Saturday, January 31, 2009

Who's In Control?

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

These past several weeks as I have been thinking through a particular situation, I have had to constantly remind myself that none of us is enslaved to any particular thing or person or concept – unless we choose to surrender to that thing or person or concept. We have minds that can reason and a free will that can respond according to what pleases us or that suits a particular situation. So even though we are bound to a certain degree by legal and moral obligations, for instance, we are simultaneously free at any time to do as we please, go where we please, believe as we please, and love whom we choose – all in spite of any legal or moral obligations. It is that we are in complete control, right? We just have to be willing to live by the consequences that come as a result of our choices.

I am reminded of a woman I knew years ago who got caught up in an adultrous affair. “Caught up”? How about “jumped in”? She reasoned that their illicit union must surely have been the will of God because, she reasoned, they couldn’t help falling in love. She says they didn’t mean to (the affair destroyed a marriage, by the way) but that it just happened. What she was tellling me, then, was that she and her boyfriend had been compelled by something beyond their nature and ability to reason and had essentially forced them to act against their will. Oh, if I had known then even what little I think I know now.

She was talking smack, and her thoughts and ideas were pure rubbish. She was an adulteror, and her boyfriend was no less guilty. He left his wife and children to be with this new “love” – this “love”, incidentally, which did not last a couple of years. But between the two of them, they just could not help themselves. What did actually make this thing worse was that while the man claimed no real religious affiliation, she was all too quick to point out that she was a “saved” Christian. I guess that’s how she figured everything she would do is pretty much ok by the Lord because, after all, do we not pray the Lord to “lead us NOT into temptation …”?? So if something tempts us beyond our perceived ability to resist, it must be the Lord’s fault … or His will. Right? Because do we not believe, overall, that the Lord is ultimately in control of all things?

It is downright blasphemous to insinuate on any level that the Lord is the author of sin or that He would allow us to lead such a sinful life that is biblically prohibited from everyone else. It is the epitome of arrogance to suggest that the Lord makes exceptions for some when the Bible clearly says otherwise.
But is there a certain level at which the Lord functions entirely on His own and independently of man’s desire and will? For instance, the United Methodist Church, among many others, teaches that the baptism of an infant, as a Sacrament of the Church, is as valid as the baptism of an adult who is making his or her profession of faith for the very first time. The reason is simple: the baptism is an act of God, not of man. Therefor if He does it at all, He does it right. There is no valid reason to require such a thing to be done again.

John Wesley once taught, and United Methodists still believe, that prevenient grace is that act by which the Holy Spirit is at work within us long before we call out to Him. It is a matter of Who loves whom … first. Even still, fundamental control might still be an issue especially on this level. I think there is no question that in the grand scheme of things, clearly the Lord God is ultimately in charge. Jesus Himself tells us that “the end” as we may think of it will come only when the Lord God decrees it, and not one moment before. No doubt, then, about who is “large and in charge” and clearly in control ... of the big picture.

Moses reminds the Israelites in Deuteronomy that there will come an end to his time but that another prophet “like him” will come from among them who “shall speak to them everything that I [the Lord] command.” (18:18) Here’s the kicker, though: “Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in My name, I myself will hold accountable.” (18:19) There is an element of man’s free will to decide for himself whether he will receive and embrace the prophet’s words, but there may also be consequences depending on man’s response.

What defines Christianity, however, is not a matter of who is ultimately in control. Christianity, instead, is relational without coercion. That is to say, this incredible thing which took place some 2000 years ago is that thing we commemorate today. In spite of our sinful nature and in spite of the harsh reality of man’s rejection, the Lord still chose to redeem us in an incomprehensible way. It was HIS act then; it is HIS act now. Our response, or lack of response (which is a response in itself) does not change the essential element of what took place – or why it took place. And yet we are still entirely free to choose. That’s love. And our response will determine whether we were ever His to begin with, as the saying goes: “If you love something, set it free. If it returns to you, it is yours and always will be. If not, it never was.”

It is important, particularly on any occasion in which the Sacrament of Holy Communion is to be shared, that we bear in mind what it means to make a choice to come forward and receive the Body and the Cup of Christ. Such an occasion must never be reduced to a mere act we choose to do because we are “supposed” to. Rather, this must necessarily be for us the ultimate reminder that even as evil seems to triumph – remember that man tortured and murdered Jesus because they didn’t like what they were hearing – in the end the ultimate control over life and death is clearly and firmly in the hands of the Almighty God and Author of Life.

He chose Life when He chose you. And He chose you when He asked Christ to go to the Cross. This must be known and embraced before this Bread and this Cup will ever mean anything to you or me. And He is FIRMLY IN CONTROL because this was HIS CHOICE for you … and even for me.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Wish ...

I wish I knew (or cared) more about the situation with Illinois’ governor and his impeachment so that I could make an intelligent commentary on it. That’s the rub, though, and it is what the national media should observe: that it is Illinois’ problem and that the Illinois legislature is dealing with it in due process.

I wish I knew all the details of this massive, $819 billion stimulus package that has passed the US House because I care deeply. The nation overwhelmingly elected a new president, leaving no doubt as to preference, but the give-aways this package is said to contain – such as funding for Medicaid to give away birth control – seem to have little to do stimulating the economy to create jobs, which was (or is) the stated purpose of the package in the first place.

I wish people had not booed when President Bush took the stage at Mr. Obama’s inauguration, and I especially wish that House Speaker Pelosi had not made her comment that “a 10-pound anvil had been lifted from her head”. Some people in this country are just plain nasty and are ungracious even in victory.

I wish we could just let Mr. Obama be “the” president, period. That he is the first African-American elected to the nation’s highest office is a bright spot in American history, but that moment has passed. We now have a man – just a man – serving as president. Why not leave it at that? To me, it is further evidence that even his supporters clearly qualify (and sometimes marginalize) human beings based purely on the color of another’s skin. Dr. King would not be pleased, I should think.

I wish I knew why Democrats have such a problem with Rush Limbaugh. Again, we’re talking about a mere mortal man, though “with brains on loan from God” (Limbaugh’s line). Reckon the Democrats really believe this to be true? I suppose this might explain why one media person can upset the entire party from the president on down.

I wish I knew why it is that during WWII, POW’s captured by the US were put in POW camps and held for the duration of the war without trial, but the detainees at Guantanamo Bay as POW’s are somehow entitled to a fair trial, having been captured by US forces during a battle. I am especially confused in knowing that some have been released only to turn up in similar battles elsewhere.

I wish I knew why Christians seem more intent on pointing out the flaws of others than in spreading the Good News.

I wish I knew (or cared) more about global warming.

I wish I knew why the world shows virtually no concern for Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli citizens but gets completely bent out of shape when Israel, after giving a week’s worth of firm warnings, finally gets enough and retaliates.

I wish I knew what the Arkansas legislature was thinking in giving itself a raise in the middle of the worst recession, some say, since the Great Depression. Now I am truly depressed.

I wish I knew why the Arkansas legislature and its governor thinks raising any tax during such an economic crisis and creating new spending programs is a good idea.

I wish I knew why governments and individuals seem so intent on eradicating death. With so many life-saving measures and other programs designed to save people from themselves, it is as if the government thinks it can outsmart the inevitable.

I wish I knew why we voters don’t pay more attention to our elected officials and their records at re-election. If we really knew or cared, my guess is most of the incumbents would not be incumbents.

I wish I knew why military deserters who object to the war in Iraq, or war in general, don’t change their status to “conscientious objector” and face that music rather than spending the rest of their lives running and hiding.

I wish I knew what convinces young people that alcohol can solve anything or is “fun”. And I wonder this as a former “believer” in the wonders and powers of alcohol. I guess I don’t remember because, well, I might have been drunk at the time.

I wish I knew why politics has to be so nasty rather than an honest debate and discussion about public policy. I suspect it has more to do with the corruptible nature of man, but I would like to believe there could be more.

I wish I knew why Pope Benedict would restore a cardinal who apparently at one time denied the reality of the Holocaust.

I wish I knew why the Catholic Church refuses to allow priests to marry. Sure would take care of that priest shortage we hear so much about.

I also wish I knew the intelligence level of those who believe that priests in the past would not have been child molesters if they had been married.

I wish I knew why anyone thought credit was a good idea.

I wish more writers would admit to what they don’t know.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Making Sense of Nonsense

It is difficult to conceive of an Arkansas legislative session in which some tax and/or legislative pay is not raised in some way; thank goodness for consistency in 2009. I had suggested earlier that the people of Arkansas would be better served during this time of extreme economic challenge if the members of Arkansas’ legislature would at least pretend they have a clue about what is happening across the state and the nation, indeed the world, but it appears by recent actions that not only are they seemingly unaware (or unconcerned) of dangers lurking but that they may in fact be incapable of seeing beyond the end of their collective nose. What is even worse is the level of arrogance that has been on display in some of the comments made by the alleged “leaders” of this state and its General Assembly.

A 3.8% pay raise has been approved by the General Assembly for all elected officials and signed by the governor who also stated that he would refuse his raise “because of the economy”. Puhleeze, Gov. Beebe. Leadership would have demanded that if you truly believed this, you would have vetoed the entire package as inappropriate for the time. House Speaker Robbie Wills is equally clueless when he says that he and his wife are expecting a new baby soon and that he “needs” this raise, which comes to about $400 per year for him. I wonder how many expectant parents in Arkansas have recently lost their jobs with no new job prospects or who are about to lose their jobs who will not see any raises anytime soon; that is, if they are lucky enough to keep their jobs? For that matter, how many Arkansans will see raises this year at all?

Sorry, Gov. Beebe, but you completely missed the boat on this one. You showed total disregard for certain reality even while acknowledging this very same reality, you made a feeble attempt to show some sense of solidarity with the working folk of this state, and you showed the people who entrusted to you the keys to the entire state that you will do only what is in the best interests of the legislature. After all, you never know when you may need them to return the favor, huh? That kind of trickery does indeed show how all your legislative experience helps. I sincerely hope all those who supported you come to realize they are getting exactly what they asked for and that all those who supported someone else knew exactly what would come sooner or later.

There is another certain reality among Arkansas households that when things are tight and jobs scarce, the last thing to do (if at all) is to take on a new financial obligation or expand current obligations, no matter how badly it seems to be needed. Each member of the Arkansas General Assembly, as individuals, is probably no exception to this general rule. However, put all these particular individuals in the same room, and suddenly conventional wisdom takes a back seat to standard government practice: think up ways to spend money, and then do the “responsible” thing by raising taxes to pay for it. And let’s not forget that folks hate smokers, so that’s an easy tax to go after. And to show the soon-to-be-fleeced that the legislature really has their best interests at heart, statements will be made to the effect that, “well, we really hope you quit smoking.” Let’s top it all off with a rally at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Who’s gonna say no to the kids?

I have never seen anything in history or civics classes that ever held that one of the state’s enumerated purposes for existence was to serve itself or purposely seek to enhance its own revenue. My understanding has always (apparently very wrongly) been that the state’s income is incidental to what is happening in the real world; that if things are not going so great out there, the state may actually have to tighten its own belt while citizens are forced to do the same. Apparently this is not true in Little Rock AR. I’m just gratified that they care so much and that I can perhaps take some solice and comfort in the fact that some things never change.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Exporters of Death

President Obama, according to Fox News, is going to sign an executive order today which will provide federal funds to international agencies that provide and promote abortion, effectively overturning President Bush’s ban on such funds being made available to international abortion providers. It is bad enough that the US has this scourge on our national consciousness; do we really have to export such vile practices and “values” to other nations as well?

I had written earlier that Mr. Obama became my president on 20 January 2009 even though I did not support him among the Democrats nor did I vote for him in the general election. His political ideology and relative inexperience were the deciding factors for me, and I make no apology for either. In spite of my objections, however, I was prepared to accept the winner because it is how our system works. I am compelled to respect the wishes of the majority.

Now I am not so sure that I can support this man on any level, and I will try to explain why. Life is fundamental to our very existence as a people and as a nation. Our very Declaration of Independence hails life as the “unalienable” right of each human person. Such a right is infallible and inseparable; it is the core of our being. We are divinely called into life and no man, no government may remove from our being the “unalienable” right to exist not according to our wishes and desires but according to Divine Law which calls us into being. To deny the “unalienable” is to deny our humanity.

Because life is the foundation of existence, anything after this revolves around enhancing not only our own lives but the lives of others, especially those who stand defenseless against a world that seems inclined toward anarchy, the natural tendency seemingly bent toward that most base instinct of “survival of the fittest”. Without protections as they are, we are at the mercy of men and/or governments who may decree that some lives are more or less valuable than others according to arbitrary standards, standards that shift from generation to generation or, in the case of the United States, from Republican president to Democratic president (President Reagan instituted this abortion ban in 1984, and it stood until the time of President Clinton, was re-instated by President Bush and now is about to be removed by President Obama).

It is also a very curious, if alien, act when considering that such a move commits the United States (that’s you and me) to the financial burden of providing these abortions against our religious objections. This comes at a time when the US Treasury is 10 TRILLION dollars empty, the Congress and the President are debating on how to pay bills AND put Americans back to work AND fund Social Security AND provide universal health care and/or insurance … AND … AND …

It is difficult to support a man whose priorities include promoting death as a means of enhancing life. The issue of government involvement in such an endeavor goes far beyond the “choice” argument that supposedly applies to individuals according not to the will of the people but by judicial fiat. We are actually exporting the slaughter of innocents as a product of the United States. King Herod would be so proud to know us.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day 2009

Is it sour grapes? Am I a sore loser? Do I really have a problem only with Mr. Obama’s policies, or can I honestly disagree with his ideology? Surely I am not dismissing him before he even gets started exclusively because of his political party affiliation, and heaven have mercy if I truly am writing Mr. Obama off only because of the color of his skin! Do I wish him ill in the hopes that Americans will wake up and recognize that Democrats are bad altogether and very expensive to maintain?

These are questions I have been forced to honestly assess for myself on this Inauguration Day 2009 when Barack H. Obama will be sworn in as the nation’s 44th president. I wish I could be as excited as so many seem to be, but I also cannot grasp that so many Obama supporters are as much supporting him as they are grateful that Mr. Bush’s administration has ended. This is what I get from a friend who refuses to let go of the Supreme Court’s involvement in the 2000 election when Florida apparently could not count or could not distinguish a “hanging chad” and determine if the vote that chad represented was legitimate or not.

I am as ambivalent as I have ever been about a new president coming into office. I was excited when Mr. Reagan was elected and then re-elected. I was pleased when George H.W. Bush was inaugurated, and I was sorely disappointed when President Clinton came into the office. I was gratified when George W. Bush was ELECTED (not appointed, you people who cannot seem to let that one go!), but his successor was not so distinguishable early on within the Republican ranks. John McCain was written off early on but came back to finally secure the Republican nomination, Republicans failing to remember the days of the elderly and somewhat crusty Bob Dole’s failed challenge to a younger and far more charismatic Bill Clinton. Needless to say, I was not a John McCain supporter.

Now I will support Mr. Obama not because I “must” as a last or only alternative but, rather, as an opportunity and a privilege. I take this position as a citizen grateful for the genius of this republic’s founders, whose shared vision and common experiences enlightened them to recognize the success of some and the failures of other, societies and governing bodies that embodied ideals or violated basic principles. I am privileged that I “get to” respect the wishes of the majority of Americans and embrace our new president as further evidence of the success of this which is commonly referred to as the “great experiment”.

This is also a unique time in American history only in that Mr. Obama is the first African-American to be sworn in as the US president, but it is also a time of intense economic challenge, not so unique; we’ve been here before. Such as it is, Mr. Obama has referred often to the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt who took office while the nation was in the grip of the Great Depression. In his first inaugural address, Mr. Roosevelt said, in part, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

If ever there was a time in US history when we need to put aside our political differences and personal prejudices, it is now. We can no longer afford to pretend, for instance, that unregulated markets will police and correct themselves, witnessing as we have the painful reality that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. We have seen too many among the rich and powerful clamor for more at the expense of the many who entrusted to these the fruit of their life’s work. We have witnessed a government intent on creating such a housing market and opportunity for ownership open the door to intense greed and sense of entitlement to rich and poor alike.

We have seen, and are still seeing, hundreds of thousands being put in the unemployment lines and out of their homes because of many corporations protecting the profit margins, and we have seen thousands upon thousands of jobs shipped to overseas, and substantially less expensive labor markets manufacturing the products they ultimately intend to sell back to the very workers they put out of work.

Our economy is upside down, and our government for the past two years during a particularly brutal and grueling presidential campaign seemed intent only in fixing the blame rather than the problems. Now that a new president is sworn into office and after all the din of the parties and celebrations subside, may we get down to the business of our business. May we put aside our ideological differences and work in unison toward a common objective. May we offer prayers and support to our new president, and hold to the proverbial fire the feet of our elected representatives and senators to stay focused on the matters at hand.

And may we remind them all, as we remember ourselves, that if one is not part of the solution, one is surely part of the problem. Anyone can point a finger, but it takes a real leader to step up to and face the challenges ahead. May we be so blessed that we have truly elected a leader.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

By the Few for the Many

So for all these many years there has not been a statewide trauma system in place, and the need is now so great for “all” Arkansans according to Gene Shelby, Mike Beebe, Bob Johnson, and Robbie Wills, that the relatively few smokers in Arkansas will be required to pay for it and sustain it with an additional .50 cents per pack of cigarettes. To further complicate the situation, according to Gene Shelby, it is hoped that ultimately the added tax will actually encourage smokers to quit and discourage others from picking up the habit in the first place. Noble cause perhaps and noble intent for sure, but what happens if the ideal is eventually attained and a large enough group gives up the habit after the tax is raised, this new program is launched, and the money is appropriated? Where will the funding come from then for a program that presumably “all Arkansans” are in desperate need of? Another added “sin” tax, perhaps on beer? Again, targeting a defined and limited group doing something they perhaps should not be doing in the first place but the state allowing such practice or lifestyle to continue if only for the revenue it will produce?

Dr. James Graham, chairman of the Governor’s Trauma Advisory Council, was quoted in Saturday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (1/10/09) as having said, “There’s an enormous public knowledge gap. A lot of people think this already exists. They think if they’re in a car accident today, they would be taken to the right hospital and get that superior care.”

All due respect intended to the good doctor for his obvious knowledge and experience, but in cases of such trauma as auto accident or gunshot victims in which bleeding control is likely to be the priority, will there ever be a time in which the victim will be taken to a “wrong” hospital, one that is incapable of bringing such bleeding under control but whose care is still much closer for the sake of time and blood loss? My limited medical knowledge notwithstanding, it seems to me that EMT’s and other emergency rescue workers as well as hospital personnel have done a pretty fair job in emergency situations so far in deciding where a trauma victim should be taken and treating them adequately once they have arrived. That some die due to sustained injuries and that some survive is still going to be a reality. How can we be convinced that an addition $30 million is somehow going to change this? And in the certain reality of the current economic situation, how can we be convinced that now is a good time to raise any tax or create any new spending measure that will require sustained funding?

As it currently stands, the economy is faltering because people are losing jobs and have quit spending or borrowing money. The president-elect is proposing a diminished tax withholding schedule so that workers will have more take-home pay to spend in an effort to provide some relief to consumers who are still lucky enough to even have jobs and to provide a boost to the downward spiraling economy, but Arkansas legislative “leaders” suppose that a trauma system is needed more. Even in such a climate in which uncertainty is the key word, some members of Arkansas’ legislature are considering delaying the elimination of the grocery tax for these very reasons of uncertainty. This number includes House Speaker Robbie Wills who is reportedly “lukewarm” to the elimination of the grocery tax due to “the uncertain economic climate”.

It is in such times as these when genuine leadership is essential. If such revenue is so desperately needed to fund a brand-new program that “all” Arkansans need and might benefit from but have so far been able to live without, then genuine leadership is going to require that these presumed “leaders” actually lead the way rather than merely point. This is to say, these “leaders” will be required to raise taxes on “all” Arkansans and convince us of the need rather than pick on an unpopular group. If such a trauma system is so desperately needed, these “leaders” will not only be willing to help finance it from their own pockets but will also be able to convince Arkansans that a more stable revenue source will be required in order to ensure the survivability of the desperately needed program that some seem to think we can no longer live without.

One cannot help but to wonder exactly what these legislators actually know about the current economic environment and if they are as free-spending with their own household budgets as they are willing to be with the state’s. If they cannot afford something for themselves under existing conditions, do they have some source of income from which they can demand more simply because they have discovered something they can no longer live without even though they have lived their entires lives without it? I doubt it. I suspect they would be more prudent with their own than they are willing to be with the state’s.

The economic crisis is real and will, according to many, get much worse before it will get better. Our state legislators need to plug in and at least pretend they are aware of this certain reality. We have enough taxes and we have enough programs. Our legislatures can only take so much from the people before they start cutting into the bone and muscle that will ultimately revive and sustain this economy. It is time for us and our legislators to realize that it is ok not to raise any tax on an already overwhelmed population.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Contrasts of Faith: those who know vs. those who should know

Isaiah 60:1-6 Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 Ephesians 3:1-12 Matthew 2:1-12

Reading a commentary the other day on Matthew’s story about the wise men, it never occurred to me how much we’ve inserted into this text over time. For instance, the wise men became “kings”, a definitive number of “kings” was assigned (three), and then these kings were eventually given names and assigned to the countries they supposedly ruled over. These items are distinctly lacking in Matthew’s narrative even if they can be inferred from other texts and prophecies, but I’m willing to bet there are many Christians who would defend these notions to their dying breath! That these items are perhaps insignificant is not nearly as important to us as are our cultural traditions, even if we come by them honestly. Whether we actually enhance the story with our embellishments, however, is a matter of perspective. And Faith.

From this narrative comes also a natural tendency to move right into Herod’s order of execution in his quest to rid himself of the perceived threat which comes to him and his status at the news of this newborn “King of the Jews”. Fair enough since it is still part of the continuing narrative. After all, Herod may never have become aware of Messiah had it not been for the wise men asking for directions, at least not so soon. Then the wise men were warned in a dream to avoid Herod, so they left the country by an alternate route. Once Herod became aware that he had been deceived, he panicked. Since he now could not know the location of only One, he ordered instead the destruction of many.

We Christians are big on symbolism. We see a text in Scripture and simply assume there has to be some deep, underlying meaning to it far beyond what the mere words point out. For instance, some try to explain the star and its significance to the story, but there is no real way of knowing whether the wise men saw a natural phenomenon or a supernatural one except by faith. What is also missing is how they came to know exactly what they were searching for since the text states that “we observed His star”. How did they come to know that this star was of divine significance? If these were truly Gentiles, as scholars have assigned them, they had no religious background and certainly no way to know of this newborn “King of the Jews”, this promised Messiah. Yet they not only came but also thought enough of what they expected to find to bring gifts.

Naturally faith is going to play a significant role in our understanding and acceptance of the story, but there is much more going on than what each gift, the star, or the identification or the number of wise men may or may not represent. What we are being shown, maybe even without trying to read too deeply into the text, is acceptance of the Messiah by Gentile, if unidentified, strangers and rejection by a sufficiently Jewish ruler (Herod); sufficient in that, while Herod may not have been purely Jewish, he is enough so that Messiah is not completely foreign to him even as he is also sufficiently hostile to such an arrival that he would feel compelled to destroy this “King of the Jews” which he may have perceived only as purely political and not theological. Even if political, there is still a constrast which exists on a certain level, a contrast which exists even today.

Douglas Hare, a theology professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, summarizes this contrast between acceptance by strangers and rejection by Herod in this way: “For us, the contrast can serve to symbolize the internal contrast between that part of the inner self which willingly and joyfully accepts the Lordship of Christ our King and that darker side of the self which firmly and persistently rejects His right to rule.”

It may not be entirely fair to allow Herod to represent “believers” or even the Jews since Herod’s faith or even sense of religion seems highly questionable. However, it must be noted that Herod thought enough of this newborn “King” to order Him destroyed, no matter the cost. Sort of brings to mind James’ reminder that “even the demons believe … and tremble …” like Herod is doing at the notion that his way of life is perhaps being threatened. But I suppose the contrast – or comparison – between Herod and contemporary Christians more acurately defines either our ambivalence … or our outright hostility to Christ and His Holy Church.

Think about it. Knowledge of the Lord is all well and good as long as we’re being “saved” or as long as we are getting what we think we want or need - but demand of us to forgive someone who has done us wrong … well, that is not being very reasonable, is it? Pray for our enemies? Bless those who persecute us? Forgive as we have been forgiven? Not very reasonable if there is still a score to settle. Turn the other cheek?? Outrageous! Not a very realistic ideal, is it?

But there it is. I would suggest that this internal conflict is one that has been going on within us almost since birth when our Christian parents warned us not to allow others to “run over” us, or when they taught us that when someone hits us, we are to hit them back. Few parents can escape this guilt because we cannot bear the thought that our children are defenseless in a very cruel world, a world in which we cannot always be there to protect and defend. And it gets worse as we get older because the conflicts become somewhat more sophisticated, and the consequences more dire. This world will eat us alive if we do not toughen up, right?

If such conflict exists within us and we are consciously aware of these conflicts, it is a blessing because we still seem to know right from wrong. We know that the Lord blesses those who bless, and we should have sufficient faith to know that when the time is right, the Lord will answer for all those wrongs that have been heaped upon us.

We know – or should know - that we are the voices, the shepherds; not the victims. We are heirs to the Heavenly Throne as co-heirs with Christ. And this world is not our home.