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Keep Your Enemies Close! A sermon on Genesis 45:3-15

Keep Your Enemies Closer!
Genesis 45:3-15

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ transform you into people who call people to come closer… to you… and therefore God!

Typo Alert?!?

As I was working on this sermon about Joseph and his brothers, I would type out the title. Thinking about how God was working in their lives, I would look at it, and something seemed wrong.

It was the exclamation point. Maybe it should have been a question mark. 

Keep your enemies closer?

Na… back to Keep your enemies closer!

Well, wait a minute… closer! Closer?

Which you think works better as a title might depend on who’s shoes you are wearing and what your agenda is…

But either way – make sure you repeat to those people what Joseph said to his brothers, Please come closer! And bring him here quickly!

Don’t Be Upset – Don’t Be Angry

Even though it has been a decade or more, Joseph knows his brothers all too well.

And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.!

The first reaction to sin is denial, but they cannot do that anymore. The one they sinned against is standing right in front of them! So they go to the second and third steps in the getting caught process.

Fear – pure fear. Translated here as being “upset.” To be caught by the person who you sinned against, and for that person to have all the power and authority to do whatever he wanted to, to you. The amount of fear that would create – could probably be seen and even smelt.

And so Joseph says… calm down, don’t be upset!

The third step for a sinner caught in sin is to beat themselves up over it. We are all pretty good at that, aren’t we?

“Don’t be angry with yourselves!”  he says to them – as fast as their mood is changing.

Even as God says that to us today.

Did you sin this week? Did you sell out Jesus? You thought everything would be perfect if you could get rid of God, sending Him away?

You will stand before Him, just as the brothers had to stand before Joseph.

Don’t be afraid or anxious; His desire is to draw you close….

Don’t be angry with yourselves; God the Father sent Jesus into captivity, just as God sent Joseph into Egypt. Hear Joseph’s words again,

God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you!

Hear that – as Jesus says it to you from the cross! As Jesus dies, our life would be eternally spent with God the Father!.

God has sent me ahead of you to (the cross) to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here (to the cross!), not you!

So come closer, and don’t be upset or angry with yourselves…. God is in control….

Our hope – understanding grace like Joseph… bringing enemies near to embrace us!

I can imagine that the brothers saw themselves as Joseph’s enemies when he called them to “come near.” They struggled to believe how blessed they could be in the moment the truth set them free of their past and present sins.

But there he was… just as Jesus is for each one of us today. Ready to cry with joy over us, even as Joseph did as he embraced first Benjamin, then the rest of his brothers.

It is what we need to pray for, for those people who should be our brothers and sisters but struggle as they think they are our enemies.

Even as Jesus brings his enemies closer and reveals us to His brothers and sisters, Joseph could look back at what God did, what He was doing in providing for all the people of God. As He did, he found the ability to trust in God’s plan, in what God provided.

That is how we draw people to Jesus… we fall in love with Him as we see what He is doing in our lives, and we realize “our enemies” need to see it happening to them as well.

In our prayer circle – I had you put two names – the names to pray for, that God would come to be so natural to them… that when they walk through those doors, you dance with joy. These might be the people that betrayed you in your life, the way Joseph was betrayed. Or they may be the people you sold off into slavery. Either way, these enemies are drawn into a relationship with Jesus. Are revealed to be your brothers and sisters!

Call them to come near, tell them, “please come closer!.” Describe what God is doing, how you see God using the worst challenges in life as blessings,

And when that happens, weep because you are so overwhelmed with joy!

God is with you – so calling them to come closer. Praying that they do… is simply bringing them into the presence of God. AMEN!

The Inconvient, Challenging Truth of Following Jesus.

where I belong… at the foot of the cross

A Hard Devotional Thought for these Days

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided his clothes and cast lots. Luke 23:34 CSB

It appears that too many Christians want to enjoy the thrill of feeling right but are not willing to endure the inconvenience of being right.

Therefore the entire sum of what it means not to kill is to be impressed most explicitly upon the simple-minded. In the first place that we harm no one, first, with our hand or by deed. Then, that we do not employ our tongue to instigate or counsel thereto. Further, that we neither use nor assent to any kind of means or methods whereby any one may be injured. And finally, that the heart be not ill disposed toward any one, nor from anger and hatred wish him ill, so that body and soul may be innocent in regard to every one, but especially those who wish you evil or inflict such upon you.

I knew what was coming today in my Bible reading.

It made me want to delay it as much as possible.

The words from the cross above frustrate me… significantly frustrate me. Especially if the Apostle Paul’s words are echoing through my mind at the same time.

 I
mitate me, as I also imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 CSB

Yesteday, I was planning the service for the day after the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Flashing across my news feed and social media were call for revenge, including a horrific prayer for it to have quickly, to wipe out a people. It wanted revenge, not justice, and definitely not mercy.

And my first reaction was to agree, even as it soured my stomach… and I knew it was wrong.

Did I mention following Jesus was inconvenient?

Another line from the Scriptures, this time from Jesus,

43  “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44  But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45a (NLT2)

This isn’t just inconvenient… I don’t even have the words.

It is more tha just difficult, it is impossible… at least for me.

Never mind those who have killed people in what they consider war… this is true for those in all sorts of positions. Some actively hate, some unintentionally hurt (how could they not see their own narcicism?)

But on this day, as I read of Jesus on the cross, I realize again how much I have to be united to that cross, to let my narcicistic self die there, and rise to life with Him. How that means I give up my desire for revenge (though I call it justice – let’s be honest here) I need His mercy, I need His love…

I need Him to heal me of my hurt.

This isn’t about being weak, about not standing up for what is right and wrong. Luther’s quote makes that clear – we can’t let our hearts be ill-disposed, but rather we need to lift these enemies to the Lord in prayer, and desire, as God does, that they come to repentance. That’s not being weak….

It is accepting the inconvenience of following Christ, and realizing that Him joy

As we do, it will take prayer, it will take a lot of thought about the cross, and the grave, and why Jesus, for the joy set before Him,… set aside revenge… and loved.

us

all.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, trans. F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau (n.p.: WORDsearch, 2003).

Stop Defending Yourself!!!

man holding snowball

Photo by Victoria Borodinova on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.  1 John 1:9 CEV

We need not worry about success because our love is guaranteed success, even if it does not move our neighbor to respond. For if we are one with Christ as members of His body, then our love is part of Christ’s love. It is not just an imitation from afar but a participation from within. And Christ’s love is guaranteed success, even though it was crucified in us and often continues to be crucified by the world. It is guaranteed success not because of its intentions or goals, but because of where it comes from: the Son’s perfect obedience to the Father.

671    “Jesus remains silent.”—Iesus autem tacebat. Why do you speak, to console yourself or to explain yourself? Say nothing. Seek joy in contempt: you’ll always receive less than you deserve. Can you, by any chance, ask: Quid enim mali feci?—“What evil have I done?”

Defending ourselves has become a national past-time it seems.

Some of us do so by going on the offensive and pointing out the flaws in others. Unless we are brave, we do this by social media. That way we add another layer of defensive offense to our armored position.

Others of us just back to the old ways, and attempt to rationalize and justify whatever it is we have done wrong. To explain why it was better to do it “our” way.  We might even blame it on God, projecting some command, twisting it, to make us look better.  After all, we were just obeying orders!

Maybe we fear that taking the silent approach simply confirms our guilt and the shame that goes along with it.  But surely, we aren’t that concerned with what “they” think?

Escriva notes that we will earn less contempt than we deserve, and I believe that is true. Kreeft points us to the fact that if we are crucified for being wrong, let it be crucified for loving others. Hard concepts to act upon, and yet, that is what we do.

This is completely logical!  If we are accused of anything else but loving God and those around us, we deserve the scorn.  If we are accused of doing that which is truly loving, then we are in the same situation as Jesus, and are assured that HIs sacrifice was used by the Father, so would ours be. He wins when that happens, and because we dwell in Him, so we win as well!

Either way, defending ourselves is worth so little…

So what if we are guilty, what if they are right? What if we are the ones who have done wrong?

1 John says it is simple to take care of that…

Let God absolve you, go to your pastor or priest, and let them tell you what you need to hear, what devours the guilt and shame, leaving behind joy and freedom.  And the ability to know the same love that nourishes our very soul, which enables us to love sacrificially.  Even if the sacrifice is our very lives.

So either we are loving as we should, proving God is with us, or we are corrected by our error and absolved to love as we should.

Either way, defending ourselves would simply get in the way…

Rejoce, the Lord is with you, and He will take care of the situation!

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 26.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Their words hurt you? Here is how to survive it.

Jesus foot washingDevotional 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 

Just don’t. 

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! 

Sources

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.

WWJD Seems Impossible…yet…

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.

Justice, Mercy, Thirsting for Revenge or Righteousness?

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.

Reconciliation.

Restoration.

Healing

Those things are just and right, and exactly what the Great Physician ordered.

Lord, have mercy on us all!  AMEN!

The Cry for Justice…..

Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

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.

Why Love Isn’t What Is Needed to Combat Hatred

Devotional THought of the Day:Featured image

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.

Faith.

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.

When Is Enough… Enough!?

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day: The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols and the sacrifice of innocents, but reborn to host the worship of God, to celebrate Christ's sacrifice  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

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.

Are Those Who Oppose Jesus, our Enemies? Or Those We’ve Been Sent to Love?

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.

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