Wednesday, June 3, 2009

How are we to live?

"Transgression speaks to the wicked
deep in his heart;
there is no fear of God
before his eyes.
For he flatters himself in his own eyes
that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit;
he has ceased to act wisely and do good.
He plots trouble while on his bed;
he sets himself in a way that is not good;
he does not reject evil" (Psalm 36:1-4).

This seems to me a collective societal and cultural stance at present, ceasing to act wisely and do good. At root is the issue of freedom, not only what freedom means, but what freedom is for. When conceived of as an end in itself there is nothing more destructive than freedom. Scripture challenges us as to freedom. Psalm 36, which was the first psalm for Morning Prayer this morning, put me in mind of this from 2 Peter:

"Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

"Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (v.13-25).
Being willing to suffer for doing what is right seems to me the stance of the church and Christians in the present cultural turmoil. We are not called to fight fire with fire, meaning returning evil for evil. The last petition for Morning Prayer today is: "Grant that we may live today in peace with all men, never rendering evil for evil." This is the life we are called to lead in and for the world. This is the manner that befits God's priestly people, who are called to offer up our very lives at every moment as a living sacrifice to God in imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ and all his saints.

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