Saturday, March 12, 2011

Devotional for the Second Day of Lent

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)

Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers, 
for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; (Psalm 37:1-3a)

As much as we might like the idea of a personal relationship with Christ being the definition of being a Christian, it just isn’t, at least not in the way that we usually think. It is about us as persons, but as persons who comprise the people of God. Christianity isn’t about me to the exclusion of us.

That God would chose to have a people, and to do that out of love, challenges the idea that this enterprise is all about me. On top of that, God’s choosing of a people is about his plan of rescue for the whole world (see Genesis 12:1-3 for starters), and it breaks the idea that Christianity is something exclusive; that it sets this special people apart from everyone else so that we know the difference between the good guys and the bad guys.

Exclusivity breeds fear because there is always something to lose. There are standards, convictions, certainties, and predictable environments that are at risk if we don’t remain exclusive. It’s not that there aren’t real dangers in the world or that there aren’t people out there who have evil designs, but those aren’t usually the fears that define us. We can be defined by who God has called us to be, or we can be defined by what we fear losing.

The Psalmist tells us not to fret. That is a consistent call in the Bible—to not be afraid. The answer, we are told, is not found in hunkering down and protecting ourselves from everything that is not us, but rather in trust and doing good. We can’t trust in the things we are grasping—those things we fear losing—but we can trust in the Lord. And we can’t waste our time in shoring up the props of protection (which too often means hammering down our doctrines, labeling the heretics, railing against enemies both real and imagined, and demanding a better world that is too often defined by our political preferences than by the desires and intentions of God), but we can do good. We can be the people that God has chosen, to be loved by him, and to demonstrate his love to the world. That’s the kind of good we can do.

I must admit that I’d often like this whole thing to be accomplished between Jesus and me. I wouldn’t mind being part of us if everyone else would behave. Then I remember that all the brokenness of the church and the world is in me as well, whether in practice or just in potential. So there is no escaping the us of Christian faith. From the life we share in the embrace of God’s love, we trust in the Lord and do good.

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