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.
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.
Discussion Thought of the Day:
4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth just as we were commanded by the Father. 5 But now, Lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing a new commandment but the one we have had from the beginning: let us love one another. 6 For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning, in which you should walk. 2 John 1:4-6 (NAB)
431 You should always be well-mannered towards everybody, especially towards those who present themselves as your adversaries (you should never have enemies) when you are trying to let them see their mistake. (1)
I started composing this blog this morning, based on the Bible passage above, from my devotional readings. It’s been a thought on my mind for a while, this idea that we cannot separate loving God from being obedient to Him. We can’t say we love Him, and then live a life that rebels against the way He has revealed for us to life.
Then I came across the words of St. Josemaria, this morning, and it is the words that are in parenthesis that stunned me. What does it mean that we shouldn’t have enemies? Is there such a great difference between enemies and adversaries?
Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us. He’s saying the same thing – for in loving our enemies, they are not enemies anymore. They may work against, us, frustrate us, even ignore us, but if we love them, if we walk in the steps of Jesus Christ, they aren’t our enemies any longer. They are those we are willing to make sacrifices for, that we desire the best (which is knowing God’s love) , that we are willing to die for, to become martyrs, those who death testifies of Jesus Christ, and His love.
Adversaries can be convinced, not by carefully planned arguments, but by those who love them and sacrifice for them. We in turn are changed as we pray for them, as we unite our hearts with God’s heart, as we ask Him to bless them. As we sacrifice our right to be resentful, angry, our plans of revenge and retribution, as we simply pray, and learn to love them.
This is easy to say as I sit in my church office in California, No one is pointing a gun at me, or throwing me in jail. Yet if I look at the lives of the martyr’s throughout history, I am not so sure I have it easier. There was a level of trust, a level of faith, an awareness of the presence of God that was beyond anything I can even imagine. Oddly enough, I find myself desiring it, being a little envious of their stories, of their ability to love their enemies.
This is the way we, who trust in Jesus, are supposed to walk. Loving all, confronting their errors for sure, but loving them in that. We have to realize that our job isn’t to convict them, but to shepherd them into Christ’s love, into His truth. We can do that with adversaries, we cannot with enemies. Of course, they may still see us as enemies, but it is not their perspective that matters. It is ours.
We are called, commissioned, commanded to love them, even as that demonstrates our love and trust in God. Even as it screams that we are walking in Christ’s steps, united to His death, and to the life which we are raised with Him to live. This is how we are God’s masterpiece, as Paul tells the Ephesians, re-created in Christ Jesus to do the good works which He has planned for us, from before time. The good work of loving others, bearing witness in that supernatural love, to the love of Christ.
Lord, have mercy on us, and teach us how to love as You do!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1925-1927). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 For when we were still helpless, Christ died for the wicked at the time that God chose. 7 It is a difficult thing for someone to die for a righteous person. It may even be that someone might dare to die for a good person. 8 But God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! 9 By his blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by him from God’s anger! 10 We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life! Romans 5:6-10 (TEV)
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. Matthew 5:43-45 (TEV)
Yesterday a young blogger (pastor?) named Matt Walsh wrote a blog entitled “Jesus didn’t care about being nice or tolerant, and neither should you.” http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/04/07/jesus-didnt-care-about-being-nice-or-tolerant-and-neither-should-you/comment-page-2/#comment-160712) I responded at the request of a friend, but I thought I would address the basic concept here as well.
In the blog he wanted to spurn Christians on to regain their fighting spirit, To be aggressive about their faith, to challenge and do battle with those who would attack the church. To not tolerate sin or attacks on the church, to wipe the idea that Christians should be loving and therefore somehow tolerant. One of his points was that Jesus wasn’t tolerant, that He cleared the temple after all. Therefore righteous indignation has its place in those who follow Christ.
I have to admit – his passion is exemplary, and the reach of one blog post of his might be 100 times mine in a month.
But he’s wrong. Critically wrong.
God doesn’t want us to humble these people into submission with the truth. He wants us to reveal them the truth, He doesn’t need warriors to battle them, but people willing to die to themselves, who will do so to see these people freed to live in Christ. They aren’t the ones manning the gates of hell, but the ones Christ’s Church are there to rescue. We must understand this. We must hear His calling for us to love them, to pray for them. We have to realize that we were once in their shoes, broken, mad at God, fighting against Him, our of ignorance and blinded by sin.
The clearing of the temple wasn’t against those who attacked Christianity from the outside, but from those who stopped those on the outside from being able to know God, to find time to pray. The place where he cleared was the place for the Gentiles to pray, so that they would know God. ( see 1 Kings 8:41-43) The goal was to help these people, drowning in the darkness, in despair, these people that are broken, even as we are broken.
For God, over and over, has indicated that He is not willing that any perish in their sins, but that all are transformed in Christ.
That’s why Jesus died on the cross – even Caiaphas recognized this in John 11. That is why Paul would pour out his life, and call us to imitate him as he imitated Jesus. That every apostle didn’t combat their opposition, but prayerd and often died, tat they would know Christ.
Do we have to deal with ugly stuff, if we walk in Jesus footsteps? Yeah – we have to deal with those who don’t even know that sin is sin. (and instead of people getting in their way by selling things to sacrifice – we have to sometimes deal with those who – from inside the church, defend sin.) But we have to remember that their ignorance doesn’t make them our enemy – that our apostolate, our being sent as Jesus was sent ( see John 20:21) is to bring to them healing for the brokenness, sight to their blindness, to proaclim them free from the bondage of sin, and the fear of death.
By pointing them to the one who loved them enough to die for them. Which may mean we lose our life, our identity in this life.
That’s following Christ.
The Zeal for God’s house that sees as the light to those who don’t know God, and the glorious place for those of us to do.
Lord have mercy on us, and help us to love them, as you did.
Devotional thoughts for the day:
Matthew 5:43-45 (MSG) 43 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.
Mercedes Morado and Begoña Alvarez, who were among those who worked with Monsignor Escrivá for years, wrote that his spirit of forgiving and understanding toward those who slandered him grew progressively, to the point where he could say in all simplicity, “I don’t feel any resentment toward them. I pray for them every day, just as hard as I pray for my children. And by praying for them so much, I’ve come to love them with the same heart and the same intensity as I love my children.”30 He was putting onto paper something of his own personal experience when he wrote, “Think about the good that has been done to you throughout your lifetime by those who have injured or attempted to injure you. Others call such people their enemies…. You are nothing so special that you should have enemies; so call them ‘benefactors.’ Pray to God for them: as a result, you will come to like them.”31 On another occasion, Encarnita Ortega witnessed how he reacted when told that Father Carrillo de Albornoz had left the Society of Jesus, later apostatizing from the Catholic faith. Monsignor Escrivá was visibly moved and deeply sorry. He buried his head in his hands and fell silent, withdrawing into himself, praying. Salvador Canals reminded him that this same man had once organized a very serious campaign of slander against the Work. Monsignor Escrivá interrupted him bluntly, “But he is a soul, my son, a soul!” (1)
Facebook is becoming more and more for me a place of sorrow, a place I dread to go.
The reason is, in part, the present governmental crisis, the shutdown of the government.
But my sorrow isn’t caused by that, but by the reactions of many friends, most of whom are followers of Christ. Yet, even as they fall on both sides of the issue, they do so with anger and wrath to an extreme I haven’t seen yet in my life. They act like they are the survivors of church bombings in Pakistan, or the other persecutions that is literally costing lives – not just money, in this world. Again – I long for real discussion on these issues – but not this series of diatribes against President Obama or against the Republican leaders. Will the people of God grow up? Will we return our focus to things that truly matter, like the salvation of souls? The healing of wounds caused by sin?
Or will we major in the minors? Will we continue to neglect a need for God, because our focus is on governments, or economics or protecting ourselves? Will we mourn over sin, over those who choose separation from God, and will we rejoice when prodigals come home? Heck, will we seek them out, even as Christ sought the treasures in the fields
Will we become like Christ – who embraced suffering, so others could be healed, so others would know life as the children of God?
In order to do that, we’ll need to develop that same kind of spirit that was observed in Escriva. And I would be keen to note that it grew in him – it obviously needed to.
Is our reputation, our feelings, even our own personal well-being worth more than a soul that is broken, that is so easily healed by God’s mercy and grace? Can we put the best construction on our enemies and adversaries work? On those who battle in Washington D.C. or in St Louis, or here in our backyards?
Or are their souls worth trying to bring God’s light to? Are they worth mourning? Are they worth sacrifiing time to pray for them, and the effort to love them?
Lord have mercy on us – and help us minister to those who oppose us,, or whom we think oppose us. Develop in us the heart of Stephen the deacon/martyr, and may our spirit grow, and may that growth itself encourage others to depend on you.
(1) Urbano, Pilar (2011-05-10). The Man of Villa Tevere (Kindle Locations 1819-1832). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Forgiveness – A Stumbling Block Or An Anchor? (pearlsofwisdomconsultingservices.com)
- Encountering others on Holy Ground. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Persecution, Martyrdom, the Love of Christ…. and a hard lesson in prayer (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Love Them, Love Them, Love Them: Discipleship lessons from the gym…and Coach C (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Have We Shut Down…the church (justifiedandsinner.com)
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)