Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 Whenever you stand up to pray, you must forgive what others have done to you. Then your Father in heaven will forgive your sins. Mark 11:25 (CEV)
12 God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. 13 Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. 14 Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together. Colossians 3:12-14 (CEV)
Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.
In the second place, this petition mortifies us through other people who antagonize us, assail us, disquiet us, and oppose our will in every way, who mock not only our worldly actions but also our good spiritual works, such as our prayers, our fasting, our acts of kindness, who, in brief, are never at peace with us. O what a priceless blessing this is! We should really pay such assailants all our goods, for they are the ones who fulfil this petition in us. They are the ones through whom God breaks our will so that his will may be done. This is why Christ says in Matthew 5 [:25], “Make friends quickly with your accuser.” That is, we must surrender our will and accept our adversary’s will as good, for in that way our will is broken. In the breaking of our will God’s will is done; for he wants to see our will hindered and broken.
The Letter of St. James notes that we should demonstrate our faith in our works. That is not always easy! Especially when it comes to demonstrating our trust in God when it comes to the adversaries, enemies, and jackasses we have to deal with in everyday life.
The Catholics have it right when they say sin originates in letting our trust in God die in our hearts. It is then, as we turn our back on the Holy Spirit that we take power into our own hands, and do what God says not to do.
Like seek revenge, or curse those who oppose us, or simply forget they were created by God, and treat them without the love and respect the children of God should receive.
We have to trust, when people oppose us, that God is doing what He has promised to do, that all things, even the opposition, will work for good. As Luther notes, God may be using them to break our will, so that His will may be done. Whether they realize this or not, we should be thankful to God.
That is why we can forgive them, realizing that their actions are actually blessings. That they show God’s love for us, although in ways that are pretty frustrating, and yes, humbling. We must realize that God is behind it. We must realize that His love is manifested in what these people are doing, saying, thinking. God’s will is being done, not theirs, and definitely not ours.
This is why St. Paul’s advice to “Put up with each other” and “forgive anyone who does you wrong” is preceded by words reminding us of the FACT that God loves us, and chose us to be His own That must come first, the relationship, the love that matters more than anything else. The love of Christ, that poured our in water and blood, the love that unites us all, cleansing us of ALL sin. Binding us together. Demonstrating how faithful God is to us, and how He, in His love, empowers our ability to look to Him, depend on Him, have faith in Him, even while persecuted…
Lord, we have faith in You, help us to have faith!
Lord, Have mercy on me, a sinner!
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 100.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 44–45.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Let me ask you this. What would you do if you had a hundred sheep and one of them wandered off? Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go look for the one that had wandered away? 13 I am sure that finding it would make you happier than having the ninety-nine that never wandered off. 14 That’s how it is with your Father in heaven. He doesn’t want any of these little ones to be lost. Mt.18:12-14 CEV
16 Don’t be a gossip, but never hesitate to speak up in court, especially if your testimony can save someone’s life. 17 Don’t hold grudges. On the other hand, it’s wrong not to correct someone who needs correcting. Lev. 19:16-17 CEV
The Holy Spirit, however, permits us to censure sin, and prescribes the way in which we are to do it. It must be done by rebuking our brother to his face, not by railing behind his back. This course is manly, brotherly, Christlike, and under God’s blessing will be useful. Does the flesh shrink from it? Then we must lay the greater stress upon our conscience, and keep ourselves to the work, lest by suffering sin upon our friend we become ourselves partakers of it. Hundreds have been saved from gross sins by the timely, wise, affectionate warnings of faithful ministers and brethren.
For most of us, the statement about leaving the 99 is comforting, for most of us know we wander off too frequently.
Put a different face on the 99, and we might have a different reaction.
If it is a person that antagonizes us, we might say good riddance, and let them go.
It is someone who has hurt us, we may pretend we do not notice.
If they are a politician or someone who expresses themselves politically is a way we oppose, we might even pack their bags and give them a map with the fastest way out of town, and try to inflame them enough that they burn bridges behind them.
We should not take those attitudes, but they seem natural to us, and many would cheer us on if we allowed them to wander off. After all, we didn’t push them away or force them out. We just let them go, off to get what they deserve. (not to mention what we deserve.)
The answer to this sin is not found in forcing our will to do what we don’t want to do. We might be able to subject our will once or twice, and yet, somewhere down deep, resentment will only grow, not just toward the one who offended us, but towards God and those who would encourage reconciliation.
So how do we do the impossible, how do we pray that Jesus is able to rescue this one stray? Or even more impossible, how do we come to desire that we assist in some small way?
I don’t think it is by focusing on them, or the pain they have caused.
I think it can only be by looking to Jesus, to seeing Him at work in our own lives, bringing about the healing that we need, forgiving the sin we’ve committed, removing the guilt and shame, and indeed the fear of death that comes from knowing we will be judged. To experience the love of God that makes our life new, and free from the power of sin. In awe of that, with the joy that only knowing we have passed from death to life can bring, is reconciliation with others possible.
For free, and full of joy, we see them out of the corner of our eye, and in awe of Christ’s work, we invite them to share in it. We then find great joy walking with Jesus after the one, because as they share the in the wonder of Christ’s healing them, we see again His healing us, it is made more complete.
Another part of us is healed, when they are cleansed and healed by Christ.
Then the joy of seeing Christ at work becomes greater, as it is shared.
Heavenly Father, help us to see and wonder about the incredible things Christ is doing in our lives. Help us to know He is with us, and as we gaze upon the cross, help us to rejoice as the Spirit brings healing to all our relationships. AMEN@
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thoguht of the Day:
“So may all your enemies die like that, O LORD, but may your friends shine like the rising sun! Judges 5:31 GNT
12 It is foolish to speak scornfully of others. If you are smart, you will keep quiet. Ps. 11:12 GNT
12 For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. Eph. 6:12 GNT
As Martin Marty summarizes in his biography of Luther, “The benefit of faith was that it united the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom. ‘They become one flesh,’ as Paul puts it. What Christ has is the property of the believing soul, what the soul has becomes the property of Christ, including the soul’s sins, death, and damnation. Faith negotiates the exchange.”
An absolute and rigid justice becomes a circulus vitiosus, a cycle of retaliations from which there is no escape. In his dealings with us, God has broken through this circle. We are unjust before God; we have turned away from him in pursuit of our own glorification and so we have become subject to death. But God waives the merited punishment and puts something new in its place: healing; our conversion to a renewed Yes to the truth about ourselves. So that this transformation may take place, he goes before us and takes upon himself the pain of our transformation. The Cross of Christ is the real elucidation of these words: not “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, but “transform evil by the power of love.…” In the Cross of Christ, and only there, these words open themselves to us and become revelation. In the company of the Cross, they become a new possibility even for our own lives.
If I looked at social media as a barometer of conflict and stress, I would be (and admit I get) very depressed, and I would lose hope.
The division and unrest I see is growing, and unless you agree with someone’s political and social views you are considered their “enemy”. There is no middle ground, and if someone tries to occupy such a place, they are insane, or accused of hiding their true agenda. The polarization is causing more stress, and everyone wants a form of rigid justice prosecuting their enemies.
A justice system that is ruled by our logic, and our rules. And we want the justice as swift and complete as it was on Sisera in the Book of the Judges. God’s enemies are ours, of course, and like the fools that Proverbs describes we do not hesitate to pass on something to judge someone on, and truly find them worth
In doing so, we play God, or better, we create God in our image, refusing to acknowledge who He revealed Himself to be. We make the error St. Paul warns against in Ephesians 6 – we think we are to fight human beings and cast them down. We don’t see them as broken and needing our care, and we really don’t want to admit we are broken and need theirs!
So how do we reconcile? How do we bring people who are so angry, so hurt, so broken by others to the point where they can find the peace that comes with such a miracle as my enemy becoming a beloved friend?
it doesn’t start with our efforts to heal the other person. It starts when we realized what Pope Benedict and Martin Luther discuss. The fact that we are drawn into Christ, and in the depth of the relationship, as we are being reconciled to God, as our brokenness is exchanged for Jesus’ completeness, we find that relationship with others healed as well. It is in this transformation that I find myself able to heal, able to forgive, able to love and even sacrificially love another.
That’s our hope in this life, (and that’s but the briefest glimpse of the future!) That drawn into Christ we find life itself transformed. That with given a new heart (Ezekiel 36:25ff) and the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5-10) we find all out relationships being healed.
Our enemy is no longer seen to be that person, for we see them in Christ as our sibling.
Lord, help us to look for your healing in our own lives and praise you for that same healing being offered and available to everyone, especially to those we struggle to like/love. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (pp. 69–70). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 78–79). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought for Our Day:
5 Isaiah then told the king, “The LORD Almighty says that 6a time is coming when everything in your palace, everything that your ancestors have stored up to this day, will be carried off to Babylonia. Nothing will be left. 7Some of your own direct descendants will be taken away and made eunuchs to serve in the palace of the king of Babylonia.”
8 King Hezekiah understood this to mean that there would be peace and security during his lifetime, so he replied, “The message you have given me from the LORD is good.” Isiah 38:5-8 TEV
802 When someone has a very small heart, it seems as if he keeps his desires in a narrow, neglected drawer.
The king in the passage indicated he thought the message of God’s wrath was good, and that bugs me. Is he so self-centered that he doesn’t realize he is welcoming, even approving of God’s wrath to be poured out on others because of his own sin? Doesn’t he realize he is rejoicing in his people’s, his descendants suffering?
What kind of king is that?
What kind of father?
Which brings a hard question to ask, what kind of things will our children, our grandchildren, and those who follow us in Christ have to face because of our lives today?
I am not talking “our” in a corporate sense of America, or even of the entire Church, or my denomination or congregation. I am talking about you and me.
In my case, my cynicism, my own reactions toward those I don’t relate well too, that I don’t trust, that I struggle with, and consider my adversaries, my enemies. Those, if I am in a more condescending mood, that I consider a royal pain in the ass. How will I treat those who add fuel to my already raging sense of cynicism or those who provoke my fine sense of irony?
I have struggled a lot with this as I’ve seen people react to a reaction of other people. That it turn created a reaction, which more people are reacting to with more extremism, more hatred, more calls for violence and acting in anger.
I want to react, I want to call people out on their hypocrisy, I’ve written twenty or thirty replies, then caught myself before posting them. (and a couple of times, I didn’t)
My reaction has to be one of love, it has to be less about me, and more about helping people reconcile, but oh this is difficult, it is brutal, it cuts me to the heart…. and yet, that is exactly what I need. It is this process that St Paul wrote about when he wrote,
“11 In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13 You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14 he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:11-15 (TEV)
The only way I can love those who seem unlovable to me is to live in the reality of my baptism. To know that when I was (and still can be)unlovable, God did anyways. And because He loves me (and you) He is working on me (and you), as I must trust He is working on everyone! Even those who don’t know Him, yet He is calling them to this change of life. To this circumcision of the heart (see Ezekiel 36:25 and following) which cleanses us, changes us, transforms us. (this is what repentance is, and it is far more than saying, “i am sorry”_
It is in His work, that I must trust. Not must in the sense of my obligation to Him, but rather must because if I don’t, I will soon realize I am what I annoys me, I am what I rail against, I am what i hate.
My hope? In the one who loved me enough to die for me. Who loves me enough to transform me, even as I struggle against it. My hope is in Jesus… who is still my advocate, who is still my shepherd, who is my Lord.
May we all let Him change us, as He calls us to his side. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3314-3315). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. 10 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 11 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, 12 cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. 13 Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. 14 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. 15 Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. 16 Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. 17 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone.
Romans 12:9-17 (MSG)
Christ raised up the image of Adam. You are not just clay; you extend beyond all cosmic dimensions to the very Heart of God. It is not the one who is scourged who is degraded, but the one who scourges; not the one spat upon, but the one who spits; not the one put to scorn, but he who puts to scorn; it is not pride that raises man up, but humility; not self-glorification that makes him great, but that union with God of which he is capable.
Union with God, what a concept laid out for us in this quote in blue. Union with God.
I hear in the background two voices, one saying we can’t be buddy buddy with God, the other where Jesus tells us that we are not his servants, but his friends. One that cries out for reverent submission, one which sees God the Father running faster than anyone else to welcome us home.
I struggle with this because I have seen the extreme where Jesus being our friend mutates to the idea that He is a good ole boy who understands our sinful nature and simply turns a blind eye to it. I have seen the other extreme as well, where we are so terrified of being caught in sin that our reaction is to try to run and hide from Him, rather than run to Him.
The balance isn’t even on the radar of the extremes, for the balance is found as God draws us in and in His cultivation of our relationship with Him.
Even as we do this, we need, we must realize when we talk of God loving us this way, we are talking about a larger group than you and I. We are talking about all the people that Christ died for, really we are talking about all people.
You aren’t just a bunch of dirt, and neither am I. Our value is that our lives don’t just matter to God – they are previous, we are precious – priceless in His evaluation. So are those we discount, those we struggle with, those we fear. Their lives are just as precious, they are people that God has in His heart.
This is why Paul calls us to love people, to recognize God’s Spirit in them, and to see God’s desire that all would be His family. Just as we are. To realize our enemies have the same God who cares for them, the God who doesn’t dismiss or write them off, or consider them lower that dirt. He discovers the beauty in each of us, or rather, He created us with that beauty, and reveals it more and more as we know HIs love.
This no “them” for a Christian, no dividing line, even that label enemy cannot divide people from us, for it didn’t divide us from Jesus. He draws us into himself anyway, loving us, cherishing us, healing our souls, and helping us to see others whose souls He would heal as well.
Lord have mercy on us all… AMEN!
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day
1 John 4:11-12 (NLT) Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
But after the Holy Spirit has performed and accomplished this and the will of man has been changed and renewed solely by God’s power and activity, man’s new will becomes an instrument and means of God the Holy Spirit, so that man not only lays hold on grace but also cooperates with the Holy Spirit in the works that follow.
But the real heart of Christianity is, and will always be, love of neighbor. For, in very fact, each individual is infinitely loved by God and is of infinite value. Christ says to each of us the words so feelingly formulated by Pascal: “In my mortal agony, I thought of you. I shed these drops of blood for you.
We all have people that seem to cause pain in our lives. Often we label the pains in the neck, or compare them unfavorably to hemorrhoids. Some of us have people that cause a more negative response, people who threaten us, who we label adversaries, or perhaps even enemies.
We may not even know them, they may be politicians of the opposing view, or someone who has their 15 minutes of fame for something that causes anger to well up in us. We may even label them names – either in discussion on FB or over lunch. Maybe we even can keep those names in our minds, But we still think of them as jerks, the personification of evil or simply call them assholes. You might, having read the last word of the prior sentence be shocked I use it, or you might be saying, “But pastor, they really are!”
Or you may feel guilt, worrying about why you can’t get over the feelings of frustration, anger, pain, hurt, and resentment.
Read the passage again that is in red above. Can we do this? Can we love each other, knowing that “other” has the same definition the lawyer received when he heard the parable of the Good Samaritan.
This ability to love them is the work that the Lutheran Confessions (in green) speak of, where the Holy Spirit makes our lives and instrument, and a means of the Holy Spirit’s work. It is the heart of Christianity that then Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of, to realize that for each one of us, every human being on earth, Jesus died, willing let his blood be spilled for you, and for them.
In an old hymnal (TLH), as part of the prayer of God’s people we found a very proper and timely prayer. It said something like this. “Father, turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries to you.”
This is where our heart begins to change, as we see their need, (and ours) to be reconciled to God. For that is the answer to everything. Without the blood of Christ, spilled to heal us all from the damage of sin, there is no hope to come together in peace. In Christ, the peace is not just compromise, but it becomes community, it becomes love deeper than any other.
It is in Christ, seeing Christ’s love for them, which we begin to be able to love them as well. That love may end up pleading with them, not to deal favorably with us, but that which is more important – their reconciliation with God. That becomes our goal; it becomes what we pray for, what we begin to do, to live for, even as God does…
And as we see the glory of God, as we worship Him, the glory of the Holy Spirit works through us… and they know they are loved.
As do we.
”Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 472). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 290). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day
24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. 25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.
27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’
28 “ ‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.
“ ‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.
29 “ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’ ”(Mt 13:24–30) NLT
792 Duc in altum.—“Put out into the deep.” Cast aside the pessimism that makes a coward of you. Et laxate retia vestra in capturam—“And lower your nets for a catch.” Don’t you see that, as Peter said, In nomine tuo, laxabo rete—“At your word I will lower the net,” you can say, “Jesus, in your name I will seek souls!” (1)
I’ve often read the parable above as being about the end of times. It is an eschatological treasure after all, and challenges those with complicated end times theories.
But this parable has a heavy focus on ministry as well, about how we are to deal with evil and that which doesn’t seem to be correct or dare I say kosher. To hear this lesson is challenging, because it goes against conventional wisdom, It goes against leadership rules and all those ideas about dealing with alligators in the church. These people may be your enemies, your adversaries, even your pains in the neck. But they have been given to you.
To hear Jesus’ words here takes a level of courage, even a level of courage that could be taken for complacency. It actually takes more work, more pastoral concern, more leadership, more devotion and obedience.
Leave them in the field you care for, letting God determine whether they are weeds or wheat at the end of time..
Continue to share with them both their absolute need for Christ, and His mercy that overwhelms that need.
If they walk away, so be it, but don’t push them out of vineyard. That isn’t your call. It isn’t within your pay grade to uproot them and burn them in the furnace, or at the stake. Even in times of church discipline, keep them in sight! Minister to them, plead with them to be reconciled to God. (1 Cor 5 – note it doesn’t say reconcile themselves to God – He still does the work)
This is going to take courage, and obedience. it is going to require hearing the Master’s voice, and trusting that He knows what He is doing, what He has commissioned. It may take sacrifice, and yes, more than a little pain It will take creativity and ingenuity as you minister to them, But since when is ministry about the ease of our jobs?
Even as you call them to repentance, even as you shepherd them in view of the others growing in the fields that will be harvested, you need to love them. This is exactly what Peter is talking about, as he mentions the Lord’s long-suffering nature, not willing that any should perish….
So hear His voice… listen to His words… care for those that you think may be weeds..Seek the salvation of the souls He brings into your sight… and love them. ..
God might surprise you both!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1828-1831). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for. 12 Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will answer you. Jeremiah 29:11-12 (TEV)
545 Live a special Communion of the Saints, and at the moment of interior struggle, as well as during the long hours of your work, each of you will feel the joy and the strength of not being alone. (1)
The above quote from scripture (the red quote) is often used to lift people’s spirits, It appears on cards and meme’s with beautiful sunrises and glorious backgrounds. People share it with those they know need a spiritual boost, a holy “pick me up,” assurance. jeremiah, the prophet of troubling messages assured us of a light at the end of the tunnel. He promises, as God’s spokesman, that there is hope, and it is found in the presence of God. The presence that we are believers dwell in, for we are His people!
He will hear our prayer, He has a plan, He has an answer, and all of that is true.
You might ask where the fine print is, and there is something in the context of this verse that you need to hear. Read this carefully,
7 Work for the good of the cities where I have made you go as prisoners. Pray to me on their behalf, because if they are prosperous, you will be prosperous too. Jeremiah 29:7 (TEV)
Read the verse again? Do you realize that God is tieing the future of the Babylonians to the future of the Jewish people? That God’s people are to pray for their enemies, their persecutors, that the future and hope of both Jews and Gentiles is linked? That the people of God should work hard to benefit those who oppress them,
We are called to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute. That is what we do, as we trust in Jesus’ promise to us in the sermon on the Mount. And it is nothing really new. That kind of love Israel was supposed to show people back in the Old Testament. It is very radical, it is not logical by man’s standards! Yet in 1 Cor. 5 we are told that we don’t judge men by those standards, but by the value Jesus has placed on them. They will become part fo the Communion of Saints, the very people that will lift you up.
God has radical plans for you, plans that are beyond awesome. Those plans include all He brings into His family, all He wants to bring into His family. That includes those people, the ones you struggle to love. The ones who take every bit of trust you have in God to deal with, and then some.
Pray for them, do everything you can to help them… trusting not in their response, but in God’s role in your life. You will be amazed at His plans, at the reconciliation and restoration he accomplishes!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1317-1319). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
How Do You Plead? 1 Corinthians 5:11-21
† In Jesus Name †
May you realize the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that mercifully and lovingly reconciles you and brings you back to our Father!\
Two men stood in front of the judge and the jury, waiting to hear how their pleas were heard, and how their pleas for just would be answered. Whether they believed their pleas or not, their long struggle for the justice was about to be answered.
It was different this time, as I handed the bailiff the verdict, as justice was delivered.
In the back of my mind, I heard the words of Barry, one of my fellow jurors, CLICK
I would rather have justice, than the outcome of the law….
How I wish we could have had the time, and the opportunity to share with them the true nature of justice, that they could have heard that plea.
For that day, in the court room, the plea for reconciliation, the plea for true justice, was the furthest things from what occurred, the furthest thing from anyone’s heart.
And as everyone walked away from that courtroom in Norwalk, the verdict we had given was fair in our minds, but scripturally, it was far from just.
You see the wrong plea was entered… the plea should have been the pleading we’ve been given by Christ, as Paul wrote:
We speak for Christ when we plead, CLICK “Come back to God!”
Our Need For that Judgement
All over the news and the internet, people crying out for justice, crying out against what they perceive as injustice. If you talk to a judge or a lawyer, they can tell you the wait for justice can be three to five years. If you talk to those who are pleading for justice, their ideas differ. And a jury can struggle to determine what is truly just, for in a civil trial how can you put a price tag on it? How can you place a number of years in a criminal trial, that will bring to balance the injustice?
Even so, people cry out for justice, for things to be made right. We so want what we think justice is. But here is how God defines justice, (verse 19) CLICK
For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them!
21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
True justice, true righteousness is seen in the work that God our Father commissioned, the cost of reconciliation, of making people right with the Father.
True justice then, would have resulted in a friendship between the two men suing each other, and their ability to do so, knowing that Christ paid the price for both of their sins!
They could have known that, they could have known a kind of justice that would have healed the broken relationship that they had. For as their sins were counted against each other, as they were erased, what could separate them?
That’s justice, and it is so completely unexpected. CLICK
This is how Jesus saves us, this is how God planned for this, as we hear from Isaiah, whose words were written centuries before the cross.
5 But because of our sins he was wounded, beaten because of the evil we did. We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received. Isaiah 53:5 (TEV)
10 The LORD says, “It was my will that he should suffer; his death was a sacrifice to bring forgiveness. And so he will see his descendants; he will live a long life, and through him my purpose will succeed. Isaiah 53:10 (TEV)
In the very suffering and death of Jesus, we find all of us reconciled to the Father. That is justice. Being reconciled to God is the kind of Justice He seeks.
From my devotions yesterday, this quote explains it well, CLICK
But when a person has once met Christ, when a person has once seen Jesus and really learned to know him, then everything is changed. Then everything else is comprehensible and life is renewed. And you [priests] have really only one task: to present Jesus to all people in such a way that they see him and learn to love him.[i]
When God reconciles us, we are that new creation, as Paul says, the old life is gone, the new life, our new life in Christ has begun!
Everything has changed, the gift of God that is so incredible!
Our plea is different now…
As we look at what has changed, our plea for justice stands out. It is no longer a plea to some vague idea of justice that favors us over others, it is a plea for God’s justice, that they would know His love, that they would welcome His mercy.
It has changed as well from a plea to God for that justice, to a plea to those who cry out for justice, to hear God’s version of it, to be called back to God.
This is what the ministry is all about, this is what the Christ’s love compels us to do.
To share with each other, that in Christ, we have been reconciled to God. Christ’s work is so perfect, that there is no relationship that is beyond His ability to heal, as He brings us into Himself, as He makes of us, one family, one people. His people.
Reconciled to the Father, which is how we see each other. As His children, as those He died for, as those who no longer live for themselves, but live in Christ, who died and was raised for us. That’s why we plead, not to God, but with people to come back to God.
A plea that is an interesting word picture. We become their paraclete’s, the one’s that come alongside them, lift them up and lovingly carry them back to Jesus. If the word sounds familiar, it should. It is one of the names for the Holy Spirit. That is why our pleading is effective, for it is done in Christ, and by the Holy Spirit’s power!
What an amazing thing this message of reconciliation we have been given, this plea that God entrusts to us, to call out to others, to beg them to see the work of God, done for them, and to trust that God has reconciled them as well.
Two last thoughts about God’s Justice CLICK
When we love our neighbor, pleading with them to see Jesus, to recognize His work reconciling them to the Father!
And there is no greater testimony to God’s love and mercy at work in us, that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in us, than to plead with our enemies to be reconciled to Jesus Christ.
For it takes a level of peace to do this, a peace that goes beyond logic, that goes beyond understanding, a peace that unites all in Christ, where He guards their hearts and minds. AMEN!
[i] Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 191). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44 But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45a (TEV)
174 Don’t say, “That person bothers me.” Think: “That person sanctifies me.”
It may be a political figure, stoked by the internet gossip that reports and interprets what he is doing.
It may be that guy who cut you off on the freeway.
It may even be that church leader, either in your congregation or perhaps in your denomination.
It could be someone much closer, a family member, a best friend, even your spouse.
It might be me.
Everyone has someone who can irritate them to the point where the frustration dominates their life. We may be ticked off, or hurt. It may be for a few minutes or a few hours, or if the adversary is irritating, a week or a month or a lifetime.
We would love to “fix” them, we would love to see them change, or if not, to just leave them alone. We might even think our life would be better without them. I’ll tell you a secret,
We need them!
We need their irritation, even their persecution. We need them to teach us how to love them, how to care for them, how to listen.
For St Josemaria is correct, they are part of our sanctification!
Part of their role in our lives is to make us holier, to cause us to be closer and closer to God. For it is only as we see them as He sees them, that we will find the strength, the courage, to power to love them, to minister to them. To reveal to them the healing power of the love that we find, when we see Jesus.
That is why we are urged to pray to Him, that God would intercede in their lives. This is why we love them, for they (should) drive us closer to Jesus. As we abide in Christ, we find the peace from which we can minister to them. He gives us the assurance that allows us to sacrifice for them, no matter whether it is our time, our money or even our lives.
I am preaching on 1 John 3 this weekend, where the Apostle hears the Holy Spirit telling us that we should love as Christ did, that we should minister to those in need, who lack what we have. The context is physically, but it works emotionally, mentally and spiritually as well. But we only find that ability, as we live in Christ. As we embrace the discomfort, for their sakes, for God’s glory. If we trust God, we encounter Christ as we encounter those who irritate us. Amazing this Lord of ours!
It is a challenge, but it is what we are called to… so it is time do our job.
May God reveal His work in you, as you minister to them…. and may His peace, which is beyond our imagination, guard our hearts and minds, as we follow in His steps.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 534). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.