From Indifference to Love

Psalm 139.23
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!

Reflection: From Indifference to Love
By Steven Dilla

To love our neighbor is to become involved in politics. From city councils to foreign policy, we are naturally drawn into the realm of politics as we fulfill Scripture’s mandate to care for and serve those God has placed around us. And yet, to be involved in politics is to become frustrated.

The most natural response, especially in a nation lush with freedom and comfort, is to choose indifference. Why get involved when it just results in frustration and disappointment? “A soul becomes apathetic when sick with self indulgence,” reminds Saint Thalassios. Surely if God were to search the heart of the indifferent he would find nothing less.

“Indifference can be tempting—more than that, seductive,” Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel warns in his 1999 speech, The Perils of Indifference. “Yet, for the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbor are of no consequence. And, therefore, their lives are meaningless. Their hidden or even visible anguish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the Other to an abstraction.”

Indifference, Wiesel observes, “is not only a sin, it is a punishment.”

In a way, to be indifferent to that suffering is what makes the human being inhuman…. Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response. Indifference is not a beginning; it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor—never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten.

Our lives will become infinitely more complex as we lean-in to politics on behalf of our neighbor. Of course. But the cost of indifference—willful ignorance, purposeful disengagement, or obstructionism—is far greater. To choose to involve ourselves is itself an act of love—and, as C.S. Lewis reminds:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

May not our hearts be silent; may we find our peace in the sovereignty of God.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous stumble. — Psalm 55.24

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Hosea 14 (Listen – 1:39)
Psalm 139 (Listen – 2:26)

Additional Reading
Read More about A Discipline for the Anxious
David and the other psalmists certainly knew what it was like to live under threat, under financial pressure, under the constant weight of political instability and the wavering loyalty of an unpredictable government. Amidst such pressures, they had a safe haven. Their help for the stresses of life was meditation and prayer.

Read More about The Weight of Nations :: A Guided Prayer
Strong feelings of love and affection for our nation are not evil, but how do they compare to our feelings for God’s kingdom? Do we equate loving country with loving God? Do we confuse the one with the other?

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Who is Your King?

Hosea 13.10-11
Where is your king, that he may save you?
Where are your rulers in all your towns,
of whom you said,
‘Give me a king and princes’?
So in my anger I gave you a king,
and in my wrath I took him away.

Psalm 138.7
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.

Reflection: Who is Your King?
By John Tillman

As I write this is it November 2nd. On the day this will post, November 7th, many varied outcomes are predicted. Depending on the news source and depending on how they slice and dice the data (and how questionable the data is in the first place) we may wake up Wednesday to a blue wave, or maybe a red wave. Whatever the outcome, the media will step vigorously into its role of dividing us into losers and winners—the empowered and the powerless.

Whatever kings and princes we wake up to today, one thing Christians can be assured of—they will not save us. The more we grasp at their power, hoping for protection and salvation, the further we lurch away from Christ’s example.

Jesus came demonstrating the power of powerlessness and a theology of weakness. He told the disciples to bring swords solely for the purpose of telling them to put them away, never to be drawn again. He was able to access power to defeat his foes, but chose powerlessness instead.

But, “Does powerlessness mean that we are doomed to be doormats for our power-hungry society?”, asks Henri Nouwen in his essay, Power, Powerlessness, and Power. “As fearful, anxious, insecure, and wounded people we are tempted constantly to grab the little bit of power the world offers us. These threads of power make us puppets jerked up and down until we are dead.”

Christians in any political tribe who lean on the staff of political power, will see it crumble and splinter, damaging our hands and staining our reputations. It is not the power we need.

Nouwen goes on to explain that forsaking the power of the world opens us to be filled with the power of love—not human love, but God’s love.

A theology of weakness claims power—God’s power, the all-transforming power of love…It is this power that engenders leaders for our communities, women and men who dare to take risks and new initiatives. It is this power that enables us to be not only gentle as doves but also as clever as serpents in our dealings with governments and church agencies. It is this divine power that enables us to become saints who can make all things new.

When God sets out to destroy, he often uses kings and governments. He used Nebuchadnezzar. He used Pharaoh. He used Darius. He used Constantine.

When God sets out to make things new, he eschews governments. He starts a family. He lifts up the outcast. He frees the slave. He gathers a community.

The privilege of God’s people is not to be used, but to be loved, to love each other, and serve others with, and lead others to, that love.

The government we sit under has little to no bearing on the way we should live our lives in love toward the community around us.

Allowing any party of government to claim us as “theirs” dissociates us from the gospel and from Christ. Who is our king? May we answer with confidence, “We have no king but Christ, and him crucified.”

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
I will sing of mercy and justice; to you, O Lord, will I sing praises. I will strive to follow a blameless course; oh, when will you come to me: I will walk with sincerity of heart within my house. I will set not worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the doers of evil deeds; they shall not remain with me. A crooked heart shall be far from me; I will not know emil. Those who in secret slander their neighbors I will destroy; those who have a haughty look and a proud heart I cannot abide.— Psalm 101.1-5

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Hosea 13 (Listen – 2:26)
Psalm 137-138 (Listen – 2:13)

Additional Reading
Read More about God’s Kingdom Versus God’s Reign
Christ repeatedly asserted that God’s kingdom was paradoxically “in your midst” and “not of this world.” Yet that somehow doesn’t keep us from attempting to redeem the earth through worldly means, baptizing political activism and equating it with spiritual warfare.

Read More about Celebrating Earthly Kingdoms :: Readers’ Choice
This should call all of us to our knees before Christ to pledge that no earthly authority will be allowed to usurp His primacy.

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Augustine on Political Leaders

Hosea 12.6
But you must return to your God;
maintain love and justice,
and wait for your God always.

From John:
We look back today at the words of Augustine. That human kingdoms are established by God, should make us neither apathetic or comfortable. We make an error if we assume the person to win an election is “God’s man.” We make a similar error if we assume that we cannot live as believers under authority either apostate or anti-Christ. What is required of us does not change with the rising or falling of political tides.

Reflection: Augustine on Political Leaders
By Augustine of Hippo (354-430 C.E.)

We do not attribute the power of kingdoms and empires to anyone except the true God. It is He who gives happiness in the Kingdom of Heaven to the righteous. And it is He who gives kingly power on earth, both to the righteous and the unrighteous, as it pleases Him. His good pleasure is always just.

He is the one true God who never leaves the human race without justice and help. He gave a kingdom to the Romans, as He also did to the Assyrians—and even the Persians, who, as their own books testify, only worshipped two gods—to say nothing of the Hebrew people, who, as long as they were a kingdom, worshipped none save the true God.

The same One who gave to the Persians harvests gave power to Augustus and also to Nero. To avoid the necessity of going over all of those to whom He has enthroned: He who gave power to the Christian Constantine also gave it to the apostate Julian—whose gifted mind was deceived by a sacrilegious and detestable curiosity, stimulated by the love of power.

Are not all things ruled and governed by the one God as He pleases—and if His motives are hidden, are they therefore unjust?

For if you are awaiting an opportunity, not for liberty to speak the truth, but for license to revile, may you remember Cicero, who says concerning some, “Oh, wretched are those at liberty to sin!” Whoever deems himself happy because of license to revile, he would be far happier if that were not allowed at all.

The cause of the greatness of the Roman empire is neither fortuitous nor fatal. (Some call things fortuitous which have either no causes or causes which do not proceed from some intelligible order; others call that which happens independently of the will of God and man fatal.) In a word, human kingdoms are established by divine providence.

Now, against the sacrilegious and impious darings of reason, we assert both that God knows all things before they come to pass, and that we do by our free will whatsoever we know and feel to be done by us only because we will it.

God is supreme and true—He can never be believed to have left the kingdoms of men, their dominations and servitudes, outside of the laws of His providence.

*Abridged and adapted from The City of God.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I hate those with a divided heart, but your law do I love. — Psalm 119.113

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Hosea 12 (Listen – 1:51)
Psalm 135-136 (Listen – 4:13)

Additional Reading
Read More from Kuyper on God’s Sovereignty in Politics
In any successful attack on freedom the state can only be an accomplice. The chief culprit is the citizen who forgets his duty, wastes away his strength in the sleep of sin and sensual pleasure, and so loses the power of his own initiative.

Read More about The Seductive Idolatry of Politics :: Readers’ Choice
We must make sure we are pursuing actions that please Christ rather than pleasing human political kingdoms. We serve the same kingdom Christ testified to before Pilate put him to death and the kingdom Stephen saw before being stoned by the Sanhedrin.

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Good and Pleasant Unity? A Prayer for Election Week

Psalm 133.1
How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!

Reflection: Good and Pleasant Unity? A Prayer for Election Week
By John Tillman

In such a divisive and cynical time, words like “unity” raise eyebrows, hackles, and suspicion. Talking about unity is almost universally seen as a political power grab and talking of civility is seen as capitulation.

The psalmist makes no promise about governments living in unity. Even among God’s people, unity is described as “good” and “pleasant,” implying that it is not automatic or constant.

As the US approaches midterm elections, the rancor and rhetoric of 2016, rather than relaxing, has ramped up, raising political tensions, accusations, and attacks.

Record numbers of voter registrations and early voting numbers, indicate that the hopes of many are at stake in this election season. But as scripture repeats often, and so do we, our hope is not in chariots or horses, in kings or in princes.

Good and Pleasant Unity?

Oh God, lead us…

I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.

But despite your love and care, we turn from you
when we turn away from “the least of these” your children.

My people are determined to turn from me.
Even though they call me God Most High…

Even though we call you, “Lord, Lord,”
We push down the hungry, thirsty, and naked.
We ignore the sick.
We turn away the foreigner.
We treat the prisoner heartlessly.

How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!

Is unity possible for selfish, angry hearts such as ours?

Jesus looked at them and said,
“With man this is impossible,
but with God all things are possible.

My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.
I will not carry out my fierce anger…
For I am God, and not a man—
the Holy One among you.
I will not come against their cities.
They will follow the Lord

Change our hearts, Lord.
Arouse our compassion.
Help us abandon anger.
Lead us to be for our cities, not against them.
May we be united in humility, in confession, and in service to those around us.
Let them know that we are Christians by our love.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. — Psalm 96.9

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Hosea 11 (Listen – 1:53)
Psalm 132-134 (Listen – 2:42)

Additional Reading
Read More about Compelled Toward Community
God has forged with us and in us a new community of faith. Belonging to this community carries a responsibility to be accountable to each other.

Read More about The Language of a Good Neighbor
May we abstain from the language of political leaders intending to seek and destroy.
May we embrace the language of Christ intent on seeking and saving that which is lost.

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Each month over 22,000 Park Forum email devotionals are read around the world. Support our readers with a monthly or a one time donation.

The Language of a Good Neighbor

Hosea 8.7
They sow the wind
and reap the whirlwind.

Reflection: The Language of a Good Neighbor
By John Tillman

The words we speak plant seeds that come from our hearts. When those seeds are violent winds, we reap the whirlwind of violent actions.

When violent words fly through the air, via Twitter, Gab, email, or other means, bombs may soon follow. Where machine-gun-like blasts of vitriol cut through the airwaves, with the expressed intention of mowing down the opposition, it is only a matter of time before actual bullets fly.

Whenever tragedy strikes in our society, Fred Rogers’ quote from his mother about looking “for the helpers” comes to the forefront of our culture’s mind. In certain cases, however, some have started to reject the comforting use of this quote.

In our culture, no matter how popular or how widely seen as a societal good something is, sooner or later someone will start throwing rocks at it.

These critics are careful, so far, not to throw rocks at Rogers directly. Their target is people sharing the quote. They scoff that advice for children should bring comfort to and be so widely shared by adults.

Rogers show was never just for children. It was simple, but never simplistic. And it’s call to action for all of us is inherent to the comfort it brings.

In her book, The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers, Amy Hollingsworth recognized that Rogers’ show had an unmistakable biblical theme—be the good neighbor. Be the helper. But this moralistic challenge has to be empowered by an inner shift of perspective. Rogers explains:

“Evil would like nothing better than to have us feel awful about who we are…We’d look through those eyes at our neighbor, and see only what’s awful—in fact, look for what’s awful in our neighbor…but Jesus would want us to feel as good as possible about God’s creation within us, and…we would look through those eyes, and see what’s wonderful about our neighbor.”

Mister Rogers had a Christ-like understanding of the power of words and feelings. His simple guidance for children did not have an expiration date on it because it was based on principles of the gospel. Rogers connected being the good neighbor to having a Christlike view of ourselves and looking at, and speaking to, our neighbor with that perspective.

May we abstain from the language of political leaders intending to seek and destroy.
May we embrace the language of Christ intent on seeking and saving that which is lost.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Help me, O Lord my God; save me for your mercy’s sake. — Psalm 109.25

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Hosea 8 (Listen – 1:58)
Psalm 123-125 (Listen – 1:52)

This Weekend’s Readings
Hosea 9 (Listen – 2:52) Psalm 126-128 (Listen – 1:58)
Hosea 10 (Listen – 2:47) Psalm 129-131 (Listen – 2:03)

Additional Reading
Read More about Redeeming Speech
The Talmud compares hateful speech to one of the most destructive diseases of their day: Leprosy. The outside rots because the inside is incurably ill. Yet the promise of Scripture is that—through Christ—all are healed, all are made new, all are redeemed.

Read More about Killing With our Hearts
“I do not kill with my gun…I kill with my heart.” Stephen King’s fictional Gunslingers understand Christ’s teaching about murder in a deeper way than some Christians.

Support our Work
Each month over 22,000 Park Forum email devotionals are read around the world. Support our readers with a monthly or a one time donation.

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