Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 81; 150,Job 38:1, 18-41, Revelation 18:1-8, Matthew 5:21-26
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference… The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
– Elie Wiesel
When disaster strikes, some preachers can’t wait to blame the tragedy on their favorite – or would that be least favorite? – group of sinners. Never mind that disaster falls on the righteous and unrighteous alike, and any given hurricane or shooting may completely miss God’s alleged target; they can always blame America’s general decline into sin. Once they’ve drummed up sufficient guilt and fear in their listeners, they graciously offer an opportunity to relieve said guilt and fear in the form of donations to their own righteous organization.
Except … according to Psalm 81 and other scriptures, God’s worst reaction might not be punishment, but indifference. Our own life experiences tell us God is not some petty bureaucrat handing out punishments for every moral misdemeanor. Neither is God a tin-pot dictator forcibly bending us to his will. He invites us to love and obey Him, and acceptance of that invitation is not without obligation, but if we decline, the consequences – at least in this life – seem to be God’s withdrawal from our lives. The psalmist warned Israel they were suffering because they were bowing to foreign gods so the Lord had left them to the counsel of their own stubborn hearts. In Romans 1, Paul tells us about people who traded God for idols, and how “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves.” When a people stopped listening to God, he let them go. The bed they made was their own to lie in.
The good news is that no matter how badly we’ve screwed up our own lives by rejecting God, He will always accept an invitation back into that life. Whatever false idols we’ve been worshiping, God waits with the open arms of a father welcoming home a runaway child. Whether we’ve abandoned that home for an hour or a lifetime, God will be there.
For further reading on today’s reading from Matthew, see Pass the Peace.
Comfort: No matter how badly you’ve screwed up, someone who’s done worse has turned their life around.
Challenge: Be diligent about discerning between your own voice and God’s.
Prayer: God of mercy, forgive me for the times I choose my own counsel over yours. Thank you for leading me home to you again. Amen.
Discussion: What consequences have you suffered as a result of relying on your own counsel instead of God’s?
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