Monday, October 12, 2015

A Thought for Monday 12 October 2015

“The most cunning heart – it is beyond help.  Who can figure it out?  I, The Lord, probe the heart and discern hidden motives, to give everyone what they deserve, the consequences of their deeds.”  Jeremiah 17:9 Common English Bible

I have remained largely silent about gun control in the wake of the recent shooting in Oregon, not because I had nothing to say but because political passions were running too high.  We all share at least some of Oregon’s pain regardless of our political persuasions.  Whether the shooter actually went off his nut or had deliberate designs to kill only certain people (Christians, as the stories go), it still hits too close to home for us because there is nothing so unique about Oregon that such a tragedy cannot happen anywhere else (and has).

There were no concerns about guns when I was growing up.  Even in high school, boys would drive to school in their trucks with rifles and shotguns hanging proudly (or incidentally) on their gun racks.  Some would bring out a new rifle or shotgun on the school parking lot to show it off.  Even teachers would stop by and admire the new acquisitions.  Some kept their weapons loaded because if a deer happened to run across the road, well … you know.

Guns were everywhere!  Guns were bought, sold, and traded with cash and a hand shake.  There were also some very nasty people with evil intentions.  The problem we face today was not so much a concern then, so what changed?  How have we reached such a point that we actually blame inanimate objects for humanity’s ills? 

Judah’s grave sin had nothing to do with weapons; it was (and still is) the “cunning heart” with evil intentions.  It was the lack of justice, the lack of mercy, the lack of care and concern for one’s neighbor.  The curse was upon those “who trust in mere humans, who depend on human strength and turn their hearts from The Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5).  This would surely include such self-reliance as to become convinced there was no need for The Lord; that all “I” am and all “I” have is due to “me”, “my” own efforts, “my” own cleverness, “my” own … “cunning”.

It must be said, however, that what is happening today is not strictly that hearts have become so “cunning” as to be “beyond help”.  It is that we have lost any real concern for our neighbors.  Even in “Christian” America we are more inclined to stick to our own kind but still be armed for trouble.  So what is more merciless: to shoot someone?  Or to deliberately turn our backs on those who are lonely, marginalized, hungry, sick, imprisoned, or homeless?  And to feel perfectly justified in doing so since they likely brought their misery upon themselves

The curse is not in our weapon of choice.  The genuine curse that plagued Judah and still plagues us today is a hard heart with no regard for others. 

Even though the prophet was speaking to the people of Judah regarding their hard hearts, perhaps Jeremiah himself was at least as concerned for his own spiritual well-being when he prayed, “Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed.  Save me and I will be saved, for You are my heart’s desire” (17:14).  For The Lord had also spoken against Judah: “I will make you slaves of your enemies” (vs 4).  Perhaps as Jeremiah was facing persecution for facing down the “hard hearts” of Judah, he was fearful that he might be inclined to “fight fire with fire” rather than rely on The Lord for his safety and well-being.

Do we not become “slaves” to that which frightens us most?  Do we not order our lives according to what we feel is the primary threat?  Why, then, do we not realize the true enemy is evil itself lurking in the shadows of our despair and our inmost fears? 

We are Judah.  We mean well.  We speak The Lord’s Name; but judging by our culture, something is clearly amiss.  Yet “those who trust in The Lord ... will not fear … will not be stressed” in the time of our despair or in the face of whatever it is we fear most (17:7-8).  We do not have all the answers for what ails us, but we can still learn so much about ourselves and our God through the ancient prophets.  For if The Lord had simply turned His back on His own people who had betrayed Him, why would He have bothered to send prophets? 

I dare say our God has not given us completely over to evil.  We make our own choices, and today our choice must be for the God of our salvation, our Rock, our Redeemer.  He still calls out to us today, for He alone knows what we fear most.



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