2 I want them to be strengthened and joined together with love so that they may be rich in their understanding. This leads to their knowing fully God’s secret, that is, Christ himself. 3 In him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are safely kept. Col. 2:2-3 NCV
- To attribute to God the good one sees in oneself.
- To recognize that the evil in oneself is attributable only to oneself.
- To make peace with an adversary before sundown.
- Never to despair of God’s mercy. (from the rule of St Benedict)
For at first Jerome, when objections were raised against him (e.g. for his statement, “If anyone says that God demands the impossible, let him be anathema”) simply replied in his Dialog. adv. Pel., Bk. 2 [MPL 23.577], “These things are impossible for our nature but possible for grace.” And he understood grace only in the sense of the aid and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Also Augustine in his first argument with the Pelagians said many things like this: “Grace restores the will so that the restored will fulfills the Law.”
The green words above are from the rule of St Benedict. They are critical for us to understand in these days where division is growing, where people are reacting not to what is said, not even to what they think they heard, but how they interpret it.
One friend recently said that he wouldn’t watch football because of the protests of players. He didn’t listen to what they said, he immediately interpreted it through his emotions, and admitted it, bringing into the equation his father, who was buried at Arlington Cemetery.
I wonder if he realized some of those players have relatives buried there as well?
I am not saying the football teams or those who support their actions are any better at listening to people.
In fact, the anger towards each other is simply reactionary. It is done with though, but not thought about the other people involved.
What originally started with one man, concerned with issues far deeper than a meme or slogan, has polarized many in this country, deepening the rifts. Rifts encouraged by some in the media, rifts that are unavoidable according to some.
Rifts that even divide those in the church, those who are united by something more powerful than anything else known, the power that raised Christ from the dead.
A power that we need to see now.
Chemnitz pointed out that what seems impossible for our nature is possible for grace, specifically the aid and renewal tht the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete/Comforter brings into our situation. The Spirit who is responsible for the good we see in ourselves, and overcomes the evil which we must recognize and take responsibility for, only to accept the grace that will redeem it.
It surprised me, as Dr. Webber quoted the Rule of St Benedict, to see #71 – to make peace with an adversary before sundown, But the context is amazing, for in thinking of that task – that discipline, we could easily despair. “I can’t do it”, “it’s impossible” “They will never…” I could easily despair, to which the Rule responds, “Never despair of God’s mercy”
There is our answer, there is our hope for reconciling the unreconcilable, the hope for healing relationships shattered by history, our present, and concern over our future.
It is the hope we see in Paul’s words in red above, the idea that we can be joined together in love, understanding God’s secret – the hope of being in Christ himself.
Heavenly Father, Lord bring peace to our fractured and divided society. Bring the hope and love that comes by Your Holy Spirit. Help those of us who claim to follow you to do so, to hear those who are our adversaries, and to be with them, that we all may be saved. AMEN!
 Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
4 Meisel and del Mastro, The Rule of St. Benedict, 52–54.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:
*While Joshua was near Jericho, he raised his eyes and saw one who stood facing him, drawn sword in hand.h Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you one of us or one of our enemies?” 14 He replied, “Neither. I am the commander* of the army of the LORD: now I have come.” Then Joshua fell down to the ground in worship, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” 15 The commander of the army of the LORD replied to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. Josh 5:13–15
“..what difference is there between philosophy and the teaching of Christ? If we merit the forgiveness of sins by these elicited acts of ours, of what use is Christ? If we can be justified by reason and its works, what need is there of Christ or of regeneration?” (Apology of the Augsburg Confessio; Article IV
I have a friend who still contends that the Dallas Cowboys are still America’s Team. I will concede that in his presence, noting that Bill, Tom and the rest of the New England Patriots are God’s team. Another friend declares that God is surely a fan of the Nebraska Cornhusker’s while demeaning the Oklahoma Sooners to be cheered on by someone a bit south of God’s abode.
Most of the time, I think such revelry and rivalry is fun, as we claim which side of a battle is holy and righteous. Except around the college bowl season – or the NFL playoffs. It is then that such discussions take on a more serious form.
We do this in other arenas as well, such as the political arena, as those who are pro-gun rights seek a verbal “trial by combat” with those who are for taking care of refugees and immigrants seeking solace. Or those who are pro-life take the field against those who want universal healthcare. Republicans versus Democrats, Tea Party versus something called being progressive.
We also do this in the realms of philosophy and theology, as if who wins in the public debates of blogs and podcasts determine where there is truth, and who is correct. Lutherans versus Reformed, Catholics versus Protestants, Pentecostals versus Baptists, Liberals versus Conservatives, Traditionalists against those who prefer Innovation. Everyone, absolutely everyone attacking the Muslims. Oh, and we are all on the defense against the JW’s and LDS.
Even within denominations we see this, and it tears the church apart.
Listen, folks, Melancthon nailed it. You are not saved by your pure theology or the logical supremacy of your philosophy. It is not what you think or what those thoughts cause you to do that saves you. What Joshua realized as he talked to Jesus, was simple.
It isn’t about whether God is on our side.
It isn’t whether your blog or mine has more followers or hits. It’s not whether my Patriots can again intercept a pass on the goal line. There are political positions on both sides of the aisle that need to be listened and heeded.
But what is important is whether you find yourself in the presence of God, with other broken sinners, finding the healing that you need. That the Holy Spirit will bring you to life spiritually, whether you will be transformed, and live in peace.
The desire to win so divides us if our definition of winning is causing the other person to submit to our view. But a desire to see God’s love win is one where humility reigns, not bravado. It is where sacrifice and service take on more meaning than statistics and trophies. It is where hanging in there with that person who others would give up on matters more than attracting the stars, and the crowds. It is where truth matters more than our opinion, and, therefore, the journey is mutual, not combative.
We seek fellowship, with all, based in our relationship with God.
This is life, in Christ.
May we seek it in the next year, and lovingly work with all. AMEN.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 109). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.