Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 A false accusation is as deadly as a sword, a club, or a sharp arrow. Proverbs 25:18 (TEV)
38 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. Matthew 5:38-39 (NLT2)
15 See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled, Hebrews 12:15 (NAB)
63 The third aspect of this commandment concerns us all. It forbids all sins of the tongue by which we may injure or offend our neighbor. False witness is clearly a work of the tongue. Whatever is done with the tongue against a neighbor, then, is forbidden by God. This applies to false preachers with their corrupt teaching and blasphemy, to false judges and witnesses with their corrupt behavior in court and their lying and malicious talk outside of court.
264 It applies particularly to the detestable, shameful vice of back-biting or slander by which the devil rides us. Of this much could be said. It is a common vice of human nature that everyone would rather hear evil than good about his neighbor. Evil though we are, we cannot tolerate having evil spoken of us; we want the golden compliments of the whole world. Yet we cannot bear to hear the best spoken of others.
442 Never think badly of anyone, not even if the words or conduct of the person in question give you good grounds for doing so.
There will always be people we struggle with, people whose actions and words we don’t understand, and often, those words and actions seem to attach or denigrate or embarrass us.
Sometimes the original intent is harmless, like the joke that struck to close to home.
It is hard not to react. Some would say impossible.
They’ve given reason to think badly about them, to gossip about them, to strike back with words that would hurt them, and perhaps those around them.
Scripture pleads with you, as does Luther and a Catholic saint, don’t say, it, don’t think it. Don’t let your words add to the catastrophe that is occurring. Don’t let the bitterness rise up within you, and spread out like poison. DOn’t get involved in backbiting or slander. Don’t try to justify it, don’t try to
Your words will simply cause more damage, they will tear more people up, as the Psalmist says, these words are weapons, they do an incredible amount of damage, even to the point of killing.
So someone’s words hurt, they stung, they damaged you. How do you respond?
Prayer is the place to start, asking God to remind you of and reveal His grace to you. The grace that will remind you of your forgiveness and the promise to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Prayer is the place where you can ask God to give you the strength not to respond.
It is when we are secure in HIS peace that we can love past the pain, that we ae assured His cleansing of our lives includes the injustice, the unrighteous acts committed against us. It is there then, with Christ bearing all the sin in our lives, that we find hope, and the possibility of grace.
This isn’t easy, it takes the spiritual maturity of a saint.
That’s okay, God made you to be a saint…
So think of His love, and rejoice, and share that blessing with those whose words hurt.
The Lord is with you!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 400). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1087-1089). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 Then the high priest took action. He and all his colleagues, those who belonged to the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 So they arrested the apostles and put them in the city jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail during the night, brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the •temple complex, and tell the people all about this life.” 21 In obedience to this, they entered the temple complex at daybreak and began to teach. Acts 5:17-21) HCSB
14 Zion says, “The LORD has abandoned me; The Lord has forgotten me!” 15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. 16 Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me. Is. 49:14-16 HCSB
378 Don’t be a pessimist. Don’t you realize that everything that happens or can happen is for the best? Optimism will be a necessary consequence of your faith.
It is not easy to be critiqued, even when the criticism is constructive. When it is influenced by rivalry, by hatred, when its intent is to tear you down and hurt you, it is, even more, a test.
St. Josemaria would tell us to be optimistic and make a passing reference to Romans 8:28, that all things will work for good for those who love God. If you didn’t know his history, you would think him more than a little naive. Be optimistic while people are trying to destroy us? While they are work to tear us down?
We might even feel like the Zion in the second scripture reading above. We might think that God has abandoned us, that He simply forgot we were here, suffering oppressed, attacked. We might think that we need to raise the defenses, that we need to be prepared to defend our Lord, our church, ourselves. For if God has forgotten about us, who will defend us? Or at least that is what we think.
But Isaiah’s words remind us gently, that God can’t forget us, that He could not. His involvement in our lives is as close, as personal, as intimate as a mother nursing her child. Thinking about us is as inescapable as a tattoo on one’s hand, or the scars made by a spike through that hand.
This is how the apostles could keep their minds off the threats issued by the Sadducees and Priests. Their direction was to tell people about this life, this way of living in the presence of God.
So they went and taught people.
About Jesus, about His love and mercy, seen at the cross, seen as He accompanies them through life. They stayed focus on what gave them hope, what brought them peace, what would make a matter in this life and for eternity. They knew nothing could separate them from God.
And such a focus knows that God is still in charge, that God will see is us through.
God is with you!
So go, ignore the threats, ignore the criticism, and simply teach people what they need to know about Jesus.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 958-960). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
22 But now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem. What will happen to me there I do not know, 23 except that in one city after another the holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and hardships await me. 24 Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace. Acts. 20:22-40 NABRE
45 Why feel hurt by the unjust things people say of you? You would be even worse, if God ever left you. Keep on doing good, and shrug your shoulders. (1)
Some years ago, I sat in a room full of other believers having dinner after a long, brutal day of meetings. I was invited by a good friend, but neither of us was ready for what we would experience.
I would get up and leave, going back to my hotel room, dismayed and depressed. I can still hear the words echoing in my brain that were said. The group didn’t recognize that there were some they were criticizing in the room of a couple of hundred people. Or perhaps, they were so ecstatic, they didn’t bother with the thought, or even care.
The critique was vehement, the lies and comments betrayed a hatred and bitterness. And while not part of the other party, I was probably closer to those criticized than I was to those who accused. The critiques would still probably be applied to me, the attempts to demonize other believers stung and hurt. The fact that believers, those considered leaders in churches would be so cruel… was devastating.(2)
The words, and the faces of those who said that which seemed evil to me still stick with me to this day, and it was the first thing I thought of as I saw the words of Saint Josemaria.
People can be cruel, and it may be that it will be more than just words that they hurl at us. Paul would experience that over and over, and scripture is clear in describing the fear and frustration, the despair and the pain.
As I think back on pain of that night, I can rationalize that these people weren’t evil, In many ways, they sincerely believed the other side threatened their way of life, their faith. While they didn’t understand the others, their own pain and frustration released itself in the midst of victory. My instinct is that now that the years have passed, they wouldn’t recognize their own words.
But even realizing that, if doesn’t change the level of pain.
So how do you move past it? How can we simply shrug our shoulders and keep on doing what is good?
(Logically – do we have any choice?)
How could we choose to shrug our shoulders when it hurts? Even more troublesome, if we are called to imitate Paul as he imitated Jesus, how do we willingly enter times where we face such opposition, such belittling, hearing such negativity tossed at us, and survive?
The answer is simple to hear, hard to execute. We think of God’s presence, the fact that He doesn’t abandon us. We cling to Him, and being enveloped by His peace; we let the other things fade into dimness, compared to His glory. As Paul says, to be a martyr, a witness to the incredible glory of God.
The glory that is ours, that He envelops us in, even as He envelops Himself. This is grace, this is the place were brokenness heals, this is where we find the grace that enables us to endure all, simply to know, to witness and to bear witness to the love and mercy of God, revealed by the Holy Spirt, revealed in Christ.
It is there we need to head, where we need to live, there we find our haven, our rest. Safe in Him, the Lord God Almighty who has promised that nothing can ever separate us from God. This is the answer to the cry, “Lord have mercy”, and it floods our lives.
And on our way shrug, or accept the challenges that await us.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 260-262). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) I am not so naive as to believe that the other side would not have been as cruel
Devotional Thought of the Day
59 So they stoned Stephen while he called upon God, and said, “Jesus, Lord, receive my spirit!” 60 Then, on his knees, he cried in ringing tones, “Lord, forgive them for this sin.” And with these words he fell into the sleep of death ….. Acts 7:59-60 (Phillips NT)
16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t become snobbish but take a real interest in ordinary people. Don’t become set in your own opinions. 17 Don’t pay back a bad turn by a bad turn, to anyone. Don’t say “it doesn’t matter what people think”, but see that your public behaviour is above criticism. 18 As far as your responsibility goes, live at peace with everyone. 19 Never take vengeance into your own hands, my dear friends: stand back and let God punish if he will. For it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay’. 20 … these are God’s words: ‘Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head’. Don’t allow yourself to be overpowered with evil. Take the offensive – overpower evil by good! Romans 12:16-20 (Phillips NT)
688 Once again, they’ve been talking, they’ve written— in favor, against; with good, and with not so good will; insinuations and slanders, panegyrics and plaudits; hits and misses … Fool, big fool! As long as you keep going straight toward your target—head and heart intoxicated with God—why care about the clamor of the wind or the chirping of the cricket, or the bellowing, or the grunting, or the neighing? Besides, it’s inevitable; don’t try to install doors in open air.
It is the odd day that someone isn’t criticized for their beliefs, It seems a past time to criticize others, and most of us have been hurt deeply by that criticism. And perhaps as often, we have struck back hurting others as we’ve been criticized. Either hitting our target, the one who attacked us or striking some innocent person who walked into range at just the wrong time.
This is true in the secular world, and it is as true in the world of religion.
It is hard to allow people to strike us, without striking out in self-defense. It is hard to take the abuse and not be hurt.
Such oppression dealt with in a manner like Jesus’ dealing with his accusers, or dealt with as St. Stephen did, can lead to reconciliation and community in ways we could never have imagined.
Yes, it takes great faith, an incredible level of trust in God. That is the key.
Having thick skin isn’t the key.
Pretending the words don’t hurt isn’t the key. Neither is not taking it personally! When our beliefs and opinions are, well ours, we can’t just shake it off. To pretend we can is living a lie.
In order to survive our beliefs being criticized, in order to hear the words, apply what is true and beneficial, and not strike out, we need to do what St Stephen does, cry out to Jesus. We need to keep focused on our target, Jesus. To not deviate from our adoration of Him, our awe at the depth of His love for us, I love the way St. Josemaria puts it, our head and heart intoxicated with God! To make life centered on receiving that love, and returning it. Living life in full view of it, and becoming the saints He has planned for us to be.
It is then that true constructive criticism (or that two lines out of a thousand) become something we are grateful for, as they help us draw closer to Jesus. And that which isn’t constructive, we ask that God forgive, that He handle, because He has the wisdom we don’t.
That kind of love, that kind of trust in God helps us to not just dismiss the evil we encounter, but sees GOd’s love overwhelm it. Just as Paul, who wrote then incredible words in Romans quoted above, and witnessed Stephen pleading with God to be merciful with Paul.
May our cries for the Lord to have mercy, not only include us, but all, including our enemies and adversaries.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1602-1606). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.