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A remarkable weak

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Matthew 5:43-48

From Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount":

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'

"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

"He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Appeasement got a bad name soon after 1938, when Britain's prime minister Neville Chamberlain bent over backwards to keep Hitler at bay, betraying the new nation of Czechoslovakia and many soon-to-be-dead men and women in the process. Inevitably, his efforts were rendered meaningless as Hitler continued to push geographical and political limits and finally invaded France and then Britain.

Chamberlain had begun a massive re-armament a year earlier. But Britain was not yet ready for war with Hitler. Chamberlain was forced to act out of a position of weakness in 1938.

Jesus talks about loving those who abuse me, praying for those who lie to me and cheat me and steal from me and kill me. He insists that I not put my own comfort and safety at the center of things.

But there is nothing weak in what he says. Jesus is appeasing no one.

Gandhi got it. In his gaunt physical weakness he stood stronger than anyone as he brought independence to India. Paul got it too. He said clearly, "In my weakness I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10).

My red-haired friend wants to reconcile with his wife. He does not want to appease her anymore; he's tried that. He feels weak, she feels angry, nothing changes. What can he learn from Jesus?

Maybe not so much "learn," but receive from Jesus. When God fills him, he can be emptied out and still be strong. He can serve his wife and surrender to her and know how much they both are loved. There are then no losers.

Because I am so self-centered, Lord, I defend myself and attack others. I know that's not acceptable. Your forgiveness and your love will change the way I live. I can rejoice and be confident in my weakness. I do not have to protect anything. Let me follow that path to its end.

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