7 And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7 (NLT2)
1 Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch. Isaiah 62:1 (NLT2)
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. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. 46 Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! 47 And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! 48 You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 (TEV)
In these days, when there are wars in the world, battles in our communities, and even in our denominations, it is easy to pray for those we perceive as the victims, and ask God for revenge and curse those who oppose them.
It seems obvious today, in the midst of what is happening in the Ukraine – as the world takes sides, arms their military, and throws economic power around as Russia and the Ukraine go to war. There will be victims that surely need our help. but here is what is controversial….
both sides need our prayers. And we need to encourage them to pray for each other.
God has his people pray for those in captivity, and those who were their captives in the verses above from Jeremiah and Isaiah. He even called on the “victims” to do their best to help those who oppressed them. (think about Joseph – who did the same in Egypt – where he was enslaved!) God calls us to pray for enemies and those who perseccute us – and that means, in the case of two countries where there are Christians, we need to encourage them to pray for each other, and the leaders of both countries.
THis is true in the battles we see throughout our lives as well – we need to pray for those who oppose us, who make our lives a struggle.
Not easy, our nature is to protect what is ours, to defend those we love, not to love those who hate and hurt us.
Yet this is the call we have – as we dwell in the love of Jesus, who did exactly this for us. Don’t try to pray for them without meditating on God’s love first – it will be too hard. But think for the cross, think of His love and mercy and compassion demonstrated there. Find your peace, your refuge in Jesus. Know how much He loves you….
and then pray – for the Ukraine and Russia, for the leaders of both, and for those engaged in the fight. That they would know God’s love… and then that the Holy Spirit would bless them…. as He has blessed you!
By the way – do the same for those in your community, your workplaces, churches, denomination.
Devotional Thought of the Day
“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:43-44 (CSBBible)
Eighthly, for all sinners, that God would seek and save them from their fall, so that they be not overtaken by the wrath of God, nor condemned in the day of His severe judgment.
Ninthly, for all those who, on account of their sins, are troubled by evil spirits, that God would stretch forth His merciful hand and give them His grace, so that they be not overcome….
Twelfthly, for all our enemies and persecutors, who seek after our lives, honor and possessions, that God would not charge them with their sin, but bring them by His grace to true repentance and faith.
Fourteenthly, for all those who have not yet come to the knowledge of Christ the Savior, be they Jews, Turks, Heathens, or evil-doers of any kind, that God would bring them into His fold through the power of His holy Word.
Hopefully, the Bible passage in red above is something you have heard before. A passage that should have challenged you. It probably caused you to become defensive, and to ask questions seeking to divert attention to the enemy, adversary or the person that is down right annoying. I’ve heard commments such as, “Pastor, how can I pray for that asshole?” “Pastor, how can I trust them again?”, “How do I defend myself from being hurt for the 10th, 100th time.”
While pastors and priests may tell you to do this, (usually after you did the opposite) we don’t always teach you how to do it, or provide you a model.
So when I came across Loehe’s general prayer, I found a starting place for us. The entire prayer is good, but I find most of the other areas things we focus on well. It is these areas that are hard to face, that can load us down with fear, or cause great anxiety.
SO we start with this prayer, or one like it. We can pray it word for word, savoring the words until they resonate it into our heart. We can also use it as several bullet points, letting each petition or phrase resonate within us names and the feelings, letting the Holy Spirit bring us to healing as we pray, as we give to God (and often give back to Him again and again)
For that is the blessing on praying for these people. As we entrust them to God in prayer, as we ask for them to be blessed, the burden we allow them to cause in our lives is lifted off, and we are freed. As that happens these prayers take on more life. For God begins to shape our hearts toward them – providing the healing. God is amazing in this…
We need to start to prayer – so now with a place to start, thanks fo a pastor dead some 170… we have a starting place…
Ready, set, Go!
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 52–53.
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 Thought of the Day:
21 “You have heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be brought to trial.’ 22 But now I tell you: if you are angry with your brother you will be brought to trial, if you call your brother ‘You good-for-nothing!’ you will be brought before the Council, and if you call your brother a worthless fool you will be in danger of going to the fire of hell.
Matthew 5:21-22 (TEV)
9 Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10 Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11 Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12 Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13 Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14 Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16 Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise.
Romans 12:9-16 (TEV)
866 Violence is not a good method for convincing anyone… Even less is it so in the apostolate.
The answer to the title is simple to say, but very difficult to implement in our lives.
I am teaching a man, preparing him to serve more at church. He’s currently reading about the reformation and how violent it was. Catholics burning those who would attempt to break away, Henry ordering the death of many, Calvin and Zwingli and Luther were prone to violence as well.
It wasn’t right then, and the more subtle versions that exist today in the church are not righteous or holy either. Jesus, of course, anticipated our thoughts, actions, and words, when He laid out the understanding of sinning in Matthew’s gospel.
Pretty blunt, call your “enemy” or adversary names, deride their character and you are in danger of going to hell.
Even if their action would remove what the world considers your “rights”.
You are still to love them. You are still to be concerned about their life and their salvation. You are to ask God to bless them, rather than curse them. Do not take any violent action, wish that they get what they deserve.
This isn’t easy, in fact, it requires great faith. It requires us to look past what is “ours” to what is God’s.
We are His responsibility, and we are the way His love becomes known to a broken world that needs it. That mission, the reason that God is patient with us is more important than getting angry. And to remember that, when people are making decisions that cause you stress and anxiety when politicians are polarizing when you are dealing with violent threats yourself, requires great trust in God.
And that trust, that dependence, that faith requires us to know He is with us, to know His attitude toward us, to know His love for us, and to know that nothing can separate us from His love.
Knowing that… we can love them, and that love may be the very thing that allows them to see Jesus love for them revealed.
But it all comes back to walking with God…
Lord, send Your Spirit to strengthen us, to draw us so close to You that your love drives out all anxiety, all stress. Lord, help us to know you are with us. In Jesus name. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3549-3550). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. 35 And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, 36 I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? 38 And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 39 40 Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (MSG)
277 Rather than commit a fault against charity, give in, offer no resistance, whenever you have the chance. Show the humility of the grass, which yields without needing to know whose foot is stepping on it.
As I read St Josemaria’s words this morning, my mind drifted towards the passage from Matthew above. Well, more like the passage smacked me.
We often think of that passage in regards to the needs that are mentioned, which are mostly physical. Hunger, thirst, loneliness, health issues. But what about the spiritual issues? What about that rude person, who desperately needs mercy? What about that antagonistic person, who is that way because of being in bondage to sin?
Could we really be reaching out and serving Jesus by serving those who are twisted in their brokenness? Whose are offensive, who are so against us that we would even classify them as enemies? Who won’t listen but love to argue, and even try to bait us into the arguments? Or those who are, through no cause of their own, so frustrating we want to give up, to run away from them.
This isn’t easy! I am preaching on Jeremiah this week, who laments trying to reach out to such people. He gets so frustrated he accused God of deceiving him, basically saying – it shouldn’t be this hard to share YOUR message.
Which is perhaps why Matthew 25 came to mind. We can’t pick which people we help, which types of brokenness we will care for, disregarding the rest. We are sent to minister to the needs of those around us, physical, spiritual, psychological, no matter the cost…
We simply serve, we simply offer that glass of cold water, the listening ear, the prayer, and patience they need. And on occasion, we even get to see God draw the to Himself and unite them to Jesus.
What a wonder that is, what an incredible thing God has sent us to do!
So next time you see someone roaring like a lion, hurt and bleeding and ready to pounce on you for trying to help, ask God for the wisdom, strength, and patience to be able to do so, knowing you are serving someone Jesus died for… and trust God to provide what you need!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1356-1358). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
33 The king was overcome with grief. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he cried, “O my son! My son Absalom! Absalom, my son! If only I had died in your place, my son! Absalom, my son!” 2 Samuel 18:33
19 When David noticed them whispering to each other, he realized that the child had died. So he asked them, “Is the child dead?”
“Yes, he is,” they answered.
20 David got up from the floor, had a bath, combed his hair, and changed his clothes. Then he went and worshiped in the house of the LORD. When he returned to the palace, he asked for food and ate it as soon as it was served. 21“We don’t understand this,” his officials said to him. “While the child was alive, you wept for him and would not eat; but as soon as he died, you got up and ate!”
22 “Yes,” David answered, “I did fast and weep while he was still alive. I thought that the LORD might be merciful to me and not let the child die. 23But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Could I bring the child back to life? I will some day go to where he is, but he can never come back to me.”
55 Is it possible, you asked me, that Christ should have spent so many years—twenty centuries—acting on earth, and the world should be now what it is? Is it possible, you went on, that there should still be people who do not know Our Lord? And I answered you with conviction: It is our fault. For we have been called to be co-redeemers, and at times, perhaps often!, we do not follow the Will of God. (1)
A man suffers the death of two of his beloved sons.
The evil one, the one who died in open rebellion trying to kill and replace his father, is grieved over. Grief consumes the father, unbelievable, paralyzing grief.
The innocent one, the one who dies because of his father’s sin, seemingly isn’t grieved over. The death is accepted, life moves on, even to the extent that God is worshiped, not questioned.
This doesn’t make sense! Why wouldn’t David have the opposite attitude? Why wouldn’t guilt and shame and grief eat him alive as his “good” son dies? Why wouldn’t there be a sense of relief, even a little joy as the son who tried to kill him, who raped his concubines died? Why does he move on from the first, and become a paralyzed, bawling wretch over the death of the second?
Revealed in David, at this point, is the heart of God. The God who reveals through Ezekiel that he doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked, the God who reveals through Peter that He is patient, because He wants everyone to be transformed, through Paul that our ministry is one of reconciliation. And shows Paul has the same heart when Paul says,
1 I am speaking the truth; I belong to Christ and I do not lie. My conscience, ruled by the Holy Spirit, also assures me that I am not lying 2 when I say how great is my sorrow, how endless the pain in my heart 3 for my people, my own flesh and blood! For their sake I could wish that I myself were under God’s curse and separated from Christ.
Romans 9:1-3 (TEV)
This is David’s heart as well. This is what is meant when he talks of preferring to die rather than Absolom. For if Absolom doesn’t die, there is still hope for reconciliation with God, there is still hope that God will work through all the blocks, and Absolom would find the gift of repentance. The same for Paul, who values his relationship with God more than anything, yet would surrender it, if it meant his people, Israel, would become the people of God again.
(note as well the assurance of David in regards to the “good” son. I will go where he is…)
I think this is the missing key in St Josemaria’s discussion, the reason we don’t follow the will of God, the reason that the world isn’t saved, that really, no major attempt is being made to do so.
Is is that we count our enemies as something less than those God desires, something not worth Christ’s death on the cross? Or do we value that death enough, realizing that our enemies are not the only enemies of Christ that He died for, for we were once, as well?
I don’t’ think we fix this by having conferences on evangelism, and training seminars on arguing people into submission to our doctrine. That hasn’t worked all too well over the last 40 years. Being obsessed with methodology – church growth, liturgical rubrics, etc doesn’t bring about this heart.
What does is prayer, worship, adoration, contemplated on the mysteries of God’s mercy and love. What changes us it knowing in our heart and soul that we are loved, that God is here, that we are standing on Holy ground.
For people to not know this peace? To not know this love? For us to not desire it for all we come into contact with? This needs ot become inconceivable.
Lord, have mercy on us! Give us your heart, your will to see people dwell with you. Help us to learn to cry when enemies and adversaries face death, or when they suffer. May our hearts move to help them, may we serve as servants to reconcile them. For we pray this in Jesus’ name. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 423-426). 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.