Thursday, July 03, 2014

A Thought

Rabbi Israel Meir Kagen wrote in the late 19th century, "It is no great feat to die a proper death.  The real feat is to live a proper life.” 

In this particular writing, the rabbi was not discounting the many who have died in the service of the Lord, choosing certain death rather than renouncing their faith.  In this these martyrs came to terms with the reality of death – as well as the reality of their circumstances.  Some have suggested these many faithful somehow came to fall in love with death itself.  I think they came to the realization no one lives forever, but how long can we live with ourselves in knowing we have betrayed our Lord by choosing to go along with a world that is hostile to righteousness (James 4:2-4)?

This is the trick of daily living, of leading a “proper life” according to our Lord’s standards, which is much more challenging.  Though we do not live in a country in which we may literally be put to death because of our faith, we nevertheless often choose to die a very slow and painful death when we choose a subtle renunciation of our faith rather than to be singled out as a “Jesus freak”.  The conscience may haunt us for a little while, but too much of such self-involved decisions will soon find us completely alienated from The Lord and His Church because we have been taught – or have taught ourselves – how to follow the crowd so we will have lots of friends, a wide social circle, and rewards for our labors.

The rabbi is pointing out the obvious.  Living according to the ordinances of the Lord is difficult, made even more so when we find ourselves in conflict between what we desire for our pleasure and what we need for spiritual growth; saying “no” to the worldly culture when “yes” would seem to bring much more reward and satisfaction.  The reality of death, however, should give us pause.  No matter the assigned value and quality of the “good life” or the so-called “American dream”, it will come to an end.  And when we are about to draw our final breath, we will realize that “all was vanity and grasping for the wind.  There was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:11c).

Therefore “do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophecies.  Test all things; hold fast what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  Amen.



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