Monday, July 21, 2014

Don't Worry About Evil People

Psalm 37[a]

A psalm of David.

Don’t worry about the wicked
    or envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away.
    Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
Trust in the Lord and do good.
    Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
    Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
    and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
    and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
    or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop being angry!
    Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
    it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
    but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.
10 Soon the wicked will disappear.
    Though you look for them, they will be gone.
11 The lowly will possess the land
    and will live in peace and prosperity.
12 The wicked plot against the godly;
    they snarl at them in defiance.
13 But the Lord just laughs,
    for he sees their day of judgment coming.
14 The wicked draw their swords
    and string their bows
to kill the poor and the oppressed,
    to slaughter those who do right.
15 But their swords will stab their own hearts,
    and their bows will be broken.
16 It is better to be godly and have little
    than to be evil and rich.
17 For the strength of the wicked will be shattered,
    but the Lord takes care of the godly.
18 Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent,
    and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever.
19 They will not be disgraced in hard times;
    even in famine they will have more than enough.
20 But the wicked will die.
    The Lord’s enemies are like flowers in a field—
    they will disappear like smoke.
21 The wicked borrow and never repay,
    but the godly are generous givers.
22 Those the Lord blesses will possess the land,
    but those he curses will die.
23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand.
25 Once I was young, and now I am old.
    Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned
    or their children begging for bread.
26 The godly always give generous loans to others,
    and their children are a blessing.
27 Turn from evil and do good,
    and you will live in the land forever.
28 For the Lord loves justice,
    and he will never abandon the godly.
He will keep them safe forever,
    but the children of the wicked will die.
29 The godly will possess the land
    and will live there forever.
30 The godly offer good counsel;
    they teach right from wrong.
31 They have made God’s law their own,
    so they will never slip from his path.
32 The wicked wait in ambush for the godly,
    looking for an excuse to kill them.
33 But the Lord will not let the wicked succeed
    or let the godly be condemned when they are put on trial.
34 Put your hope in the Lord.
    Travel steadily along his path.
He will honor you by giving you the land.
    You will see the wicked destroyed.
35 I have seen wicked and ruthless people
    flourishing like a tree in its native soil.
36 But when I looked again, they were gone!
    Though I searched for them, I could not find them!
37 Look at those who are honest and good,
    for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace.
38 But the rebellious will be destroyed;
    they have no future.

39 The Lord rescues the godly;
    he is their fortress in times of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them,
    rescuing them from the wicked.
He saves them,
    and they find shelter in him.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

** Judging Others

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.^ ^ I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"- Galatians 2:19-21

Recently, I watched the Oscar-nominated movie Philomena which is based on the true story of a woman who goes searching for the child that was taken from her fifty years earlier when she became a pregnant teenager.  I won't spoil the film for you, but throughout the film, Philomena wrestles with a deep feeling of condemnation for the sex she had that led to this child.  She faces persecution from a number of individuals who have made her believe the pain of not seeing her child grow up is penance for this act "of the flesh".

This is a warped misrepresentation of what the gospel tells us.  Paul points out here that if we believe we can gain our own righteousness by keeping the law, then Christ would have died for nothing.  We have made the blood of Christ cheap.  We are essentially saying that we do not need a savior if we believe we are capable of keeping the law (or a certain set of standards) as a way of achieving righteousness.

But the story behind Philomena illustrates an even deeper truth about condemning others for their behavior.  The individuals that berate Philomena (some of whom are nuns) do so because she has not kept God's law.  But that kind of condemnation shows that they believe they have kept "laws" that she has not and therefore, they believe they can judge her for her sins.  When we watch it play out so blatantly in a film like this, it is disgusting before our eyes.  But we all do this in other ways in our own lives.  We are constantly looking at the sins of those around us and making decisions about how we should interact with them, how much grace we should show them, or if we want to have a relationship with them at all based on their behavior.  By doing this, we are essentially saying that we believe we have the key to righteousness.... and others do not.

When we do this, it is as if Christ died for nothing.  We believe we are justified by our behavior but we are justified because of the blood of Christ.  Because he spilled his blood so that we could be made whole.  He died so that we would be made righteous.  That kind of love should motivate us to know that we are not justified by our behaviors and we should not treat others in our lives as though they can be justified in that way either.

Father God, we judge others around us as falling short of what they should be.  And yet we are only justified by the sacrifice of Christ.  We could never obtain righteousness outside of you and for this reason we ask that you soften our judgmental and anxious hearts to those around us.  Humble us to love others in the ways you have loved us and when we are tempted to think less of others pull us back from the brink of our own self-righteousness.