Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 104; 149, 1 Samuel 4:1b-11, Acts 4:32-5:11, Luke 21:20-28
According to one anecdote about Abraham Lincoln, someone once said to the President he hoped that regarding the Civil War, God was on their side. Lincoln allegedly replied:
Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.
This quote, which can’t actually be sourced directly to Lincoln, distills many of his ideas about the role God did or did not play on the larger stage of human affairs. Lincoln was not convinced that because he sought the will of God that he knew or performed the will of God. Most of us will never carry the fate of a nation on our shoulders, but may we maintain the same humility in our conscience. There’s a difference between praying to do the right thing, and praying that the thing you do is right.
When the soldiers of Israel faced down the army of the Philistines, they couldn’t understand why they were losing since surely the God of Israel favored them. They sent for the Ark of the Covenant to be brought from the temple to their camp – literally placing God on their side of the battlefield. Not only did they lose, the corrupt sons of their high priest were killed, and the Ark was captured by the enemy.
We might easily assume that calling ourselves God’s people means what we do in good faith is God’s will. Yet time and again, God used foreign nations to further the plan when Israel failed to do so. Let’s always remain humble enough to consider that even people who seem bent on destroying us are not outside God’s providence.
But we need not despair from uncertainty. Thomas Merton famously prayed:
[T]he fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
Whatever we do, let us humbly fear and trust the Lord.
Read more on today’s passage from Acts in Mellow Harshed.
Comfort: God understands your intentions and inner conflicts.
Challenge: Read or listen to the whole version of Thomas Merton’s prayer.
Prayer: See the challenge.
Discussion: When have you realized you might have made some bad assumptions?
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