Church, Know Who Your Enemy is… and isn’t!
the devotional thought of the Day:
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. Ephesians 6:12 (TEV)
1 To you, who were spiritually dead all the time that you drifted along on the stream of this world’s ideas of living, and obeyed its unseen ruler (who is still operating in those who do not respond to the truth of God), to you Christ has given life! We all lived like that in the past, and followed the impulses and imaginations of our evil nature, being in fact under the wrath of God by nature, like everyone else. 4 But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ – it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved – and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve – it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do. Ephesians 2:1-4 (Phillips NT)
The circumstances of various regions being duly considered, students are to be brought to a fuller understanding of the churches and ecclesial communities separated from the Apostolic Roman See, so that they may be able to contribute to the work of re-establishing unity among all Christians according to the prescriptions of this holy synod.
Let them also be introduced to a knowledge of other religions which are more widespread in individual regions, so that they may acknowledge more correctly what truth and goodness these religions, in God’s providence, possess, and so that they may learn to refute their errors and be able to communicate the full light of truth to those who do not have it.
66 These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and distinguish us Christians from all other people on earth. All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Even back to my childhood, I remember people telling me who the enemies of God are, and therefore who the Church’s and my enemies are. And often, far too often, we would rise up to figure out how to start a new Crusade to crush this new enemy.
Some of the enemies were external to the church. Atheists and Agnostics who were so burnt by the church that they felt they had to “save” people from it. Other religions that were out to convert us (before we converted them!) Some of our enemies were internal to Christianity, (ex the Catholics pointing to Luther, the Baptists pointing to the Catholics, the Pentecostals pointing to the less emotional Presbyterians and Methodists. And some of these enemies were even in our congregations, like those who went to war over worship styles, or those that supported t this change, or those that just wanted them to remain the way they always were.
But we treat our enemies as if we were on a holy crusade against the heretics and infidels of our times. The church too often focuses on witch-hunts rather than ministering to those who are in need. Especially the ministry of reconciliaiton, and the ministry of deliverance,salvation. Deliverance from sin, deliverance from idols, (see Ezekiel 36:25) deliverance from the broknness that plagues our lives and relationships. THat should be our focus, to the believer and unbeliever, to our brothers and sisters in Chirst, and towards our enemies and adversaries, who, we pray, will become our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As Paul says, we don’t battle against them, but aginst those that hold them in bondage! Vatican II and Luther note that they have some ideas of God, What they know isn’t enough, because while they understand that God must be just, that there has to be “karma”, a payment your have earned for the sin you have committed, they have no idea that God could be, that God desires to be merciful.
That is our message, that is why we need to understand their religions, not to defeat them in battle, but to realize what they do teach about God, however they have veiled Him, and reveal Him fullu, so that they can depend on Him fully. We need to tell them the good news about God’s mercy and love, so that the Holy Spirit will fulfill the promise of working through the word, to illuminate their hearts.
We can’t have that kind of focus if we remain in ignorance, nor can we see this as our mission, what we’ve been sent to do, if we think of the people as our enemies and adversaries. This is why scripture commands us to love our enemies, because, in the final analysis, they are not our enemies.
Get to know them, share wth them the reason that we broken sinners have found hope…. and look to God, who loves you so much, and has an eternity planned for you that is beyond comprehension.
The Lord is with you!
Question of the day: If we know God is with us, why would we fear those with different beliefs?
Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 419). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Let Them Make Peace With Me! But what does that mean?
Devotional Thought for This Day:
5 “But if the enemies of my people want my protection, let them make peace with me. Yes, let them make peace with me.” Isaiah 27:5 TEV
748 Let us make a firm resolution about our friendships. In my thoughts, words and deeds towards my neighbour, whoever he may be, may I not behave as I have done up to now. That is to say, may I never cease to practise charity, or allow indifference to enter my soul.
It is very possible to misread Isaiah in the passage above, to think that the burden of reconciliation God is placing on those who are the enemies of His people. That are the ones to “make peace”, therefore it is their effort, their work. We hear it as a demand from him, as the thundering voice of God’s law, with the undertones of wrath below it.
We choose to hear it as God’s law – as the prophetic voice that will allow us to thrash them unless they prove their intent to make peace. Which means, of course, that we can then have the same attitude, because the enemies of God’s people are our enemies, because we are God’s people, right?
This gives us full license to be holier than thou – or at least holier than those racists, or those politicians, or those other people, you know, the ones that don’t go to our church but go to “that” church, or no church at all.
I even heard that to preach “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you is law, therefore we don’t have to obey it, just confess it when we fail too! ( We need a refresher in Augsburg Confession Article VI)
St. Josemaria’s words caught my attention this morning. He described a desire to change his attitude toward his neighbor, whoever he maybe! He then describes a life that is charitable, that loves, that has compassion, and never allows indifference to enter his soul.
What if that neighbor was an addict to drugs, or dealt them? what if that neighbor was into porn, or and it was wrecking his life and family? What if that neighbor was a militant atheist or someone who morality and ethics we question. What if they murdered someone, deliberately or by neglect? What if that neighbor was one of those in Charlottesville that was rioting? (It doesn’t matter which side, or whether they were those who just wanted to “amp” up the tension)
Each of those people may be identified as our neighbor, and we need to rid ourselves of our apathy, we need to find the ability to be compassionate toward him or her. We need to invite them to make peace with God, and then perhaps, over time, with us.
Which brings us back to Isaiah, and the question about God’s intent about these enemies. Does He mean they have to make peace with Him, atoning for their own sin, proving their intent? Or is it an invitation to be at peace with God, to be drawn to Jesus, and the cross which cleanses us from all sin?
From St. Paul,
8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 5:8-11 (NLT)
Let them make peace, a peace for which the price has already been paid.
It is an invitation, one that will result in them (and us) being cleansed of all sin and unrighteousness.
It is there, in this invitation, that we ALL can find hope. …
Lord Jesus, help us to shed our apathy, our indifference toward our neighbor, and with great compassion and love lead them to where God reconciles them with Himself. And remind us constantly of the wonder of the peace you give us, as by grace you save us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3115-3117). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
American Bible Society. The Holy Bible: The Good News Translation. 2nd ed. New York: American Bible Society, 1992. Print.
Be Different: Act like God’s Kids
Be Different: Act like God’s kids
† In Jesus Name †
May the gifts of God’s mercy, love and peace enable you to truly live life, as you learn to love those God brings into your life.
The hardest lesson to live!
The words of Jesus that I read this morning are hard to hear.
They are easily understood, but how easy are they to live up to?
Turn the other cheek! Give up more than you are sued for, give to those who demand of you, don’t turn away those who want to borrow.
And these hard words of Jesus, “Love your enemies, pray, that is, ask God to bless, those who persecute you.”
In a world where we are trained to look out for ourselves and those we love, how do we even do this? How do we set aside our resentment, our fears and anxieties, and the pain others cause, and love them?
Yet Jesus asks us to do exactly that….
And it doesn’t matter who our enemy is, whether it is a global one or the bully that lives down the street.
How can God ask this of us? What is really going on here? What is God up to?
What is God up to?
We see a clue in another of the verses,
In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
Why would God give good stuff to those who are evil? Why would He rain blessings on those who are not just? And what does that have to do with the challenge we have, in loving those who are our enemies, or who we think are, and therefore are afraid of them?
The first answer is the old one, (First written by Augustine) that talked about the fact that in hating our enemies we are hurting ourselves more than we could ever hurt them.
A better answer is seen in one parable, where Jesus taught that He doesn’t remove the weeds among the wheat; because we can’t be sure of not uprooting wheat when we dig out the weeds. Likewise, the enemy of today may become the friend, the brother in Christ. The one which we are praying for may stop persecuting us, as Paul the apostle went from killing and tormenting Christians, to being one who preached about Jesus’ love from Jerusalem to Athens to Rome and perhaps beyond.
We don’t know, we just know the heart of God, who the apostle Peter tells us is patient, not willing that any should die in their sin, but that would come to the transformation that happens when our sin is forgiven.
To put it another way, what makes the different between a weed and what is not how they look, but what happens when they encounter Jesus. That’s why the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel would write this, “
21 But if wicked people turn away from all their sins and begin to obey my decrees and do what is just and right, they will surely live and not die. 22 All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live because of the righteous things they have done. 23 “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. Ezekiel 18:21-24 (NLT)
Knowing God’s heart, and knowing that neither we nor angels can know how someone will turn out, these are things that help us love those that others tell us can’t be loved. Knowing that every single one of them God loves and desires to be one of His own. This helps too…
Acting like God’s kids!
But what helps the most is knowing that God loves us, while we were His enemies, while we chose to live without him, choosing to do what we thought was right more than we cared what He thought, what He wanted.
Paul makes it clear – while we were all His enemies, Jesus died for us. He died, taking on the judgment we deserved. He died to make sure that our sin wouldn’t divide us from God. He died that we might live, and live life knowing God loves us and is with us.
So for us to be God’s kids – to live like that, we need to know what He loves, and how Jesus lived. Loving those the rest of the world considered unlovable, loving those who are our enemies, and asking our Father to bless those who make our lives difficult.
For when we know that, loving those who the world considers our enemies, is nothing more that loving those our Father in heaven would have become our brothers and sisters. And loving them becomes possible because we dwell in God’s glorious peace, peace that the world doesn’t understand, which is the peace in which Jesus guards our hearts and minds. AMEN!
Let’s Not Get Tired…. REALLY? A sermon on Galatians 6
Let’s Not Get Tired!
Galatians 6:1–10, 14–18
† In Jesus Name †
May God’s mercy and peace rest upon you, as you live a life drawn to the Cross, for you are the people of God!
No Un-obeyable Orders
But Don’t get tired?
Every summer I read a series of books by one of my favorite authors. He writes series about the military and the police, novels based on true events. In one of the books I was reading this week, an older retired officer mentioned to a younger officer that you never issue an order you know can’t be obeyed, or won’t be obeyed. Specifically, if the character of the person you are directing leads you to believe they can’t or won’t obey the order, don’t bother.
Find someone else, or find a way to replace the person.
For some reason that piece of wisdom made me laugh, when I was reading Paul’s words to the church in Galatia,
9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.
Of course, when I read it, I read it more like, “don’t get tired while doing good!”
Too late – been tired for a while – way too tired sometimes.
But oh the feeling of accomplishing something good is… to Goood!
Even if we are tired.
So today’s lesson could be titled – How not to get tired of doing good to other even when we are tired.
So how do we do that?
Obeying the Law
First, we have to define what it means to do good. Not that’s not right, we don’t get to define it, God does.
What we have to do Is have revealed to us what God sees as doing good, or doing what is right. The easy answer is found in next week’s gospel – a passage I preached on 30 years ago. To do good is to do this,
“‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Luke 10:27 (NLT)
If you all agree that everything you do will fulfill that, we can have communion and go home! Seriously, we need to understand that, and today’s epistle gives a number of examples, such as,
“if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.”
“2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3″
These are pretty strong commands, pretty challenging. For how many of us are willing to go to someone who is sinning, and try to help them to see the need to stop? How many are willing to invest and risk what it will take to gently and humbly restore that person.
Knowing that loving them this much – even with a gentle and humble spirit could mean that they strike back, and tell you to mind your own business. Or even worse?
How many of us are willing to help someone bear their burdens, to be there in times of sorrow and in times of tears? What about in the dark times, where anxiety and doubt and guilt are crushing them?
This is as much doing good as is celebrating the service of those who are retiring, or those whose ministry is changing.
It isn’t easy, it takes commitment, patience, the old kind of patience which is called long-suffering, it takes faith, and the ability to set aside our own self-interest, to make sure the physical, emotional and most importantly spiritual needs of others are taken care of, that they are okay.
But how do we do that? How do we set aside a basic interest of self-preservation to minister to others, to share their burdens?
Treasuring the Walk
We remember Jesus, and we let Him draw us back to the cross. Here St. Paul again,
14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died!
This is our hope, in the cross, where Jesus was brutally put to death. At the cross, where he was nailed, and where a spear pierced his heart and lungs. In Christ lifted up, drawing us to Him, that we could become children of God.
Where our transformation into His likeness begins.
That is where the interests of the world disappear, that is where what drives the world, riches, fame, pleasure and even health don’t seem as magnificent as seeing Jesus looking at us, knowing only as God can the love for us that says the torment and pain are worth it.
For he freed us from sin, from Satan, from the power of death that would separate us from God and all that is good.
Getting tired, exhausted even? Feeling like you do not have another step in you? Like I said, some of us have been there and done that often. Sometimes, it is at that point where we see another in need, someone desperate for help. Someone caught up in sin and struggling to stay afloat.
Look to the cross, see the love of Christ, dying there for you and the person in need. You won’t tire of responding to that need then; You won’t say I don’t have the strength, or I can’t make that sacrifice.
You will simply take their hand, and lead them to the cross, to the Lord of love, to the one who was crucified, died and was buried and rose again… for us.
Knowing this, the peace of God our Father is your, the peace beyond all understanding; that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
How to Deal With Those Who Irritate You….
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.
Do I Really Have to????? Yes! Love Them!
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
7 And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray for her, for if Babylon has peace, so will you.” Jeremiah 29:7 (TLB)
760 All right, I agree! That person has behaved badly; his behaviour has been reprehensible and unworthy; he deserves no merit at all. Humanly speaking he deserves to be utterly despised, you added. I understand what you mean, I can assure you, but I do not share this concluding view of yours. That life which seems so mean is sacred. Christ has died to save it. If He did not despise it, how can you dare to? (1)
I am on vacation, and we’ve driven a bit here and there, and my memories go back to my childhood vacations in the lake region and in White Mountains of New Hampshire. Three kids in the back of the old Chevy Malibu, and later in the Monte Carlo. God a bit cramped back there, and let’s just say it is was about as peaceful as the Holy Land. There was even the innocent victim (me) caught in between the rival factions.. I can still hear my dad and mom instructing my siblings to get along, to love each other, sometimes even to give each other a hug… a nice gentle one.
And the loud pitched, whining reply, ‘do I really have too???????”
Move forward to today. Even if we are not caught into a political and historical mess like Israel and Palestine, we find ourselves in serious disagreements, We have rivals, we have those we don’t like, and we have those we are seemed destined to hate, because they hate us. We are at war, sometimes in our workplaces, other times in our neighborhoods, with distant family, and sometimes, sad to say, in our homes.
We justify our anger, we get protective to stop the pain, to defend our reputations, even our families. There is a meme going around, saying that if they drop their guns, there will be peace, but if we drop ours, we will be annihilated. Not sure how true this is, but we take it is as truth, and apply that truth in our lives. We want at least the personal version of Mutually Assured Destruction.
We don’t realize how damaging this is, this dealing with enemies, this always defending ourselves.
Israel was in captivity when Jeremiah wrote these words, with the ancestors of those they have been engaged in hostilities with for centuries. The prophet’s words are different, they don’t call for strategy, they don’t call for defensive posturing. I chose the translation from the Living Bible because it identifies the city, these enemies. Here it is, as we would normally here it,
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 (NLT)
Do I really have to? Do I really have to love them, to pray for them? Do I have to sacrifice time and energy to work for their peace and not just survival, but prosperity?
Do I really have to?
I mean St Josemaria described them so well, “All right, I agree! That person has behaved badly; his behaviour has been reprehensible and unworthy; he deserves no merit at all. Humanly speaking he deserves to be utterly despised, you added.”
And the response, read it again,
I understand what you mean, I can assure you, but I do not share this concluding view of yours. That life which seems so mean is sacred. Christ has died to save it. If He did not despise it, how can you dare to?
Here is a way, similar to the words above, that helps. Hear Jesus words from the cross, Father, forgive (insert your name), for they know not what they do. See Him utter those words, even as He is dieing, even as the pain wracks His body, even as the blood drips to the ground. Now, Look at your adversary, see Jesus on the cross, begging the Father to forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing as well. Let this thought be pondered in your heart for 10 or 15 minutes…. really dwell on it. Not just picture it for a second – go that’s nice. But dwell on it until the tears come, till the pain is pulsing in your body, and then purged of it, the peace rushes into your soul.
See both of you, broken there… yet being lifted by Christ. For in Christ, that which divides us is broken, in Christ there is mercy, in Christ, there is healing.
That’s why Jeremiah calls for us to pray for those who oppress us, because as God makes Himself known to them, as He calls them to be His children, as He blesses them, the blessing to us is beyond compare.
St Paul mentions this in his words to the Church in Galatia…
27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28 (NLT)
There is our goal, this is our mission, our apostolate, to long for this healing, this reconciliation. Tough? Yes. Painful? Yes? Calling us to sacrifice beyond our means? Yes.
In Christ, there is no other choice. It is our vocation, our life.
We pray, “Lord, have mercy on us sinners!”
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3158-3162). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Lord’s response to “Lord please defeat my enemies!”
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 Then I said, “LORD, you understand. Remember me and help me. Let me have revenge on those who persecute me. Do not be so patient with them that they succeed in killing me. Remember that it is for your sake that I am insulted. 16 You spoke to me, and I listened to every word. I belong to you, LORD God Almighty, and so your words filled my heart with joy and happiness. 17 I did not spend my time with other people, laughing and having a good time. In obedience to your orders I stayed by myself and was filled with anger. 18 Why do I keep on suffering? Why are my wounds incurable? Why won’t they heal? Do you intend to disappoint me like a stream that goes dry in the summer?” 19 To this the LORD replied, “If you return, I will take you back, and you will be my servant again. If instead of talking nonsense you proclaim a worthwhile message, you will be my prophet again. The people will come back to you, and you will not need to go to them. Jeremiah 15:15-19 (TEV)
419 An apostle must not remain at the level of the mediocre. God calls him to be fully human in his actions, and at the same time to reflect the freshness of eternal things. That is why the apostle has to be a soul who has undergone a long, patient and heroic process of formation. (1)
A few days ago, I wrote a blog that we as Christians don’t really have enemies, we have adversaries. That our goal was not to defeat them, or crush them, but instead to love them, to pray for them, to come alongside them, that they may know the love of God. That is what following in the footsteps of Jesus is, that is what being a child of God looks like. Growing in our trust of God to the extent that we begin to love as Christ does.
I got a bit of feedback, some quite defensive saying we can’t avoid enemies – they will come after us. My point seemed to be lost, or maybe poorly communicated? It is not that they don’t oppress us, or challenge us, or even hate us. That’s on them. But when we decide that they are enemies, when we make that judgment, it places us in a battle, either offensive or defensive, and negates our ability to minister to them. Our reaction to enemies is different than our reaction to an adversary.
this morning in my devotional time, I read the passage from Jeremiah above. Jeremiah is one who had significant opposition, primarily for speaking out for what God wanted from His people, what He expected as part of the relationship, how He expected them to love each other, and Him. Not a easy message then, nor is it one today. He got a lot of opposition, and here we see him asking God to take care of it. The opposition is real, death threats have been made, serious ones. This isn’t just whining because he didn’t get his way.
But his attention in the midst of the opposition has shifted. It has become personal, this opposition to God’s word. Jeremiah has lost his focus, as we all do at times. He focuses in on his on righteousness, his own goodness.
And God rebukes him, takes him back to the beginning.
God doesn’t promise vengeance on them, instead He tells Jeremiah to return, to repent, to re-focus on the relationship between God and Jeremiah.
That’s a message many of us, including me, perhaps today especially me, need to hear. For we get tired and weary, as we see people choose evil, make decisions that ignore God, and walk on paths that are self-destructive. The temptation is to compare their journey to ours. “Wouldn’t they be better off like us, why can’t they see this?”
While what we should be doing is speaking to them about Jesus’ love, about His mercy, about their need for it in their lives. They need to hear His message, His gospel, His word, and that may take some time. It may take some time for us to get it right, to learn to speak His word, not focus on our situation, to bear His cross, to pray for those who persecute us. Rather than just condemn them and desire wrath, or to give up hope for them, we need to learn that if God is patient with us, not willing that any should perish but all come to repentance… than that is our path, our desire. This focus on the eternal takes time – even for prophets and apostles… we just need to remember to turn to Him…..
So we need to pray for them, ask God to save them, Speak the truth in love regarding their sin and ours, and that God offers hope… He will return them… He will welcome them home.
Lord, have mercy on us ALL…. AMEN
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1878-1880). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Church and Persecution
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 11 ‘Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you. Matthew 5:10-12 (NJB)
1026 Violent persecution had broken out. And that priest prayed: Jesus, may every sacrilegious fire increase in me the fire of Love and Reparation.
There are times I think, that the church in America has re-written the scripture passage above in their hearts. It goes something like this:
Blessed are those who avoid persecution or complain about it, for religious freedom will be theirs. Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak bad about you, because you say you are a Christian, but refuse to love them, and sacrifice for those you consider evil and corrupt. Rejoice and be glad, for this is how the pharisees operated back in the day.
You may think that harsh, but while there are churches being burnt down with their parishoners inside, we claim the church in America is being persecuted. Why? Because our society doesn’t resemble us, and our nice fantasy that America is primarily a Chrisitan country is being dashed to pieces. And our reaction to our image being shattered? “It’s persecution? Those people are evil! The church needs to stand up and fight for what is right! We’ve got to restore this country to greatness”
And in taking that attitude, we’ve lost something, we’ve lost the vision of the Savior who came to care for those broken, lost in darkness, We’ve lost the knowledge that spiritual warfare is about freeing those bound in sin and darkness, it is about delivering them into the presence of a God who completely loves them. It’s about giving all to minister to them, even dieing if necessary. It’s about not loving our own lives, so much that we wouldn’t die for the sake of the Lord we trust in, the Lord who called us into relationship with Him.
I love Josemaria’s words here, a man who struggled through civil war, where Chrsitians, laypeople and clergy were killed by both sides. Let the fires of persecution, the sacrileges committed as people are killed because of their faith – let those fires increase our fire, our zeal to love, our zeal to see reconciliation, our zeal to see the gospel free people from all that oppresses them, and open to them the power of God. For the more we see the brokenness of the world, the more we cry out for God to work, the more we depend on Him, the more we are spurred on to show the only hope that only God provides.
That’s why the church in places like the Sudan, in the Ukraine, in the Middle East, in so many dark places in the world grows rapidly, for it is the only place of hope. That is why scripture talks about turning the other cheek, and going beyond what is required by the law, but embracing suffering for the sake of those who are caught up in sin, for those dominated by evil. Because as they see us, they realize there is something different. We see it as Paul and his companions sing praises in Jail, or as saints throughout the ages bless their persecutors like Stephen did.
Don’t whine about perceived persecution. Stand firm in your witness to Christ – and love and work to reconcile them to God. For this is how Revelation describes us,
10 Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Salvation and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the accuser, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down. 11 They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word to which they bore witness, because even in the face of death they did not cling to life. Revelation 12:10-11 (NJB)
Don’t fight the fire of persecution with counter attacks, but instead with the fire of God’s love.
Lord have mercy! God give us the strength to love our enemies, and to zealously pray for those who persecute us!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3630-3631). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Words We DO NOT Want to Hear (or read) Today
Devotional/Discussion 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. Matthew 5:43-44 (TEV)
17 If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. 18 Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. 19 Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God’s anger do it. For the scripture says, “I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord.” 20 Instead, as the scripture says: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them a drink; for by doing this you will make them burn with shame.” 21 Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good. Romans 12:17-21 (TEV)
8 To conclude: you must all have the same attitude and the same feelings; love one another, and be kind and humble with one another. 9 Do not pay back evil with evil or cursing with cursing; instead, pay back with a blessing, because a blessing is what God promised to give you when he called you. 10 As the scripture says, “If you want to enjoy life and wish to see good times, you must keep from speaking evil and stop telling lies. 11 You must turn away from evil and do good; you must strive for peace with all your heart. 12 For the Lord watches over the righteous and listens to their prayers; but he opposes those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:8-12 (TEV)
59 They kept on stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 He knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!” He said this and died. Acts 7:59-60 (TEV)
12 Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Matthew 6:12 (TEV)
Yesterday morning – my cousin posted a picture on Facebook – as they walked toward the finish line of the Boston Marathon from Fenway.
A couple of hours later – the news flashed across my computer that evil had again occurred, as bombs disrupted the peace, the joy of accomplishment, at the finish line. Though I haven’t seen her in a few years, my heart became quite anxious – as I waited for her response , as I waited to hear word that she was safe. Eventually we did… they had stopped to look at some work out clothes on the way.
BUt as I watched the pictures of ambulances and rescue crew – as I saw the pictures, as I watched the numbers scroll as they tallied the numbers of those who were physically hurt, I wanted to strike back, I wanted to find the minds that created this horror. And I know the damage is far worse, for no tally can ever be made of those who are spiritually and emotionally bruised and battered by such and event. My anger was fueled, as I began to see people from “both sides” try to turn this into a political issue, trying to cause division where there was no division. The anger pooled, and grew – as people gave voice to their fears, their anxiety and called for retribution now – even before all the facts are known. External Threats were named, internal threats, conspiracy theories abound. I began to fear what happened to a doctor who new, shortly after 9-11 he and his wife were attacked for being part of those who attacked our country – even though they were not Arabic or Muslim, but Indian and Christian.
And my heart broke.
For my hatred, my sin, for the sins of those who wanted to be in on the revenge, for those who lost control.
What will it take, in moments like these – to really hear the Voice of Scripture, calling us to love, calling us to pray, calling us to urge our enemies to be reconciled to God? To let God decide on whom to pour out wrath on (for many would condemn those who perpetrated this evil to hell)
The above passages aren’t optional responses to evil – they are the responses that those who trust in God above all else are to have. To demonstrate the kind of love that goes beyond all logic – to show the love of Christ. In our readings for the class I am teaching this week- the author, Michael Card, noted that one of the definitions of the Hebrew word “cHesed” is “to love your enemies”, or to love those who have failed you.
It’s hard isn’t it?
But it isn’t about our relationship with our enemies. It is about our trust in God, our faith in Him, our ability to see that He is God.
and let’s be honest – in our flesh we hate it. We hate this idea that we have to forgive, to pray for, to love… even as Christ loved us,
Yet we are called to it.
As we pray this day, as we pray for the victims, for their families, for my beloved city of Boston, may we as well cry for mercy for ourselves, for healing, for God’s comfort – and for His strength… for as His people, as the Father’s children, for we desperately need His mercy… to show mercy. And may we pray that those behind this – that God would turn they hearts and minds toward Him.
And even as we pray – may we know the peace of God, which passes all understanding, in which our hearts and minds are kept, guarded by Jesus Christ.
- Conversion and “Repentance” Evangelical Catholic VI? or VII? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Great Apocalypse in upon us! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Boston, Tragedy, & My Plea with Jesus (tothatisaywalkamile.wordpress.com)
- We Don’t Lecture about Christ, We proclaim His Love and Crucifixion (justifiedandsinner.com)