My thoughts turned recently to a trip I made to Korea many years ago. At some point we had a break from ministry activities and took advantage of the opportunity to travel up to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates North Korea from South Korea. On the South Korean side of the border where we stood, we could look across to very impressive buildings which seemed to show the superiority of the people, the government and the economy of North Korea over their southern neighbors. One of the Koreans with us explained the truth. “It’s just a shell,” we were told. “In fact, some of the buildings you see are nothing more than a very clever façade, and aren’t real buildings at all."
Looking back to that conversation, I am not sure what was real and what was fake about the North Korean portion of the DMZ. I am sure of one thing, however: the idea that the government of North Korea is in any way effective is a total sham.
Think with me about this for a minute. I will avoid the whole conversation about U.S. immigration other than to note that people are doing all kinds of things to find a way INTO this country. At the same time, bold North Koreans are constantly trying to find a way OUT of that nation where they live in captivity.
A year or two ago, I read a very interesting book (note: this isn’t a Christian book) about the plight of the North Koreans. I found myself caught up in the story of people who are so desperate that they will risk everything to get out of their country. Part of my fascination was that North Koreans know the failure of their system better than anyone else. While North Korean leadership is putting up their public relations blitz to tell the world of their superiority, the average North Korean citizen is fully aware of the lie in which they live. Most of them would do ANYTHING to get to the South.
If you have read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the New Testament), you know that Jesus regularly and persuasively tore down the lies being perpetuated by the religious leaders of His day. Those lies, that their religious life was superior to that of other people, had become just as much a façade as I have described in Korea. Instead of setting people free, those religious leaders chained them up in a set of rules that the leaders themselves couldn’t keep. Jesus, the ultimate freer of captives, told those religious leaders the truth about themselves and their empty system. He compared them to the tombs outside Jerusalem, which were regularly painted with a whitewash of that day. “You look good on the outside,” Jesus said, “but inside you are full of death.”
I write about this with some of my own introspection. I can pretty easily point out life moments in which I have tried to put people in chains, rather than offer them the keys of release. I don’t want to do that ever again; I’m quite certain that most of you will agree with me. That’s why it’s critical that we talk about the effect the Lamb of God had upon his own religious traditions. That’s our installment this weekend as we continue “Mary Had A Little Lamb” at Stone Ridge Church. I really hope you can be there for this one. Maybe you have a friend you can invite, someone who needs a word of hope. Can’t make it? Be sure to catch the podcast!