Sunday, March 08, 2015

Wait for It!

Our Sunday School class is well into its current study of the Sermon on the Mount.  At our last class, we considered Matthew 5: 43-48, the passage where Jesus tells his disciples to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, not for any purpose or no purpose, but so that they "may be sons of their father in heaven."  This passage follows directly on Jesus' admonition against retaliation in verses 38 - 42.  Indeed, John Stott, in his book on the SOM, pairs the two sections together in the same chapter, suggesting that they are of one piece.  He writes of them as two aspects of love, one passive and the other active.

What occurs to to me as I think about these two sides of the same coin, passive love and active, is the call we have to wait on the Lord.  Our enemy strikes us on the right cheek.  Well, then, we are to turn the other cheek and then just wait.  He sues us.  In that case, we settle with the plaintiff to avoid going to court for its brand of justice.  It seems to me, then, that Jesus calls us not simply to be passive in our non-retaliation, he calls us to wait on (or for) the Lord. 

We think of waiting for the Lord as an Advent activity, and I posted a beautiful hymn just below with these lyrics:

Wait for the Lord, whose day is near
Wait for the Lord, keep watch, take heart.
Prepare the way for the Lord,
Make a straight path for God
Prepare the way for the Lord!
Rejoice in the Lord always, God is at hand!
Joy and gladness for all who seek the Lord.
The glory of our Lord shall be revealed
All the Earth will see the Lord.
I waited for the Lord
God at my guard.
Seek first the kingdom of God,
Seek, and you shall find.

The Psalmist writes in Psalm 27:14 (KJV):

"Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord."
The idea of vengeance being the Lord's (and not ours) is the same idea.  Paul expressly writes in Romans 12:19, in between an admonition of non-retaliation (vvs 17 and 18) and its counter-part, the admonition of active love (vss 20 and 21), the following:

"Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord."

Putting off the urge to retaliate is such good, every-day advice.  In our indignation, do we forget that God is in control of the situation?  Do we forget what God brings to fraught confrontations?  Can our wrath match his in its perspective, in its power (and our empowerment through his Spirit), in its wisdom, and, finally, in its grace?

So I think we are not to retaliate in order to give room for the working out of God's will in the challenging situation which is upon us.  During that waiting our hearts are strengthened, getting us ready for the next step to which Jesus calls us.  That is,  we join in God's redemptive working-out of his will by feeding our hungry enemy, quenching his thirst, and so on.  In doing so, we give ourselves a time to calm down, a time to gain perspective, a time to examine ourselves and our enemy, often only to find how alike we are.  Waiting for for the Lord is not like waiting for Godot, without hope, waiting for the Lord is like waiting for Christmas, waiting for Easter, waiting for Christ's return and having it all, in a marvelous way, at the very same time.

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