected to be exactly like Jesus the instance after they give their life to him. Paul’s letters would not make sense if that were the case. But eventually one who is in Christ gets to the place where doing the right thing becomes natural. They might still slip up every now and then, but looking back they realize that the temptations that once grabbed them have disappeared. This is the process of sanctification, or holiness, and this willful change in character will truly be completed when Christ returns to earth (see Rom 6:15-7:6).

Sometimes Christians today forget that almost all of the New Testament was written to people who were already believers in the first century. These were people that had given their lives to God, but they were just working out the kinks in their lives. However, Christians seem to expect non-Christians to live the same way that they do and to understand the things they find important. This should not be the case! This would be like the people who took me to the restaurant not to have grace on me for clumsily fumbling my forks and knives in the right order. Grace is a two lane road and many in the church have forgotten that.

If you are in the church remember that you need to strip yourself of the sinful nature. Sin has the cost of an earthly and spiritual death, but God has offered a free gift of grace that is the defeat of death – eternal life with Christ (Rom 6:23)! Sin and death were defeated! But just because we are living this way, does not mean that we try to force others to live that way. We show them Jesus through our actions. We don’t tell them what to do. We have grace on them, let them know we disagree in a respectful way, and show them that Christ died and resurrected to set THIS earth to rights! Christ came to bring reconciliation to ALL THINGS in and through him (see Col 1:15-23). If we just tell people the rights and wrongs of our faith, we are not really sharing our faith. Christ is about reconciliation. He wants to reconcile the nations. He wants the earth to bear fruit. He wants us to live a life free from the bondage of sin, which is death, and He wants us to be at the forefront of bringing the world to rights!

Amen (literally: “Let it be so”).