Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Separating the Sheep From the Goats

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. – Genesis 12:2-3

Our lives exist within a network of relationships.  Connections may be close and strong, with, we might say, lots of bandwidth, or they may be distant and very narrow.  As Christians we know we are called to love others and care about them.  We will stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ and answer as to how well we fulfilled our calling.  The Christian CEO will answer as to how faithfully he did his job, how he handled what had been entrusted to him, but also about how he treated the people carrying the basura boxes.  It works both ways.  Never doubt that there are people who are going to bring blessings or curses into their lives based on how they treat you. 

Thus we turn the other cheek; we are careful about how we respond to aggression and oppression; we do not take revenge when we are wronged.  There is a good chance that you and I – even as we are being tested – are a test for someone else, for the police officer enamored of his own authority, for the politicians who think they rule over us, for the petty, tyrannical supervisors who like to yank us around on the job.   If someone pushes me or threatens me, and I rise up and beat him down, all I’ve done is teach him, perhaps, not to judge a hillbilly by his overalls.  What if I let him “get away with it”?  Commonsense would say that I have reinforced his aggression, that he will be more likely to push me next time.  Most of the time, that is exactly what happens, and here is the point where it is critical to know that God loves us.

I readily confess that I stumble over verses telling me about the love of God.  Of course God loves me if I do right.  That’s the way I read it.  To my natural mind it seems like arrogance to think that I am of any particular value or interest or concern to the Creator of the universe.  He loves the world.  He loves everybody.  I fall into that general category. 

I had good parents who loved me.  I was not an especially good child but I tried to be obedient because I loved Mom and Dad and didn’t want to cause them any trouble, cost them extra, or create additional work for them.  Sometimes I did, and it was always like a cold knife through my heart to see them cleaning up my mess.  I never in my life felt that they owed me.  I was always in their debt.  They never told me that or did anything that I can remember to give me that impression.  As far as I know, I was born with that attitude.  It seems to be inherent, and I carry the same attitude toward God. 

But the Lord says something very different.  He cares about each of us individually.  We have the favor of our heavenly Father.  The people in our lives who support, encourage and help us will share in that favor.  None of us can make on our own.  There is no need to feel as though we didn’t earn all the blessings, help, and opportunities we have received.  No one does.  Accept it graciously and gratefully.  Thank God for it, and know that those who have been good to you will be themselves recipients of grace, mercy, love and joy that they “earned” only by treating you well.   

Conversely, those who choose to attack us, dishonor us, manipulate, and curse us will not partake of God’s favor.  The worse people treat you when you are trying to follow Christ and do right, the more the Lord will bless you.  Meanwhile, we may trust that He knows how to deal with those who make themselves our enemies.    

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