FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
God is not fair – and am I glad.
In today’s climate of politically correct filtering of all reality, “fairness” is a key concept and buzzword. But thank God, He is not “fair.” You see, “when we were (His) enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10). Jesus, the Son of God, who had done no wrong, died in the place of wrong-doers. That, my friends, is not fair.
Isaiah 53:8 says, “By oppression and judgment He was taken away.” This means Jesus was wrongly arrested, falsely accused and received an unfair trial by the religious leaders. Does that seem fair to you? Two thousand years later, I call on God as a guilty sinner, full of problems and pain, and He completely forgives every evil thing I have ever done! Now that is not fair – but I sure am glad!
The Roman governor of Palestine, Pontius Pilate, was pressured to execute Jesus but declared Him innocent. Instead of letting Him go free, he gave the riotous mob the choice of saving Jesus or crucifying Him. That is totally unfair. The crowd in the street chooses the murderer Barabbas (meaning “son of the father” instead of Jesus (the true “son of the Father”), thus rejecting Jesus completely as the Son of God. This is blatantly unfair.
I hear the “good news of the gospel,” believe with my heart, confess with my mouth that “Jesus is Lord” and God adopts me into His family with all the rights and privileges of a “son of the Father.” I am accepted, adopted and acknowledged to be His child apart from any good works of my own merit. Now that is totally unfair – but be that as it may, I am shouting on the hill-tops.
God’s goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:6). That seems like God is being too nice to someone who really doesn’t deserve it. It sounds a bit “extreme,” doesn’t it? Well, I guess that makes My heavenly Father an “extremist.”
The parable of the Laborers in the Field (Matthew 20) describes a man who hired five groups of laborers: groups at 6 a.m., 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. The normal work day was from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. He agreed to give the first group a set amount of pay and to the others “what was right.” When pay time came, they all received the same pay. The early group accused the man of being unfair. They wanted more because they had worked longer. But the truth is they got what they agreed upon, and to the others he was “unfairly generous.” The man was not only “fair,” but he was beyond fair to the other workers who also had bills to pay. Isn’t it ironic that those who claimed “unfair” treatment were falsely accusing the good man who was being merciful to help his fellow man?
God is not fair. He is more than fair. He has been to me. He will be to you – if you will call on Him. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on Him” (Romans 10:12).
– Butler is the pastor at Wings of Love Community Church in South Williamsport.
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
It was a Friday about noontime when I cranked-up the computer to go online and check my email. I’ve become accustomed to getting a cup of coffee while the machine goes through its various warm-up exercises until it finally gets to where I want it to be. That’s what I did.
Returning with coffee in hand, I was intrigued by the bright red “breaking news” homepage headline announcing “Massacre In Elementary School.” These four connected words seemed utterly UNconnected to me. I initially thought to myself, “That must’ve been some kinda snowball fight in Connecticut!” As the day and the story unfolded, the harsh reality of what was impossible to conceive began to sink in.
The Apostle Paul refers to the “sting” of death. Some things sting worse than others. Likewise, some “deaths.” This one stung big-time – to families, friends, communities and even nations. Those words which should never, ever have been connected indeed were. And the grief was, is, and will continue to be great and deep.
While counselors strive to promote “closure” for those most directly affected by this horrible tragedy, another reality to be faced is that there can be NO closure. Nothing can restore the dead to life. The tragic loss of the victims of the massacre will be to all who know and love them “an ever-present absence.” And in our modern society accustomed to finding answers to any question with a few mouse-clicks and curing every ailment with the latest therapy, the reality that physical life will indeed end is a bitter pill to swallow.
This event occurred more than a month ago. But its aftermath remains timely and relevant to two observances this coming week.
First, many will participate this week in observances celebrating the Sanctity of Human Life. The memory of the precious souls of the innocent children slaughtered in Connecticut should inspire all of us to a more profound respect for every human life, pre-born and born.
Many this week also will participate in various programs and services in connection with the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that seeks to actualize the words of the Psalmist: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is, when brothers dwell in unity!” So many in our troubled world still urgently seek and desperately need the stability, comfort, consolation, faith, hope and strength that, historically, was to be found in the Christian church. We need to overcome economic, political, and philosophical divisions to be able to provide a united prophetic witness to modern society as did Isaiah to the ancient world: “When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God…” (Isaiah 43:2-3).
Yes, we modern sophisticated Americans seem to be constantly walking about in the midst of a fiery furnace. And sometimes we’re just too darn busy to realize that, even in the midst of “an ever-present absence,” there is, with us, in the furnace, “a never-absent Presence” – “like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25).
– Kovalak is the pastor at Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Loyalsock Township.
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
I’m sure there are many, like me, who love to read signs, posters and bumper stickers. I’ve had some favorites over the years. I came to a new understanding with “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” I carried with me for years “Be a real revolutionary practice your faith” along with “Lord, help me to do with a smile those things I have to do anyway.” Now I want tell you about one I saw on the bumper of a car: “Practice Random Kindnesses and Senseless Acts of Beauty.”
Senseless acts of beauty, meaning attractiveness, loveliness, excellence. Random kindness of magnificence, ones that might overwhelm the imagination and the world would label senseless. This could be our motto for the New Year.
First, we must agree that love never is seasonal. Love is of God. It becomes real in Christ. It becomes real in the kindness and compassion we show to one another. The same Love our Lord showed and spoke of when he said, “Love One Another as I Have Loved You.” Imagine with me, what kind of an impact we could make on the world around us if we would truly live our lives with such a philosophy. We would then live as we were meant to live and what a world it would be. I know God would love that world.
This idea is not new; the concept is an old God-given one. It comes through in the Old Testament when there is some question in the minds of God’s people about what He expects of them. The bottom line is found in Micah 6:8 when God speaks through his prophet Micah saying, (You all haven’t been listening, are not paying attention because) “He has shown you, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly (Treat Every Person Fairly), to love mercy (Kindness) and to walk humbly with your God.” Jesus said it this way, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength; this is the first and great commandment and the second is like unto it, Love your neighbor as yourself.” In John 15 he sums it up by saying, “I command YOU (not a suggestion but a commandment) and I command you, to love one another as I have loved you. I command you that you love one another.”
Hear God, listen to Christ – the message from One who is the same yesterday, today, in each new year and forevermore. The message is not going to change. He is saying to us to love when the world says it is pointless, ridiculous, absurd, even irrational – all that the world sees as senseless acts. This was Christ’s way to love and live. Look at his directions to us, turn the other cheek, walk the second mile, forgive and love endlessly; give of yourself and all that you have, treating one another with Kindness and Love.
Are there things you have left unsaid, undone? Are these things that would speak to others of God’s mercy, His loving kindness in you? We are charged to be His examples of Kindness and senseless Acts of Beauty. How well are we doing?
We need to carry within ourselves a love that is sincere and shines through allowing us to practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty in His name.
– Yeagle-Hungerford is a retired American Baptist pastor who lives in Montoursville.