How to Use a Sharpie Pen
You have surely seen the news story of our President’s edit to the projected path of Hurricane Dorian. The humor isn’t in the prediction, as there was a time when Dorian could have found its way to Alabama. It is the timing of the President’s projection (at a time when Alabama was clearly not in danger), and the use of a Sharpie Pen to edit a weather map that makes people laugh.
To be honest, I don’t get too involved in opinions about this sort of thing. Our President loves to use sarcastic humor, and he relishes the reaction of the press, so there is really no way of knowing for sure whether his Sharpie edit was intentional or an indication he was out of touch.
Either way, the thought of the most powerful politician in the world using a Sharpie Pen to support his predictions reminds me of a third-grade classmate of mine who tried to change an “F” on her report card to a “B”. The edit was wishful, but not very effective.
Lest we become too focused on the President, it might be wise to consider our own use of the Sharpie Pen in relation to God’s Word. We are guilty of making some wild edits of our own, sometimes altering entire eternal projections in the process.
Consider these examples:
In regards to eternal salvation: The Apostle Paul wrote, “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). I am not the proverbial “hell, fire and brimstone” preacher. In fact, if anything, I don’t talk enough about eternal punishment. But I can’t arbitrary take my Sharpie and extend the invitation into eternal life to include those who do not “obey the gospel.” Believe me, I would if I could! I’m a softy. But, I would be untruthful in doing so.
In regards to how we handle conflict: The second greatest commandment is to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Jesus said I am in danger of judgment if I am angry with my brother (Matthew 5:22). So you don’t freak out when you become angry, I take this to mean, “If I remain angry and don’t seek reconciliation”, as anger only places me at risk. But still. I can’t draw a Sharpie circle around those I don’t like and say, “I am going to love everyone but these.”
In regards to compassion: While doing loving things for others isn’t how we earn our salvation, if we ignore the needs of others, our understanding of the Lord’s heart is brought into question, as is our obedience to His will. In His famous “least of these” teaching in Matthew 25, Jesus gave us this glimpse into His final judgement: “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” (Matthew 25:40-41) I might draw Sharpie asterisks by the people I want to exclude from compassion and try to squeak by with Christ. But I don’t think He would be sympathetic to my justification.
In regards to morality: In every age, there appears to be “allowances” made for immoral behavior because it is accepted by society. Two hundred years ago, Christians in our country owned slaves and traded them like cattle. A hundred years ago, industrialists, many of whom claimed Christ as Lord, exploited workers and amassed huge fortunes while some went hungry. Today, many believers are comfortable with casual sex and sex outside of God’s clear biblical directives. In each of these cases, the Sharpie Pen has been and is being used to strike through commands we don’t like.
But one thing is certain: Just as sure as Hurricane Dorian was pushed to the right by a high-pressure system, God’s Word will be honored. He will keep His promises, whether they be blessings or consequences. I have wondered if God laughs or weeps at our attempts to change His truths. Perhaps both, but I suspect He mostly weeps.
We can scribble, circle and strike-out all we want, but we must remember some words that came through Balaam. They followed a very interesting encounter with a talking donkey (known as “Balaam’s Ass”) in which Balaam was reminded to be faithful with God’s instructions. Balaam said, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19).
Anyone who wants to play games with God’s Word should…
…get his ass in gear.
Sharpie Pen that!