The Lute and the Plectrum

Today is Friday, the fourth of February, 2022, in the fourth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,339

It is currently 20 degrees outside, and everything is still covered in ice/snow. Mostly ice. I received word about 3:25 PM, yesterday, that the library would be closed again, today. So I don’t have to worry about getting out there and driving until tomorrow. We are supposed to get above freezing sometime this afternoon, possibly up to 40 (although the hourly only shows it getting to 37). It is sunny outside, as well, though, so hopefully, even though it looks like it will get down to 20 again tonight, the roads will be clear in the morning.

We have had no more power outages since night before last, which is good. I know at least one family that had to get a room in a hotel, because their power has been out since early yesterday. They live in a rural area, north of DFW, though. I’m not sure what’s going on with their power.

There are no plans for the day, since I would have been working. We were going to have our pizza tonight, but we don’t have enough ingredients to make two of them, so I’m not sure, at this point, what we will do. I may make a trip to the store, this afternoon, though. I don’t know what the shelves will look like. We may just order out, this evening.

I got lucky with my Wordle guess today.

Wordle 230 2/6*

⬜🟨🟨⬜🟩
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, I dedicate this day to You.
May my feet walk only where You want them to walk.
May my eyes see only what You want them to see.
May my ears hear only what You want them to hear.
May my mouth say only what You want it to say.
May my mind think only what You want it to think.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 150:6 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am alive and breathing; I have breath, so I'm praising the Lord
2. that God is constantly making all things new
3. that we have heat and electricity and plenty of food
4. that, in God's kingdom, I have nothing to fear
5. that prayer is like God "strumming my heart with His fingers"
Praise the LORD! 
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, 
in the company of the upright, in the congregation. 
Great are the works of the LORD, 
studied by all who delight in them. 
Full of splendor and majesty is his work, 
and his righteousness endures forever. 
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; 
the LORD is gracious and merciful. 
(Psalms 111:1-4 ESV)

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
(Romans 8:19 ESV)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, 
are being transformed into the same image 
from one degree of glory to another. 
For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
 teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, 
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, 
with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 
(Colossians 3:16 ESV)
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, 
so walk in him, 
rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, 
just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 
(Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, 
to which indeed you were called in one body. 
And be thankful. 
(Colossians 3:15 ESV)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
(1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV)

Can we find a common thread in all of these passages? They occur in a reading on prayer, in the Spiritual Classics book. In this reading, prayer is likened to a lute player strumming his lute. In this imagery, the lute is the heart of the player, and the strumming is done with a plectrum (in modern days, we call this a “pick”), which is God’s Word, or the recollection of it, as well as the Name of Jesus.

The question is asked, do we view prayer as more of a burdensome duty or obligation? Can this idea of playing a musical instrument make it more a gift of grace? As a musician, I can identify with the attitudes presented. There are times when it’s a burden to grab my guitar or turn on my keyboard and begin playing.

In this reading, a selection written by Andre Louf, the idea presented, if I am understanding it correctly, is akin to the thought, “just do it.” However, it isn’t as simple as that. Before the section on prayer, there were a few readings on meditation, which is a precursor to prayer, and away to allow the Word of God to begin doing the “strumming” on our hearts. It reminds me of a song (that I never liked very much) in which the singer said that someone was “strumming my heart with his fingers.” Through meditation and contemplation, we allow the Spirit of God to begin the work of prayer in our hearts. And then, it becomes a gift of grace.

I have experienced this, in my own prayers. There have certainly been times when my prayers were mechanical, more of a burden or obligation than a joy. However, like practicing a musical instrument, there are times when it is more important to simply do the duty. It will not always be a joy. But the more we practice, the more it will become joyful.

That passage from Colossians 3 is instrumental in this endeavor. We allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts (and trust me, this is a choice that we must make), work to be thankful (another choice that must be made), and then allow His Word to dwell in us richly. All of these are choices that we must consciously make. They won’t just happen. Just like becoming proficient in any musical instrument will not just happen.

Louf makes a statement that prayer can’t be learned from someone else. Actually, Louf is quoting Callixtus II, a fourteenth century Byzantine monk. “Nobody can learn how to see. For seeing is something we can do by nature. So too with prayer. Authentic prayer can never be learnt from someone else. It has its own instructor within it. Prayer is God’s gift to him who prays.” I agree with this to a point. However, we must not allow this idea to keep us from reading what other great people have to say about the subject. And it certainly doesn’t prohibit the use of pre-written prayers.

All of this was launched by the question, “is praying difficult?” And the question is not answered. In fact, Louf goes so far as to say that “No one is going to give you the answer to that question.” There will be some who try to tell you that it is easy. I say they do not fully comprehend prayer. As we learn to allow ourselves to be, in a sense, taken out of ourselves by the Spirit, prayer becomes more of an intricate part of our being. And we learn that prayer can be both difficult and easy.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil, 
for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff, 
they comfort me. 
(Psalms 23:4 ESV)

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.
(Luke 12:22 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “step,” in the sense of taking one step at a time. A Chinese proverb is quoted. “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.” I once had a pastor who spoke of something he called the “one-percent grade.” As long as you are moving upward at even a one-percent grade, you’re doing okay, he would say. And, of course, we’ve all heard the famous statement that says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” And, for a little levity, “How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time.”

The kingdom life doesn’t have to be “all or nothing.” It’s easy to interpret some of the commands in this way, but that only leads to a life of impossibility and frustration. It eliminates the concept of “grace” altogether. It is good to know that God remembers that we are dust; He knows we are imperfect.

Father, as I pray for You to keep teaching me how to pray, I also ask for more of an understanding of how prayer works, how I am to go about it. I pray that You would, indeed, strum my heart with Your Words, with the Name of Jesus, reminding me constantly who I am and whose I am. I pray for consistency, but I also pray for real, authentic prayer in my life, prayer that comes, not necessarily easily, but naturally, as I become more and more consumed by Your Word.

Remind me, please, that I have nothing to fear in Your kingdom, and that, as long as I am moving in Your direction, thought it be only one step at a time, I am doing okay.

I pray for people I know who are still without power. Please intervene and give them power and heat, that they may be safe and warm in their homes. I pray for any who might be without shelter, during this time, that they might be able to find someplace warm to stay. I also pray that they would have food to eat.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Eternal God,
who are the light of the minds that know You,
the joy of the hearts that love You,
and the strength of the wills that serve You;
grant us so to know You that we may truly love You,
and so to love You that we may fully serve You,
whom to serve is perfect freedom,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Prayer to Know God, by St. Augustine)

Grace and peace, friends.

Don’t Panic

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-sixth of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,330

Today feels busy, but the only thing that really needs to happen is getting Maggie (cat) her rabies shot so the city of Watauga won’t penalize us. I plan to take her to the TCAP location in Hurst right after I finish my morning devotional. I’m not sure if this is going to be cost-free or not. We have a voucher from the animal shelter where we got her. I also don’t know how long it will take, because there are no appointments for vaccinations. They only do appointments for neutering. S actually plans to go with me. I asked her last night, and she said, “Yes. She’s my cat, so I’m going.” ❤

I might make a trip to a grocery store after lunch. There are some things we need, and I know that at least one of them is out of stock at Albertson’s, and one of them, we can only get from Walmart Neighborhood. Instant update. I just signed up for a thirty-day free trial for “W+,” their delivery/shipping service. After thirty days, it’s $98 a year, which provides all deliveries and shipping (for items that are not in the store) at no additional cost. So the groceries will be delivered between 2-3 this afternoon (or later, if they get behind, which I have heard they have been struggling with).

Okay. Time to get moving, because I told S I plan to leave around 10:00.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)
We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
 in the midst of your temple. 
As your name, O God,
 so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
 Your right hand is filled with righteousness. 
(Psalms 48:9-10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the greatness of the name of the Lord, and His righteousness that fills His right hand
2. for the grace of God, and the willingness to extend that same grace to others
3. for the gifts of God, which I am called to "fan into flame" (2 Timothy 1)
4. for the holiness of God, called by Eugene Peterson "a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it"
5. for the presence of God, made manifest in Creation
"It echoes on and on
The sound of heaven's song
Resting over us
The glory of our God"
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, 
To Timothy, my beloved child: 
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 
As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now,
 I am sure, dwells in you as well. 
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 
(2 Timothy 1:1-8 ESV)

There is a reason that I end every day’s blog entry with “grace and peace, friends.” It’s not just a greeting or a cool way to end a letter or post. Just like the beginning, when I say things like, “May the peace of Christ be with you today,” I sincerely hope that God’s grace and peace would be with you, this day. I don’t say these things lightly, and I don’t believe that Paul did, either, when he opened up his letters like that. He wished/prayed for “grace, mercy, and peace” to be with the recipient of his letter, in this case, his protege Timothy.

I wonder what the gift was, that he is reminding Timothy to “fan into flame.” I don’t know that we are told this. But I am encouraged, here, to consider what gift I might need to do that with. What do I need to “fan into flame?” The first thing that comes to mind is the gift of music. Sadly, my gift has fallen into disuse. But it remains. Playing music is kind of like riding a bicycle. I can still do it . . . there are things that you never forget. However, the muscles and fingertips get out of shape (as do the lips, in the case of brass instruments). Technique flounders. So some “fanning” is necessary. And I have, literally, no excuse for not practicing/playing more, these days. So there’s a gift I need to fan into flame.

But what is the reason for fanning this gift into flame? Verse 7 provides that. Because we are not given a spirit of fear or timidity (which is what the word literally means), but of “power and love and self-control.” Some versions say “a sound mind,” but the word literally means “discipline” or “self-control.” And discipline is something that is needed to fan a gift into flame.

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

As Eugene Peterson gets to the book of Isaiah in Symphony of Salvation, he calls the chapter “The Salvation Symphony.” Peterson calls Isaiah a poet, “a maker, making God present and that presence urgent.” He also says that Isaiah’s typical name for God in the book is “The Holy.”

But by working justice, 
GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies will be a mountain.
 By working righteousness, 
Holy God will show what "holy" is. 
(Isaiah 5:16 MSG)

To be sure, Isaiah is a mountain of work in the approximate middle of our Scriptures. Some of my favorite verses occur in this prophetic book. But I have not examined it in the light of “holy,” as Peterson suggests. “The more hours we spend pondering the words of Isaiah, the more the word holy changes in our understanding.” Says, Peterson, “Holiness is a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it.”

"'Who among us can survive this firestorm? 
Who of us can get out of this purge with our lives?'" 
The answer's simple: 
Live right, 
speak the truth, 
despise exploitation, 
refuse bribes, 
reject violence, 
avoid evil amusements. 
This is how you raise your standard of living! 
A safe and stable way to live. 
A nourishing, satisfying way to live. 
(Isaiah 33:14-16 MSG)

“The book of Isaiah is expansive, dealing with virtually everything that is involved in being the People of God on this planet Earth.”

"Count on it: 
Everyone who had it in for you will end up out in the cold— real losers. 
Those who worked against you will end up empty-handed— nothing to show for their lives. 
When you go out looking for your old adversaries you won't find them— 
Not a trace of your old enemies, not even a memory. 
That's right. Because I, your GOD, 
have a firm grip on you and I'm not letting go. 
I'm telling you, 'Don't panic. I'm right here to help you.' 
(Isaiah 41:11-13 MSG)

I added the italics in that passage.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
(Psalms 19:1 ESV)

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.
(Psalms 29:2 ESV)

Father, this morning, I lift up a prayer to You to help me be motivated to fan my gifts into flame for You. I praise You and thank You for the gifts You have given me, and confess my lack of motivation to practice them and put them to good use. I’m not sure what opportunities will arise to do so, but You are in control of that. I simply pray for Your Spirit to move me to work them out.

I thank You for the spirit of power and love and self-control that You give us. I pray that Your Church, the Body of Christ, would exercise those things in unity, to show the world Your truth and love for us.

I also thank You for the book of Isaiah and it’s exploration of Your holiness. May we all enter into that furnace of cleansing and may everything that is not holy be burned away from us. Thank You for Your might presence in our lives, that give us the confidence to “don’t panic.” All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Don't panic. 
I'm with you. 
There's no need to fear for I'm your God. 
I'll give you strength. 
I'll help you. 
I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. 
(Isaiah 41:10 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

A Prayer for Unity

Today is Tuesday, the eighteenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,322

Only five days until Hamilton!

I’ve piddled a bit too much, this morning, and found myself with barely an hour to get my devotional in. It wouldn’t matter, but I have to go pick up my new CPAP machine, this morning, at 11:00 AM. I figure I will probably stop by Subway afterward, for lunch for C and S (and their dinner, as well), since C is working from home, this week. Then I get to work at the library from 4:15-8:15, this evening.

The Rams pounded the Cardinals 34-11 last night, so the divisional rounds are set. Saturday, the Bengals will play the Oilers Titans, and the 49ers will play the Packers. Honestly, I don’t care at all about either of those games, other than I find that I cannot root for Aaron Rogers after his fiasco behavior regarding Covid vaccines.

On Sunday, the Rams will play the Buccaneers and the Bills will play the Chiefs. I’m rooting against the Buccaneers and for the Bills. But I really don’t care. I probably won’t watch any of the games.

I can’t help but wonder . . . if the Super Bowl winds up being the Bucs and Packers, will it be the lowest-watched Super Bowl in TV history? At least half of the country hates both quarterbacks.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Restore My Being, by Daryl Madden

Into your Presence
I come before
In my humanness
A time to adore

With shoulders of burden
Of stress that I store
It all melts away
Poured out on the floor

And worries and fears
As I start to pray
For by your grace
They all drift away

The greatest of all
Through the mercy of You
For all of my sins
Are washed away too

To restore my being
Of blessing to find
Gives this broken soul
A taste of the divine

A lovely prayer to begin my morning. Please check out more of Daryl’s inspiration poetry at the link provided above.

"My soul rests, my soul rests, in your embrace
My spirit sings, my spirit sings all your praise."
One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, 
and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 
And the Pharisees were saying to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" 
And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 
how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?" 
And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath." 
(Mark 2:23-28 ESV)

Today marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I don’t recall ever hearing of this before, but I believe it is significant and something important for which to be praying.

Right now, there doesn’t appear to be much unity in the realm of Christianity. In the reading from Mark, the religious leaders are criticizing Jesus and His followers for “doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath.” This sounds a lot like yesterday’s reading, where they were criticized for not doing “religious things.”

So Jesus is criticized for not being religious enough. Legalism abounded in His day, just as it does today. Even today, in the midst of “Christianity,” there is a way of thinking that says, “You can’t be a Christian and ___________.” But truly, Jesus knows nothing of this way of thinking. According to Scripture, there is only one way to be a “Christian” (by the way, that word only occurs three times in the whole Bible, and none of those describes how to be one), and that is to be a follower of Christ.

The modern “church,” just as the religious leaders of Jesus’s day, is quick to be critical. This surely accounts for the division in the church, especially in America. I can’t speak for other countries, but the “church” in the United States (perhaps even the “Church”) is as divided as the nation is, pretty much 50/50. It’s very sad. There is a severe shortage of “love one another.”

The thought, in the reading, that the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around, leads me down a path of realization that the law has a purpose, but it is not the purpose that many people try to use it for. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus is Lord of all. Scripture is clear that the law’s intent was to point out our flaws and shortcomings, not to be followed jot and tittle.

As we pray, we need to be praying for unity within the Church of Jesus, the Body of Christ. We need to stop being so judgmental and critical of one another (I have been guilty of this, myself, and it is something I have struggled with mightily over the past years). We are all only human, we are made from dust, and we are far from perfect, all of us. We will make mistakes, and none of us has a corner on the market of “truth,” or what is wrong and right. We all have our own opinions about things, but those opinions, in the grand scheme of things are irrelevant. Our job is to love God and love people. Those are the two commands upon which the entirety of the Law and Prophets hinge, according to Jesus, Himself.

Father, as I go through this day, help me to be aware of the time of prayer that is being called for, for unity in the Church. I pray that we can somehow manage to set aside our differences of opinion (largely on things that are not of eternal significance) and love one another. I pray that some can stop being critical of others for not being “religious” enough, and I pray that the other half can stop being critical of those they deem to be “too religious.” May we all simply follow Christ, doing the things that He said and did, and love one another, doing whatever needs to be done for “the least of these.”

Help me to find some time to be quiet and reflect as this day continues.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I love you, O LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
 my God, my rock,
 in whom I take refuge, 
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
(Psalms 18:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that the Lord is my strength, my rock, and my fortress
2. for the possibility of unity within the Body of Christ; I believe it is possible
3. for the privilege of prayer, and the responsibility, as well
4. for times of quiet and reflection, during the day
5. for the blessing of my life and family
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

“You Go and Do Likewise”

Today is Tuesday, the eleventh of January, 2022, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,315

Twelve days until Hamilton.

I must confess that I am not confident that the Hamilton show will go on as scheduled. I have no communication, thus far, from Bass Performance Hall. However, I have seen that dates in Houston, the week before our run begins, have been postponed due to outbreaks in the touring company. I have to assume that it is the same group that would be performing in Fort Worth, beginning on the nineteenth. Whatever will be, will be, though, and I shan’t worry about it.

C is working from home, today, which is always nice. It is a normal Tuesday for me, and I will be heading in to the library at 4:15, to work until the library closes at 8:00. Then I am off until Friday.

We had to buy a new electric can opener, which was already delivered, this morning. That may not seem like such a big deal, but the can opener we are replacing came with the house. It’s a Black and Decker under-the-cabinet space-saver can opener that is almost twenty-three years old. A piece broke off a couple weeks ago, and it will no longer hold cans up, and keeps dropping them. Plus the handle won’t stay engaged, so it becomes harder and harder to open a can. We did not get another similar opener, as B&D seem to be the only company that makes those, and they are almost $400, which is ridiculous! We got a counter-top Cuisinart for less than $50, which, in my opinion, is still quite a bit to pay for a can opener. But it is stainless steel, and has a nice, wide, heavy base. It looks nice.

So, now, the microwave that is installed over the stove is the only original appliance left in the house. The stove and dishwasher have both been replaced, and the refrigerator has been replaced twice. The hot water heater was replaced last year, and the garage door opener was also replaced last year. The heating unit is still original equipment . . . I don’t really consider that an “appliance,” but maybe it is. But the A/C is not original, and the blower in the attic was replaced a number of years ago.

Nothing really on my schedule for today, so who knows what I’ll get done? I need to get someone to come look at our dripping shower faucet.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Jesus answered, 
"The most important is, 
'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 
The second is this: 
'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 
There is no other commandment greater than these."
(Mark 12:29-31 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for our cats
2. for oceans and forests
3. for the parable of the Good Samaritan
4. that Jesus Christ emptied Himself for us
5. for the awe I feel in the presence of the holiness of God; may that holiness permeate my being, today
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 
He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" 
And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." 
And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." 
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 
Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 
Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 
So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 
He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 
And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' 
Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" 
He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." 
(Luke 10:25-37 ESV)

This passage was in my daily reading in the plan that I’m currently following in the YouVersion Bible app. Several things truck me, this morning, as I was listening to it.

The first thing is Jesus’s response to the lawyer’s answer to His question. The lawyer, of course, responded with words primarily from Deuteronomy 6:4-6, which is known as the “Shema.” The part about loving your neighbor as yourself is found in Leviticus.

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 19:18 ESV)

First, Jesus told the lawyer that he had answered correctly. It’s what He said next that I really haven’t paid close attention to, before today.

” . . . do this, and you will live.” 

Wait.

WHAT??

What was the original question?

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

So, Jesus’s answer to the question, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life,” is, essentially, “love God and love people.” As you can see, I’ve paraphrased that.

Jesus didn’t say anything at all about trusting Him for forgiveness of sin, repentance, praying the “sinner’s prayer” (which isn’t anywhere in the Bible, anyway), or any of the stuff that a modern-day evangelical would tell someone if they asked that same question!

Don’t worry. I’m not going down a path of “works salvation,” here. But I do need to spend some time processing what Jesus told this guy. Unfortunately for the lawyer, he couldn’t leave well-enough alone, and had to ask that next question, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke indicates that the lawyer was trying to justify himself by asking that.

So then Jesus proceeds to tell the famous “Good Samaritan” parable. Now . . . we don’t really know much about the man who was attacked by robbers, just that he was on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. I suppose it is safe to assume (is it ever safe to assume?) that he was Jewish, a Hebrew. We all know what happens next. A priest and a Levite, two examples of people who should be the most devoutly religious sort of folk, avoid the injured man, no doubt with some kind of religious reason, perhaps even following “The Law” in doing so.

Then the Samaritan shows up. Samaritans were half-breeds. They were absolutely hated by the Jews. So this guy comes along and gives aid to someone whom he knew would, if they simply met on the street, absolutely loathe him. That would be something like an illegal immigrant giving assistance to a KKK member.

Then Jesus asks the lawyer which one proved to be a “neighbor” to the robbed man. Of course, the lawyer says, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus’s response speaks loudly to all of us.

“You go, and do likewise.”

It’s important to maintain the proper perspective, here. The person who showed mercy did not show mercy to someone whom he hated (at least we are not told that). He showed mercy to someone whom he knew would hate him!

A few chapters earlier, Dr. Luke records Jesus saying this:

"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, 
do good to those who hate you, 
bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 
To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, 
and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 
Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 
(Luke 6:27-31 ESV)

Of course, we all know verse 31 as “The Golden Rule.” And it is this kind of radical behavior that sets true Christians apart from the rest of the world. It also sets “true Christians” apart from all the pretend “Christians.”

Essentially, what I see here is this. If I am one who is inheriting eternal life, I will obey these things. I will love God with all of my being, and I will love my neighbor as myself. I will love my enemy. I will render assistance to someone who is in need, even if I know that they hate me.

And I truly believe that I am told that I should not fight back. To me, that is what “turning the other cheek” means. And look . . . we are even allowed some naturally human selfishness through all of this. Jesus actually gives us an out at the end of this. Even if the motivation is that I want to be treated this way, myself, it’s okay! It is fine for me to treat others the way that I want to be treated. That is commendable.

I can only assume that there are a lot of people out there, pretending to be Christians, who really want to be treated with bigotry and hatred, since that’s how they are treating anyone who is not like them.

Father, I pray for more of this in my own spirit, today. I have seen something new in Your Word today. Of course, it is not “new.” It has always been there. But today, for whatever reason, You chose to have Your Spirit reveal this to me in a fresh way. And You have be drawing me, more and more, into this kind of attitude and behavior, for many years, now. Keep drawing me; closer and closer to You, and deeper and deeper into this kind of mindset. I want to be part of a Love Revolution. I want to be able to love You fully, with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I want to love my neighbor as myself, including anyone who might despise me or abuse me. I want to love my brothers and sisters in Christ in the same way that Christ has loved us. Make me able to do these things, please. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

And I pray, Father, for You to rescue Your Church. Or maybe the real Church is not in any danger. Maybe You are pruning. Help us to stay faithful and strong, as I can see times of persecution around the corner. But the “church” as an institution is faltering. Help us to be more faithful to follow Jesus and obey His teachings, rather than follow the prejudices of bigoted leaders.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

God is serious business, take him seriously; he’s put the earth in place and it’s not moving.
(1 Chronicles 16:30 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.