living at peace with everyone

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12

I have lived long enough in this world to realize that sometimes for rather understandable reasons and sometimes perhaps not, not everyone is going to like me. I’m not sure why this dynamic regularly occurs among people, although there’s a multitude of possible reasons why. No matter what we do, that seemingly doesn’t seem to change at least for the time being with some. Though perhaps over the long haul by grace it will.

Even pastors will be disliked by someone or another, and usually not just one. Oftentimes no matter what they do they won’t measure up to whatever standard someone has given them. Some will put up with them from the start. But this can end up being not only good training for godliness for the pastor, who is to be an example to the church/the flock, but it could be used of the Lord to lead the recalcitrant, stubborn one to change. Sadly that is not always the case. Some will have their barbs ready when the occasion is right, or ways of inflicting hurt.

I have come to the place where I realize that no matter what, I just can’t make some people like me. I have walked on egg shells trying to make people like me. And that one is especially hard in a church setting in which we’re to love each other to the place where I really think we should learn to like each other. Though love isn’t necessarily about like; we can love someone without actually liking them, or more specifically what they do. But I believe that if you take time to get to know anyone, you will come to actually like them over time. After all, we’re all made in God’s image.

It is striking in scripture, and specifically in the New Testament the priority peace is to have. I know that depends on what one means. The gospel itself causes division. But we’re to pursue peace and make it a priority (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 3:8-12). Our Lord’s words about the blessedness of peace makers are echoed by his half brother James in talking about the priority and indispensability of peace in wisdom or for wise living.

We can’t make someone like us, but we do need to make peace with them a priority. We must refuse returning dislike for dislike. We can pray and love as best we can, even against the grain of someone’s dislike. Part of our calling together in our Lord Jesus.

picking up the broken pieces

Some things simply can’t be fixed. You live with them the rest of your life, your whole life long. You can try to pick up the broken pieces, but in the process more wounds come. Over the wounds that run deep.

The best one can do is pray and seek to do what is right and good. Yes, to learn from one’s mistakes, perhaps even grievous sin, although such learning has to take more of the form of penance shown in a penitent heart and over time. Just a changed mind is not enough, there has to be a changed life.

There is always grace. That is our only hope to begin with. Grace to help us avoid disasters in the first place. And if one fails, to help them recover. This should be a loving church effort that seeks to bring the sinnner to full repentance and restoration. In grace we find our place and live and do well in that.

But in the meantime the grieving continues. Lost opportunities and the brokenness left behind. I can’t imagine anything worse except a spiraling into an abyss of failure away from God’s grace.

What is needed is comfort and consolation, even peace. To carry on well with all humility in a certain kind of brokeness in which one is being made whole. Even through that brokennes. Something beyond my imagination, but for which I pray for others as well as for myself.

Psalm 72

Of Solomon.

Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.

May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness.
May he defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
may he crush the oppressor.
May he endure as long as the sun,
as long as the moon, through all generations.
May he be like rain falling on a mown field,
like showers watering the earth.
In his days may the righteous flourish
and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.

May he rule from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
May the desert tribes bow before him
and his enemies lick the dust.
May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
bring tribute to him.
May the kings of Sheba and Seba
present him gifts.
May all kings bow down to him
and all nations serve him.

For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.

Long may he live!
May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him
and bless him all day long.
May grain abound throughout the land;
on the tops of the hills may it sway.
May the crops flourish like Lebanon
and thrive like the grass of the field.
May his name endure forever;
may it continue as long as the sun.

Then all nations will be blessed through him,
and they will call him blessed.

Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds.
Praise be to his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen.

This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.

Psalm 72

relevance

The church by some, perhaps even many is thought to be dead in the water, largely irrelevant, not mattering in society except insofar as the church helps those in need and indirectly if not directly helps society to achieve its common goals. But as Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of a passage in Ephesians makes it clear, such thinking has it backwards:

The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

Ephesians 1

One of the dangers for the church is to try to be relevant to the world on the world’s terms. Of course that’s the only way the church will keep from being irrelevant in the world’s eyes, to help fulfill something of the world’s agenda. The world in scripture, when it doesn’t mean creation means the world system which while having much infighting in itself is essentially human rule severed from God’s rule, from Christ’s rule. If it would stay in place to keep order and see that there is help for those in need toward a flourishing for everyone, that’s one thing. But almost invariably or sooner or later it crosses the line where it becomes the standard and its rule the rule, rather than humbly ruling under God and God’s rule. Actually in this life the most dangerous governments I would suppose are those who think their rule is the will of God, that they are enforcing God’s rule and will. In this life that is left solely to the church, Christ’s body, over which he is the head, the church being the subjects of God’s kingdom under King Jesus, even as the daughters and sons of God.

And so the church is meant to help bring people out of the world and into the church. It is relevant in terms of God’s will, God’s grace and kingdom come in Jesus. And not in terms of the world’s agenda. Even if on occasion some of what the church does happens to overlap with concerns of the world.

This is not meant to say that the world doesn’t matter. Politics is important on a certain level, and extremely so. But it is not at all on the same level as God’s kingdom come in Jesus, the church. This is where the real politics for the follower of Jesus lies. Not Democrat, Republican or anything like that. But in terms of God’s will in Jesus, one that is redemptive and reconciling, relevant to all of life, even though now the mission includes the way of the cross. To be completed when Jesus returns. And begun even in this life in the church.

remaining in God’s peace

You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.

Isaiah 26

We live in a sad world which seems more or less in constant upheaval, at least at the fringes if not at the center. We are inundated day after day with bad news, or all kinds of remedies to avoid the worst and insure at least a good ending before the inevitable.

There is nothing more we need as followers of our Lord, than this shalom shalom (transliteration) translated “perfect peace.” Another key passage in this regard:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Yes, the winds and the waves will come, life has its inevitable jolts and ups and downs. But we are in the one who spoke to the storm with the words, “Peace. Be still.” (Mark 4) So that the storm will eventually subside. The Lord being with us through it. And so that we can learn more and more to rest in his care. And speak peace ourselves both into our lives and into the lives of others through God’s word to us in and through Jesus.

the problem of debt

The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.

Proverbs 22:7

As we hear about the financial crisis in Greece and the growing possibility that Greece may default, go bankrupt and slide out of the Eurozone, the reality of the crushing burden of debt hits home for to many of us in the wealthy countries such as here in the United States. The economy of the United States is built largely (and I think, foolishly) on credit which means most people are going into debt to the point that there is little hope that they will escape that shadow at least anytime soon. And as long as people can borrow, they might make some sacrifice (some of that involuntary), but by and large they will keep up a lifestyle that not only meets their needs, but many of their wants, as well.

It does seem unrealistic to avoid debt and even the most conservative anti-debt advocates such as Dave Ramsey, make an exception for a home in what is called a mortgage, but I’m unaware of any other exception he and others like him might make. Unless one gets a scholarship into a full or partial ride through school, it is next to impossible to avoid debt in the form of school loans. And we know that it all depends on the salary one gets as to whether such a tact is a good one or not.

Let’s not forget investment of 401 Ks or the like. One should start in that in their twenties and leave it alone. Even if the United States has years of decline, it is a pretty sure bet that in the end, compound interest alone being a huge factor, there will be plenty of money to see one, or them and their spouse through “retirement” years. In my view just because one is in debt doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be investing toward retirement. One should be working toward paying off their debt and saving for the future at the same time. Don’t make the mistake of paying off the debt first, then saving. One loses out exponentially if one doesn’t start saving as early as possible and lets that saving accumulate over the years.

We must beware in all of this kind of proverbial wisdom thinking that we put our confidence and trust in anything less than God himself and God’s word. By seeking to be wise in these ways, we are trusting in God who in the end is our true Provider.

I for one am not a fan of debt, even if by having it and making payments in time one builds up good credit. That credit is good only to keep on borrowing. What is better by far is to avoid debt altogether insofar as that is possible. To do so in radical ways early on. One way that comes to mind is to trust the Lord for needed finances to avoid debt, and if those finances don’t come to simply refuse to proceed. In other words the radical idea that I won’t go to school unless the Lord provides the funds. That provision may come over time by working and saving. One should be willing to say no to whatever purchase seems necessary (with the exception of a home, I think) if one can’t pay for it upfront without debt. Faith would grow as a result, as one sees God answer prayer and provide for needs.

But for many of us that window of opportunity has come and gone. We’ve simply taken the American way of borrowing and borrowing some more and some more and on and on, so that borrowing is the way we make major purchases, after that taking years with oftentimes signficant interest against us, to pay them off, only to be greeted with more seemingly necessary debt. It can become such a way of life to us that we can easily fail to make the necessary changes to seriously cut into the debt beyond what is required and eventually cut it out altogether. Debt should always be the exception and never the rule, and when we do accrue debt, we should pay it off as soon as possible.

Life is not over though, if one is either head over heels in debt, or seriously enough so, even if later in life. Surely life will take on signficant challenges which those well off can hardly imagine. But the Lord is faithful to provide for his own as they seek first his kingdom and righeousness in their lives. We can do the best we can with what we have learned and the resources we have. And encourage especially younger people to do better, even as I’m trying to do here.

I agree with John Wesley’s counsel on money: Make all you can, save all you can and give all you can. But even if we have little to give (and by the way, I think people should continue to give to the Lord’s work, especially to the church, even when in debt) we can say to anyone: “Silver and gold I do not have. But what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” We who are poor in this world (certainly a relative term given the abject poverty in too many places in the world) can be rich in faith and a blessing even to those who have plenty in material goods but may be wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked (see the Lord’s description of the rich yet empty Laodicean church in Revelation 3). We have to learn to be content with little, generous with what we do have, and dispensers of the true riches in Jesus which last forever.