Rejoicing over me with singing
On that day they will say to Jerusalem,
"Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."
Zephaniah 3:16-17, NIV
God has been laying it on me lately how much He loves me, that I am His beloved child. That love surrounds me. It is my shield; it is the palm of His hand holding me and refusing to let me slip through His fingers, carrying me through difficulties. That love is working through me, bringing me healing and tearing down strongholds. It centers me in the universe. I hear God's voice singing over me.
In all the controversy and schismatic actions we're experiencing in the church, it is easy to forget to love. Especially when we're confronted with such unloving actions.
The Great Commandment is easy to talk about but not easy to practice. God has been laying it on me also to look at each person, especially the one who does or speaks ugly things, and see this: a beloved child of God. And if God loves him or her, how can I not? To refuse to give love is to refuse God's love.
To be angry about things people are saying or doing is natural with the divisive tensions we're experiencing in the church. It is our response of the flesh. But our response of the spirit must be to see a child of God and love that child and pray for that child. His or her response is not the issue. Acting in response to God's love is the issue.
That doesn't mean that we yield to what the spirit tells us is wrong. We continue our efforts and resist the works of the devil. The devil wins when we let hatefulness prompt us to hardness of heart. This is something to remember through the twists and turns of the current controversy, when there is a lot of hatefulness and just plain hate out there right now. Responding in kind is not what Christ calls us to do.
I know that in my much less-than-perfect human response, I will be angry at some of the actions I see and things I hear. Anger is even an appropriate response to injustice -- it leads us to work to correct it. I think Jesus was a bit angry when he overturned the tables at the temple! But I must immediately temper my angry response with prayer, asking God how I am to handle the situation, and not allow my heart to become hardened.
It isn't easy being a Christian. To whom much is given, much is asked. But how richly God rewards us.
God, hear my prayer of thanksgiving for Your love, which is perfect.