Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 A false accusation is as deadly as a sword, a club, or a sharp arrow. Proverbs 25:18 (TEV)
38 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. Matthew 5:38-39 (NLT2)
15 See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled, Hebrews 12:15 (NAB)
63 The third aspect of this commandment concerns us all. It forbids all sins of the tongue by which we may injure or offend our neighbor. False witness is clearly a work of the tongue. Whatever is done with the tongue against a neighbor, then, is forbidden by God. This applies to false preachers with their corrupt teaching and blasphemy, to false judges and witnesses with their corrupt behavior in court and their lying and malicious talk outside of court.
264 It applies particularly to the detestable, shameful vice of back-biting or slander by which the devil rides us. Of this much could be said. It is a common vice of human nature that everyone would rather hear evil than good about his neighbor. Evil though we are, we cannot tolerate having evil spoken of us; we want the golden compliments of the whole world. Yet we cannot bear to hear the best spoken of others.
442 Never think badly of anyone, not even if the words or conduct of the person in question give you good grounds for doing so.
There will always be people we struggle with, people whose actions and words we don’t understand, and often, those words and actions seem to attach or denigrate or embarrass us.
Sometimes the original intent is harmless, like the joke that struck to close to home.
It is hard not to react. Some would say impossible.
They’ve given reason to think badly about them, to gossip about them, to strike back with words that would hurt them, and perhaps those around them.
Scripture pleads with you, as does Luther and a Catholic saint, don’t say, it, don’t think it. Don’t let your words add to the catastrophe that is occurring. Don’t let the bitterness rise up within you, and spread out like poison. DOn’t get involved in backbiting or slander. Don’t try to justify it, don’t try to
Your words will simply cause more damage, they will tear more people up, as the Psalmist says, these words are weapons, they do an incredible amount of damage, even to the point of killing.
So someone’s words hurt, they stung, they damaged you. How do you respond?
Prayer is the place to start, asking God to remind you of and reveal His grace to you. The grace that will remind you of your forgiveness and the promise to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Prayer is the place where you can ask God to give you the strength not to respond.
It is when we are secure in HIS peace that we can love past the pain, that we ae assured His cleansing of our lives includes the injustice, the unrighteous acts committed against us. It is there then, with Christ bearing all the sin in our lives, that we find hope, and the possibility of grace.
This isn’t easy, it takes the spiritual maturity of a saint.
That’s okay, God made you to be a saint…
So think of His love, and rejoice, and share that blessing with those whose words hurt.
The Lord is with you!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 400). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1087-1089). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. 6 We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all. 7 Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth. 8 Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny? When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people, 9 A grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, Though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood. 10 (But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.) If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him. 11 Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.
Isaiah 53:4-11 (NAB)
343 If you are aware of God’s presence, high above the deafening storm, the sun will always be shining on you; and deep below the roaring and destructive waves, peace and calm will reign in your soul.
I’ve seen some versions of a post that not only mocks the concept of WWJD, but also mocks Jesus, and His call to love our neighbors. They says that if we are going to consider What Would Jesus Do, it is in the realm of possibility that it would include beating people with whips and knocking over tables.
But too often, our zeal is not for the alien and foreigner to find a place to pray, to know God’s comfort and peace. That place where Jesus did that was for the outsider, the unbeliever, the skeptic and the seeker who would pray, who would benefit from seeing the love and mercy of God pour out into their lives.
We aren’t that zealous about that… though we should be.
WWJD comes from a book by Charles Sheldon, who tells the story of a pastor and a movement who has to deal with someone dying in front of them, a stranger who asked for help, and received too little. The guilt drives them to the cross for forgiveness, and then to seek out how to live differently. To imitate those who imitated Christ, like St Stephen and St. Paul. It is not an impossible thing, it is not a touchy, feel good thing. It is the hardest of challenges, and therefore requires a superhuman effort and motivation.
Motivation not from guilt, but from receiving mercy, a motivation that comes from the presence of God in our lives healing.
Without that, the idea of living like Christ, of sacrificing self so that others could be reconciled and know forgiveness doesn’t make sense. Without Christ’s presence, we don’t desire reconciliation; we desire revenge. Without dwelling in His peace, we don’t desire to lay our lives down in service to others; we desire to protect our lives, our way of living. That sense of self-preservation will tell us that WWJD is wrong, it will justify it because we are sinners, and it will tell us that striving for this, isn’t necessary.
Without the presence of Christ, Isaiah 53 is simply a prophecy. In His presence, this prophecy saves us, and becomes our joy and our way of life. And our deepest desire is to see our enemies receive healing, to know mercy, to walk with God. Our deepest regret is when someone dies without that comfort, when someone lives without that peace. We don’t look at WWJD as law, but as the way of life, we are given. And when we fail, we run back to the hope of the one which
St Josemaria is correct, if we are in His presence, if we realize His comfort and peace, if we know mercy, it changes everything. We simply live in the Kingdom of God, and the storms and struggles are what they are.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1353-1355). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 Arise, O LORD, in anger! Stand up against the fury of my enemies! Wake up, my God, and bring justice! Psalm 7:6 (NLT)
A few days ago I wrote about mercy. A disclaimer, I was struggling with the topic myself. In at least 3 cases, I was trying to figure out how to respond mercifully, and yet honestly. Try to seek reconciliation, and pursue what is right and just.
After reading that day’s blog, and a couple of tweets, a good friend asked how we are to balance justice and righteousness. In fact, she asked me to write on it.
Darn it, now I have to think it through!
That’s what real friends do – they help drive home the lesson God is trying to teach you! And so my friend did for me….and others helped.
Tough question, not just because of the thought needed, but to face the answer, I don’t want to face.
I just want to pray with David the top quote from Psalm 7. Bring JUSTICE! Trash my enemies. Get rid of those who are my adversaries! Whether they be ISIS/ISIL or whether they be… well, God knows who I am struggling with presently. Anf I find myself too often wanting revenge rather than justice. Revenge is never justice; it is a judgment against some in my favor. It is, therefore, contrary to justice.
I thank God for some other friends that study the Bible with me a couple of Thursday mornings a month. We looked not only at Psalm 7:6, but the verses before and after in the chapter.
If we are to hunger and thirst for justice/righteousness AND show mercy, we need to find the point where both are valid. In the Psalm, as we discovered, there is the answer.
1 I come to you for protection, O LORD my God. Save me from my persecutors—rescue me! 2 If you don’t, they will maul me like a lion, tearing me to pieces with no one to rescue me. 3 O LORD my God, if I have done wrong or am guilty of injustice, 4 if I have betrayed a friend or plundered my enemy without cause, 5 then let my enemies capture me. Let them trample me into the ground and drag my honor in the dust. Psalm 7:1-5 (NLT)
Developing a heart that desires justice and mercy starts with examining one’s own heart, and one’s behavior. Knowing how easy our heart can deceive us, we do what David does, we don’t examine it. Rather it is in prayer we beg God to examine it. We welcome His judgment, and the means He will use to bring about in us humility. The humility needed to answer a call to holiness; the humility needed to trust God to make things just, to make things right in our lives. The humility to know we need His mercy, we must depend on it.
For otherwise, a call to the purest form of justice will see us judged.
We need to be examined, cleaned, healed.
Foremost of us, this process of being refined will be painful. It will be difficult; it will be filled with grace, applied to the darkness, most sin-dominated areas of our lives. That grace will sting at first, but will soon turn sweet, and joyful.
It is then we can thirst for justice, and to love mercy. Mercy for our enemies, adversaries and those who we see being unjust. Our being refined will counter that as we realize that God’s justice, at this point in eternity, is still synonymous with other words.
Those things are just and right, and exactly what the Great Physician ordered.
Lord, have mercy on us all! AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22 (NLT)
502 If bare justice is done, people may feel hurt. Always act, therefore, for the love of God, which will add to that justice the balm of a neighbourly love, and will purify and cleanse all earthly love. When you bring God in, everything becomes supernatural. (1)
We live in a day where the cries for justice are ringing out, or do we?
At least the cries that sound call for justice.
But I don’t think we know what justice is anymore. If justice is based on an outcome that is demanded, It is justice? if in seeking justice, we have to commit injustice to achieve it, is it right?
Will will seek after justice if we, or our way of life is that which is found unjust? Will we as readily accept our punishment and suffer for what we’ve done, (or not done) that led to unjust actions?
Do we want bare justice? An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life, ruination for ruination?
Because if we do, we don’t want true justice, we don’t want the other term scripture uses for justice, righteousness.
God showed His righteousness, His justice at the cross, When the value of those who act unjustly was seen – God’s righteousness, God’s justice meant He had to take on the burden of injustice, and make it just and right. That those who were once unjust, could walk into the presence of God Almighty peacefully.
I don’t know whether the which of those in Ferguson or New York, Cleveland or in the interrogation rooms of the CIA, in the Ukraine, the Middle East, the Ukraine, etc are just in God’s eyes. Well let me re-phrase that – none —- none are.. Yet all who believe, all who have been cleansed by God are now right. for they dwell in the One who determines what is righteous and what is just. ….
Praise God my friends… this is a marvelous thing that brings us hope and peace.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1916-1920). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the Day:
19 But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21 No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21 (NLT)
2 This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. 3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. Psalm 91:2-3 (NLT)
For the past week, I have been getting more and more weary. As I see people respond to the unrest in places like Ferguson, or the despair in places like Detroit, as I see the hatred that the President’s actions took regarding immigration, I find myself getting more and more depressed.
If you go – well, of course, look what THEY are doing, please keep reading. For I see the anger and hatred in the reactions of both sides of the issues. It’s just not electronic social media, you can’t even eat lunch in public place without hearing the hatred, the condescension, the call for others to change, but rarely, very rarely, the call to reconciliation, to coming together, to true fellowship. We even create ways to mock the injustice we perceive, not seeing the mocking as less than just…
Some have hated the hating. Demanding that others love, asking why can’t “THEY” just get along. Or quoting platitudes about love and hate as if people were easily capable of the former, and able to just stop the latter. As if we could stop sinning with the snap of a finger, as if we could love without self-sacrifice, as if life was as simple as platitudes and the memes which present them.
I entitled this blog “Why Love isn’t what is needed to combat hatred”, because I keep seeing such memes, such advice. It’s as if this is a war between good and evil, a war between love and hate. It’s not. good doesn’t conquer evil, and love cannot hate hatred enough to go to war against it. What turns love into something that can hatred is fear, fear created because of a lack of what we do need.
For without faith in God, faith in Christ’s work on the cross, trust in the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, what we call love, is not love. It is not the cHesed type of love which sacrifices and bears every burden, so as to bless and reconcile the relationship. Without faith/trust in God we can’t cope with the pain of others, we can’t stop the fear of being hurt again, we can’t cope with the anxiety that living in a sin-plagued world brings.
When you have a moment, look at home many times the psalms call God a refuge? It takes faith/trust to see this. Or how God is described as our hiding place, (and include Colossians 3:2) in that. Look at what God can do to evil, when we trust in Him as our focus, rather than fighting back. Joseph did this, Paul learned to do this from Stephen. David did this when Saul was after him.
In order to love, we have to have the faith, the confidence that God will make all things work for good, even though waiting for that good will be…challenging. For we must trust God through the pain, through what we perceive as evil, knowing that He is Lord, that He is our refuge, that we are protected, our hearts and minds, by Jesus. For as we dwell in Him, the Father surrounds us with peace, the peace that comes from finding refuge.
Lord, help us to trust you more than being repulsed by hatred… and help us love and sacrifice, that all would come to know You1
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1565-1570). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
38 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ 39 Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. 40 If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. 41 And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. 42 No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. 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, Matthew 5:38-44 (MSG)
I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth! 3 He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. 4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. 5 The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. 6 The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. 7 The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 8 The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. Psalm 121:1-8 (NLT)
“Here am I Lord, I’ve come to do Your will, Here am I Lord, In Your presence, I am still” (1)
5 “Meditate on this slowly: I am asked for very little compared to how much I am being given.” (2)
It is, I know personally, a struggle to deal with some people.
I witnessed it in the past few days, as several people I know were offended (not at the same time), and found myself extremely frustrated by the way I was treated. It literally took me a couple of hours, and some distraction to deal with my own frustration. No, let me be honest, it wasn’t just frustration, there was some anger that was beginning to settle in and take residence in my heart.
The first reading, especially the italicized part, came to mind in the shower this morning. Except in the older translations sense, this is the passage about “turning the other cheek”. But I think Peterson does a good job in getting the heart of the matter. I’ve heard a lot of people “explain” this passage, trying to get out of what we are called to do, trying to justify their own anger, or resentment. We try to justify our thirst for revenge by saying we want to stop them from doing this to others. Or that Jesus couldn’t have had what this person did…
Skip past the second passage for a moment, it was part of my devotions this morning, as were the two short extra-biblical readings. Look at them.
From the Celtic Prayer Book, we find the idea that serving God sometimes means standing still. Psalm 46 comes to mind, but that to is written amidst a storm, against threats. Written by one who was no stranger to war, and yet must trust God to deliver the stillness, to deliver the victory! What a challenge when you know how to treat those who oppress and attack us. Can I be still in those times? Confident in God’s presence and His strength and His desire to work in my life?
Even as I read that, the next part of my devotions include this little passage by St. Josemaria. And I think that I have done far worse to Jesus, and perhaps to others, than was said to me. I think of the others I know, that I observed getting offended, Yeah – we, the offended, the oppressed are not innocent of similar offenses, we don’t have the right to cast the first stone, for the One who would crush us, died for us instead. That puts things into better perspective, as I realize how blessed we are, how the times we’ve offended people were paid for, as Christ proved the depth of God’s love for us by coming and living among us, by dying, by rising, by ascending and He still is there, at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for us.
His ministry to us, through us, isn’t over, until the last sinner/saint has come home.
That is where the second reading, my psalm of the day comes into this discussion. Do I trust God at these words? Do I know my help is coming from on high? Do I realize that He doesn’t sleep, Do I realize that what happens to me will work out for good somehow, for this is His promise. The promise of the crucified Lord. The promise of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
In the words of a man who needed to know God’s deliverance….
Yes, I believe, Lord help me believe.
A form of a heart depth’s cry for the Lord’s compassion…. and the hope, the expectation that we will know it. AMEN
(1) Meditations for day 17, Celtic Daily Prayer
(2)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 261-262). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the Day:
Now while he was at table in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ 12 When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. 13 Go and learn the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice. And indeed I came to call not the upright, but sinners.’ Matthew 9:10-13 (NJB) 10
869 Those… who see adversaries where there are only brothers, deny with their works the Christianity they profess. (1)
I didn’t want to write this post, but as I see those who trust in Christ respond with what appears to be hatred and a desire for revenge, I can’t be quiet on this one. Not so close to Christmas, Not in view of how God treated those we would consider His enemies, His adversaries.
Don’t we realize that when we react to people, we either testify of God’s love for them, or we deny it? That when we wish evil, or retribution, or pain upon others, when we pray that their business goes down in flames, that they know misfortune, we aren’t loving them the way God loves them, the way He loves us? Don’t we realize the power and the need of the old Lutheran prayer, Lord, turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries toward You? Don’t we realize the truth of St Josemaria’s comment – that we deny what we profess, when we see these people Christ died for as adversaries, as opposed to those who need to be freed, and for God’s glory to shatter their darkness?
What will it take for us to turn the other cheek, to react the way Stephen did, the way Jesus did? When will we desire that they come to the transformation that God desires for them, that they would realize He would cleanse them of their sin – just as we count on Him to do for us?
Yes, a neighbor wrote a letter to someone complaining about Santa Claus (secular Christmas) and a ton of lights. Yeah, a guy gut suspdended from making money on television, yeah, someone didn’t like how agressive we were quote the Bible, or some religious book. That is no reason to wish them evil, to curse them or raise crusades against them.
Instead, it’s a reason to love them, a reason to pray for them, a reason to be patient with them, and reach out to them. Knowing that God has done the same for us.
We can stop the mad reactions against us… simply by loving them with Christ’s love.
Lord have mercy, and help us to desire what you desires for these our “adversaries”
Whether it is our response ot
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3556-3558). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. 10 For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. 11 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. 12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”1 Peter 3:8-12 (NLT)
738 Those who zealously keep a “list of grudges” show themselves to be very narrow-minded souls! Such poor wretches are impossible to live with. True charity neither keeps account of the necessary services it renders all the time, nor takes note of the effronteries it has to put up with. Omnia suffert—it endures all things.(1)
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” (2)
A few movies, the one that comes to mind first is Invictus, Morgan Freeman portraying Nelson Mandela using sports – something other than politics, to unite a people too long divided.
Assuming the movies and the books are correct, the most remarkable thing he did was not to survive nearly 3 decades brutally imprisoned, or becoming the first black president of South Africa. What is amazing to me is that he did it without (apparently) giving voice to the resentment that could have built up over those years. He didn’t take action and get revenge, something that he could have done, with the authority he wielded. What is amazing to me is that healing that happened to Mandela’s soul, healing that enabled him to lead in a way that din’t bring a pendulum swing to the nations politics, but rather seems to have ushered in a journey towards justice and making things right.
It would seem to me, that this freedom from the burden of resentment, of a thirst not for revenge but for justice, is what makes this man remarkable. It’s not something we do easily as humans, for our desire to hold onto our hurts and pain from being betrayed runs strong. Think of movies – how many conquer evil by force as opposed to by allowing themselves to be martyred? Think of the rush of… joy(?) we get when evil gets its due punishment, or our cries for justice for us, without thoguht of what it might cost others. Somehow, the power that Mandela received was not used for evil, for revenge and satisfying a demand for retrinution.
Personally, I think this is due to his faith, which seems to have grown during his imprisonment. The model of Christ who didn’t have to put up with the constant questioning of his work, the beatings, the crucifixion. The man who brutalized his followers would become a leader among those followers. His followers would face torture and death with the same kind of instinctive love, as they asked God not to hold sin against those who tormentented them.
This blog isn’t about praising those martyrs, or even Mandela.
It’s an invitation to know the freedom that they knew. To get rif of the resentment you’ve build up over the years, to rid yourself of the thirst for revenge. Realeased from that…evil, binding, crap, to find joy, to find joy even in serving those who previously treated us in an evil way. That is healing. That is what St. Josemaria, another man hated and treated evilly by both those who oppose Christ and those who claim to follow him, is talking.
I invite you to share in it… I invite you to an altar where it is made real. As Christ would feed you His Body and Blood, given as promised to you, in order to prove that sin, all sin, is forgiven.
SO drop it there… your sin, the sin committed against you… and rise to know a peace that goes beyond anything you could ever expect, that you could ever explain. Know Christ is with you, and all else… can be forgotten.
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3072-3076). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Nelson Mandela – quote taken from: http://pastors.com/20-quotes-from-nelson-mandela-a-leader-who-truly-changed-the-world/
- On Mandela : Invictus (purelybooks.blogspot.com)
- Resentments & Forgiveness (pattypooh67.wordpress.com)
- Can a Christian Leader let his people fail? He must! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Will God hear even me today, in this mood I am in? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Purpose of Theology (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Is it insane to keep doing/teaching/preaching the same thing over and over, and expecting… (justifiedandsinner.com)
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 12:11 (NJB)
43 ‘You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbour and hate your enemy. 44 But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; Matthew 5:43-44 (NJB)
23 Do you think I enjoy seeing evil people die?” asks the Sovereign LORD. “No, I would rather see them repent and live. Ezekiel 18:23 (TEV)
The news again has horrible stories of terrorism in the headlines. The situation in the Kenyan mall, and the two churches in Pakistan that were hit by suicide bombers.
This time, the targets weren’t just political – but they were specifically religious. They were after my brothers and sisters in Christ. And there are new entries to the list of martyrs that extends through the centuries, and is growing day by day.
I want to be mad, I want to think about how to get revenge, whether its the President or some other official pushing a button and the merciless terrorists being zapped like vermin.
Yet I hear the words of my sermon yesterday, the quote from St Paul to a young pastor echoing in my mind, “I urge you – pray for ALL men, ask God to help them, intercede for them, and give thanks for them….”
Uhm God, is there an exception clause for this? Can we strike out terrorists of body, and those who terrorize the soul?
My mind cries out that I can’t love them, that it is illogical and stupid and asking for more pain to forgive them.
Gosh I dislike that passage in Matthew 5.
This week I preach on that passage from Revelation 12, and iti s in my mind as well – how much do we cling to life? Why do we do anything and everything to avoid death? We don’t like to talk about it, we spend billions on hiding it and our aging (growing toward it) in our culture… and we hate anyone or anything that threatens it. The Blood of Christ? Sure – we know and talk of that, our testimony about the Logos – the Word of God – Jesus? yes definitely!
But… death? Especially the death caused because of our witness to Christ? You see that is what a martyr is – one who testifies in view of death. And will embrace it because of that truth.
That is where I find the grace to even thik about praying for terrrorists, to hear the words, “pray for all people” and to know it includes those who encourage suicide bombers, shooters and others who are so full of sin and hatred that this is the answer they look for in life.
And then I remember those words from Ezekiel, those words that point to Jesus on the cross so clearly… for there we saw the truth of it.
God wouldn’t take pleasure in the deaths of terrorists, or those who indoctrinate or teach them. Not for a second. Anymore than He takes pleasure in any death, for at one time, we were all enemies.. and still Jesus died… we’ve sinneds, murfering people in our hearts, just as surely as others have done it physically.
And He loves us and pursues us and calls us… and prayerfully we hear and realize He forgives us and marks us as His.
This is perhaps the hardest and most blessed truth…. God loves and died for the terrorists as much as He did for the martyrs…..and weeps over the deaths of all.
Now… in this day – you have had some who’ve irritated you, you’ve had those people and those moments were you were just pissed off, you may have been betrayed, even brutally so…
So read those verses again – think through them… and ask God to touch those who’ve done you wrong…even as you rejoice in His bringing you back to Him.
And when its hard…to do this… cry Lord Have Mercy!
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day….
WARNING – If you don’t like yesterday’s post…read on.. and be challenged some more.
One of the challenges for people who claim to be Christian, is to encounter the entire counsel of God in scripture…and not just isolate passages. Here are some incredibly timely…
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.” Romans 12:18-19 (TEV)
2 Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered; and anyone who does so will bring judgment on himself. 3 For rulers are not to be feared by those who do good, but by those who do evil. Would you like to be unafraid of those in authority? Then do what is good, and they will praise you, 4 because they are God’s servants working for your own good. But if you do evil, then be afraid of them, because their power to punish is real. They are God’s servants and carry out God’s punishment on those who do evil. Romans 13:2-4 (TEV)
In light of the recent attacks on Boston, we really, really like these verses. We want vengeance, and as long as it meats our standard, we are more than willing to let God use whoever He wants, the FBI, local police, my prefereance – the USMC – whoever.
But if we are to trust God with wreaking vengeance on these horrific sins, then we have to trust Him…(gulp) to do it in a way consistent with His character, with His will….
and that may mean… He will not get vengeance in a way that we will appreciate. Matter of fact, we may hate the idea.
A couple of other passages:
8 But do not forget one thing, my dear friends! There is no difference in the Lord’s sight between one day and a thousand years; to him the two are the same. 9 The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins. 2 Peter 3:8-9 (TEV)
21 It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, and no one ever heard a lie come from his lips. 23 When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge. 24 Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed. 25 You were like sheep that had lost their way, but now you have been brought back to follow the Shepherd and Keeper of your souls. 1 Peter 2:21-25 (TEV) (see Isaiah 52-53 and Romans 3-5 for more on this)
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. 1 Peter 3:9 (TEV)
I could go on and on – God did get the fullest of vengeance on these sins, and many, many more. And we have to trust Him at His word – every sin has been paid for, every bit of evil perpetrated by man. And justice has been done, as Peter noted above.
And proved that God the father is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance, to transformation, to know His love, His mercy and forgiveness.
That is, I guess – where our trust in Him has to be challenged. Could God forgive these people? Could God forgive the horrors that have been done to mankind?
I think that is why the old general prayer in the Lutheran Hymnal had us give voice to these words, “May it please Thee also to turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries that they may cease their enmity (with God) and be inclined to walk with us in meekness and peace” ( The Lutheran Hymnal p.23) I am deeply indebted to the pastor who introduced this hymnal to me, as well as the Theology of the Cross. The Theology that so tells us of the depth of God’s love and providence in our lives – that suffering becomes something where I depend on Him more, trust in Him more… and know even more that He is with me.
How many of us are ready to pray such a prayer? Whether it be about those who have traumatized Boston, or the neighbor…or maybe our boss?
Are we willing to trust God that far? Are we willing to be that bold in our faith – that we can God to God and say – Vengeance or Mercy- it is Your call God. Doing so, pouring our our pain, our anxiety at the altar.
Do we trust Him that much?
For if we can trust Him that much, how assured are we that He has done the same for us. For every one of our sins, for every one of our failures.
I for one, am not strong enough – even the strength to write this – requires that I depend on Him for it – that He will create in me the strength necessary.
And for this day… so far.. He seems to be providing that strength I need to trust Him. Even thought I don’t want it, even though I do not like to depend on Him for it, and would rather play God….
But it is there… and in Him, I can find peace.
- When Darkness Hides God’s Face…and all hope (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Need Hope? No Answers? Come Experience Jesus, Have Hope! (evangelical catholic VI) (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Where you there when the… on Good Friday? On Easter Sunday? As much as He is here now! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Great Apocalypse in upon us! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- vengeance is mine, says the Lord (sharingloveandtruth.org)