No one takes a donkey seriously.
This morning I picked up Mark Labberton’s book The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others through the Eyes of Jesus (2010). It was quickly set down to create space for meditation. Only a few pages in, I was convicted.
Mark recounts his reading of the Triumphal Entry to his young son. At the conclusion, his boy announced, “Jesus is in my heart.” The glimmer of fatherly joy and pride was quickly sobered by the boy’s next question, “But where’s the donkey?”
“Trust me, [child], the donkey is there too…the ass is always at hand!” We may or may not have Jesus in our heart, but even if we do, we also have the donkey (see Romans 7). We all know the donkey of resistance, of prejudice, of self-absorption. It’s part of the heart problem we share, and most of the time, it’s not cute, let alone just or life-giving. ~Labberton
I don’t know a lot about donkeys, but I know that nobody chooses a donkey for something needing serious conviction and execution. Donkeys are slow, stubborn, and most inefficient. No, if the situation calls for swift action, you get yourself a war horse, a stead of mighty and swift speed.
I personally believe that there were a number of reasons Jesus rode on a donkey through the streets of Jerusalem, none less important than that He was fulfilling prophecy. Zech 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The donkey was a symbol of humility, a despised mode of travel. The donkey was fitting for Jesus—He was humble, and maintained a lowly position. The donkey He rode for His inaugural parade stood in contrast to the power, pride, and self-promotion of the Roman, and contemporary, leaders.
But, if as Labberton relates, sin is the donkey in our heart today, do we really despise it? Does our sin humble us? Do we treasure the gospel greatly enough to let it have its full effect in our lives? Are we serious about it being driven from the land? Or are we okay with it slowly, yet persistently having a daily parade?
Our King has come. Jesus has brought salvation. He need no longer be placed on a donkey. He needs to be mounted as warrior, ready to deal decisively with His enemies—the enemies that are hiding out in your heart and mine.
Will I let Him? Am I ready for the pounding hooves of conviction to come stampeding through my heart? I know I desire purity in my inner places; I long to be an instrument of His peace and justice. Yet I recognize this morning how I can’t bring His peace and justice to others if I tolerate the donkey of violence and injustice in my own heart.
This means I am going to have to get serious about selfishness, pride, and self-righteousness, all of which distract me from the needs of others. It’s time to war against the notion that I can live with the donkey; that I am doing okay or at least “well-enough.”
There is good news. We do not war alone. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another so that you may not do the things you that you please” Galatians 5:17. The Spirit helps us. In fact, He fights for us!
The text in Galatians 5 continues on to describe what the “donkey” of sinfulness looks like (vv. 19-21) and also what the victory of the Spirit over our flesh looks like (vv. 22-23). Whether we like it or not, we are in the war—on one side or the other. Maybe today is a good day to take assessment of the battlefield.
One side note: I love how this Galatians passage puts this war in the context of relationships. Battles will be won and lost in the way they get expressed in our value of others. “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another” Galatians 5:13-15. We cannot know and express God’s heart for others as long as we tolerate the donkey of hate in heart. Why is this important to note? The world will not take our “donkey” seriously. If we want the world to know how great is the love of God, they need to see it really take shape in the way we treat one another.
What will it be for you today? A war horse or a donkey?
[Please note: I have not progressed beyond the introduction of Labberton’s book. This post is in no way an endorsement of its content—but I hope it soon will be. It’s off to a good start! ]