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Posts Tagged ‘pray for enemies’


Obadiah: Revenge and Forgiveness

Sunday, September 29, 2019

French School, 17th Century: Salomé

More thoughts on Salomé who sought revenge . . . and who asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

“We know nothing about Obadiah beyond his name, nor is the place of the book’s composition certain . . . Obadiah did not specify that his message came at the time of any specific king or event.  On the other hand Obadiah 11-14 indicates that a major calamity had struck Judah and that the Edomites had capitalized on Judah’s troubles to their own advantage . . . common sense and a broad consensus suggest that the calamity was in fact the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

“Obadiah was written to the people of Judah about the Edomites (descendents of Esau), condemning them for their treachery and violence toward the people of Judah, as well as for their arrogance and indifference toward God”.  (Zondervan 1464)

This is the kind of prophecy which makes us cringe as we understand that revenge is not something we want as part of our value complex.  Seeking vengeance is the kind of thinking my parents continually warned us against for it can never be good.  We were often reminded in our growing years that when we dig a grave for our enemy we ought to dig two: one for them and one for us.  “The truth will always come out in the end”, Dad would remind us. “Don’t worry about the other guy getting credit that is not due him, or the other guy getting away with things.  It’ll all come out in the end.  Just keep your eye on yourself and your God.  And let God handle the other guy”. Dad warned us that human depravity was too crooked and too frightening for us to correct; he knew from personal experience that only God can deal effectively with deep evil.  We humans – even when we are in the best of places and times – cannot conquer forces that have spent eons gathering strength in the dark.  It is far better, according to Dad, to go to the light and stay there.  “That way God can see you and pick you up on his way home”.

Mother always intoned her mantra of “Kill your enemies with kindness.  Pray for them and you will never be alone; because you can bet on it that when people are that naughty lots of people will be praying along with you.  Think of the message God will hear when all those voices join together”, she would remind us.   “Yes, I know you want to get back at them but just pray for them. They will need your prayers.  And besides, the results are better”. 

These simple lessons were either never delivered or they were lost on Salomé who asked for and received John the Baptist’s head on a platter.  Yesterday we spent time reflecting on her portrait and we saw her sultry stare and sullen posture, arms draped around the killing knife and the platter that would deliver the head of her enemy.  Today we  see a similar likeness; she looks out at us in apparent satisfaction yet we know that revenge is not sweet.  It does not last and it does not satisfy.  It only brings about our own destruction and doom.  These are the truths spoken by Obadiah more than two millennia ago . . . and they are truths we can still use today.  We must wipe revenge from our hearts and replace it with forgiveness for the measure that we measure with is measured out to us.

And so we pray . . .

When we are most hurt by others, we must not strike back, we must forgive.

When we are most neglected by others, we must not plot their downfall, we must forgive.

When we are most abused by others, we must ask for their redemption and we must forgive.

When we are most abandoned by others, we must not treat them in like fashion, we must forgive.

When we are most damaged by others, we must not in turn inflict damage, we must forgive.

God forgives.  God restores.  God repairs.  God cures.  We are each called to do the same.  Amen.


A re-post from September 9, 2012.

Image from: http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20016/lot/55/

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1464. Print.

For more on the prophecy of Obadiah go to the Obadiah – Outrageous Hope page on this blog.

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Isaiah 49:1-6: The Servant’s Mission

Holy Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Yesterday we reflected on the role of the servant in God’s plan for creation. Today we reflect on the servant’s mission.

I will also make you a light to the nations—
    so that all the world may be saved. (GNT)

When we wonder if our thoughts are one with God’s, we examine the source of our motivations. Do we forgive our enemies? Do we pray for those who harm us? Do we reach out to those who are broken-hearted?

I will give you as a light to the nations,
    that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. (NRSV)

When we wonder if our words reflect God’s plan, we examine the foundation of our beliefs. Do we speak up when we see injustice? Do we rebuke ourselves and our loved ones when we go astray? Do we shelter the homeless and feed the hungry?

I will also make you a light to the nations,
so my salvation can spread to the ends of the earth. (CJB)

When we wonder if our actions serve to build God’s kingdom, we examine the fruits born from our life’s work. Do we work to break down unjust structures? Do we work with others to ferret out corruption no matter where we find it? Do we work to create societies that give preference to the poor?

I’m setting you up as a light for the nations
    so that my salvation becomes global” (MSG)

When we wonder if we have the faith to persist in our mission, we ask God for strength. When we wonder if we have the hope to believe in God’s promises, we rely on Christ’s encouraging presence. When we wonder if we have the love to work for the transformation of the world, we rest in the Spirit who heals, counsels, and consoles. As we near the Easter Triduum, we move forward to continue the work of our mission as God’s servants.


When we compare varying translations of these verses, we find the strength, confidence and mercy to move forward in our mission as disciples of Christ. 

Images from: http://lutheran-church-regina.com/blogs/post/sermon-january-12th-2014-isaiah-42 and http://www.turnbacktogod.com/pray-for-gods-servants/ 

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Psalm 9: The Book of God’s Wonders

Monday, March 6, 2017psalms9_2-31

The MESSAGE version of this psalm speaks to us in our core. Anyone who has been wronged, anyone who has suffered injustice of any kind, anyone who looks for refuge in the storm of life will smile as they read these verses.

I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God.

What are the miracles of our relationship with God will we want to enter into the Book of God’s Wonders?

The day my enemies turned tail and ran, they stumbled on you and fell on their faces. You throw dirty players out of the game, wipe their names right off the roster. Enemies disappear from the sidelines, their reputation trashed, their names erased from the halls of fame.

We look for the patience to allow God’s plan to blossom and flourish.

God holds the high center, God sees and sets the world’s mess right. God’s a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times. The moment you arrive, you relax; you’re never sorry you knocked.

We pray for the hope we will need to remember God’s promise of safety, and we pray for the courage to knock at heaven’s door as Jesus tells us we must.

Sing your songs to Zion-dwelling God, tell God’s stories to everyone you meet: How God tracks down killers yet keeps an eye on us, registers every whimper and moan.

We pray for the fortitude to weather the storm, knowing that although the horizon is dark, God navigates our lives.

psalm-9_18Be kind to me, God; I’ve been kicked around long enough. Once you’ve pulled me back from the gates of death, I’ll write the book on Hallelujahs; on the corner of Main and First I’ll hold a street meeting; I’ll be the song leader; we’ll fill the air with salvation songs.

We pray for the courage to thank God in public and to share the stories we list in the Book of God’s Wonders.

They’re trapped, those godless, in the very snares they set, their feet all tangled in the net they spread. They have no excuse; the way God works is well-known. The cunning machinery made by the wicked has maimed their own hands.

We remember to intercede for those who would harm us.

The wicked bought a one-way ticket to hell. No longer will the poor be nameless—no more humiliation for the humble.

We ask for mercy for our enemies, and the grace to step away from the temptation to seek revenge.

Up, God! Aren’t you fed up with their empty strutting? Expose these grand pretensions! Shake them up, God! Show them how silly they look.

We ask God to steer us clear of all pretension. We ask that Christ lead us in the ways of the just. And we ask that the Holy Spirit abide in us forever, as we proclaim the wonders God has wrought for us.

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to compare other translations of this Psalm, we discover that we have a great deal to record in The Book of God’s Wonders, and to share with all the world. 

 

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Psalm 59: Complaint


Psalm 59: Complaintcomplaint

Match 19, 2015

The image of bloodthirsty foes is a frightening one; yet one to which we can relate.  Here the psalmist petitions God to slay the evildoers; the New Testament Christ – God’s presence among us – requires that we pray for these enemy foes rather than ask for their annihilation.  We are to pray for those who harm us, for we are the victims of their misdeeds.  Our petitions will be heard by God.

Jesus reminds his followers: Who among us cannot pray for our friends?  This is easily done.  It is for our enemies that we must petition renewal and rescue.  These are the people who truly need our prayers.  Sometimes we feel too vulnerable to allow ourselves to be left open to the cruelty and violence of our enemies – – – this is often my own complaint – – – but God will always present us with the tools for any part of our journey.  We may be unaware that we possess these tools because we have limited strength in comparison to God’s awesome and infinite strength; nevertheless, we must look for the small gifts of fortitude that come our way daily.  These are the little responses we receive from God each day.  In Revelation 3:7 we hear the voice of God: You have limited strength, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.  This is the kind of fidelity that God seeks, our constant, imperfect, human response to his call.  We are made by God, God knows our weaknesses.  God knows our strengths and he is waiting to convert our complaints into Easter joy.

The Apostle Peter tells us in his first letter 5:5b-14 that the devil prowls around us to surprise us at any opportunity.  We are to resist him, be steadfast in faith, and know that our brothers and sisters throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.

And so we lift our Lenten prayer: When bloodthirsty enemies approach: Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

When we find ourselves ambushed by life, remind us that the powerful are nothing when compared to you:  Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

When we find ourselves overtaken by the growling dogs, remind us that you dwell within us:  Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

When sharp words wound us, and mouths pour out insults, remind us that you want to laugh with us: Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

When lies told under oath bring us sorrow, remind us that these sinful words will destroy liars in their own untruths: Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

May God go before us, and show us our fallen foes: Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

We shall sing of your strength, your praise we will sing: Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

You are our strength, our fortress, our loving God: Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

You will answer our complaint when we call: Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

Amen.

Adapted from a post written on April 26, 2009.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012 – Psalm 35 – Betrayed by Friends

BiblicalLaw-and-Justice[1]“A lament of a person betrayed by friends.  The psalmist prays that the evildoers be publicly exposed as unjust (1-8) and gives thanks in anticipation of vindication (9-10).  Old friends are the enemies (11-16).  May their punishment come quickly (17-21)!  The last part (22-26) echoes the opening in praying for the destruction of the psalmist’s persecutors.  This psalm may appear vindictive, but one must keep in mind that the psalmist is praying for public redress now of a public injustice.  There is at this time no belief in an afterlife in which justice will be redressed.  35, 1-6: The mixture of judicial, martial, and hunting images shows that the language is figurative.  The actual injustice is false accusation of serious crimes (11, 15, 20-21).  The psalmist seeks lost honor through a trial before God”. (Senior 668)

Defend me because you are just, Lord; my God, do not let them gloat over me.

It has been my experience that when enemies gloat over their opponents’ pain and loss, they later suffer the same pain and loss. 

I have seen so often the trap dug by one to catch another ends up as the death-bed of the one who dug it.

I know in my bones that God defends those who are his faithful.  I have seen too many examples of God’s fidelity to think otherwise.

I believe that God’s plan for conversion of my enemies is far better than any punishment I might ask . . . and so I send intercessory prayers for those who do me harm – whether they are friends from long ago or friends who are newly arrived.

With today’s psalm, we might be tempted to ask God to pull down fire on those who betray us, but this is not what Jesus does.  We have the gift of knowing what Jesus has told us: That we are to witness, watch, and wait.  Only this way of life will bring us the peace we seek.

So we ask ourselves . . . how much better is it to pray for those who betray us rather than ask for their fiery end?  Is it not so that God punishes with the punishment we lay out for others?  What then do we fear?  Do we believe God incapable of making a just decision that brings about transformation of the soul? 

And we also ask . . . now that we know of this precious gift of eternal life . . . why do we jeopardize it for a fleeting, ugly satisfaction that might come when we see our enemies suffer?  Can we not intercede for those who are hateful while we await our trial before God?  How much more effective it is for God to call each one to him as we move through his plan for our good than it is for us to plot someone else’s downfall? 

We find a place for Christ-like thinking when we read this psalm and pray for those who wrong us unfairly.  In this season of Advent, let us approach the day of Christ’s birth with the joy that comes from leaving our worries with him in willing obedience to The Word . . . as we look forward to the day of vindication in Jesus’ name, in Jesus’ Way, in Jesus’ hope for all of humanity. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.668. Print.   

Written on December 19, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

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