Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Devotional for the Seventh Day of Lent

Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken later. Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son, and we are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
as on the day of testing in the wilderness, 
where your ancestors put me to the test, though they had seen my works for forty years.
 Therefore I was angry with that generation,
and I said, ‘They always go astray in their hearts,
and they have not known my ways.’ 
As in my anger I swore, ‘They will not enter my rest.’” (Hebrews 3:5-11)

Now that we have the Internet and various social media like Facebook and YouTube, information and images about Christians behaving badly can be passed on and enjoyed by millions of people. We can both see and hear about people disrupting the mourners at funerals with claims about God’s hatred, others who announce with glee that natural disasters in which many lives are snuffed out are clearly the judgments of God, and still others who jump into the political fray and mimic the dismal behavior too often found in that arena.

All of this helps people to come to the conclusion that Christians, in spite of all their convictions about sin, heaven and hell, and so on, are really no better than anyone else in the world. And they would be right in that conclusion.

The ongoing biblical story about the people of God reveals a lot of bad behavior: God rescues the ancient Hebrews from their bondage in Israel, and in no time they are acting up, turning from God and making an idol to worship. God gives them a place to live, where they will be a nation of worshippers, living under God’s leadership, and before long they want to compete with their neighbors, so they make an army, demand a king, and start playing national politics by the rules of the world. Jesus comes to call the people back to their destiny as God’s people, bringing healing and hope, so they create a conspiracy and have him nailed to a cross. It goes on and on. Even into our time.

It probably shouldn’t surprise us that much when we who follow Jesus act badly. After all, we have all the potential for misbehavior that is in anyone. At the same time, we would claim to be a people who are being transformed by God, and as communities of people called churches, we confess our weaknesses and failures to God and to one another, we turn again from our dark deeds, and when all is said and done, we try to come together as communities of hope.

Hope is the key here. The writer of the book of Hebrews says that we Christians are like a house that has been built by God and is cared for by Jesus himself. We are allowed both confidence and pride, but not in ourselves, because that never works out. Our confidence and pride comes in hope. This is not wish-dream hope, but rather hope that is in the God who has plans for the world, and those plans involve a people established by him, who will be a light to the rest of the world. Yes, sometimes we behave as badly as everyone else, but in this house built by God there is confession, forgiveness, and healing. We embrace those things now in a stumbling way; our hope is in God’s ultimate plan of healing for all of the world.

It’s not a good thing when we behave badly. But when we do, the One who cares for us, Jesus the Christ, is faithful to bring us into the desires of our heavenly Father, to be forgiven and healed, transformed yet again by his love, and given space to return to be forgiven and healed again when we stumble anew. There is great hope in that, not only for us, but also for the whole world.

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