Matthew 5:44 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. When I was 15, I was robbed by 4 young men. They beat me up, stole my cash, and my car. They happened to be men of color; three were African American and one was Latino. They called me racial names and made me feel very small. I wrote here about how I came to realize that it was not my place to judge violent protesters and that their expression could somehow be a form of communication to the broader body that could help us all. Yesterday a good friend of mine, Pastor Benjamin Robinson interviewed Police Officer Shane Winnings on Facebook live, and I was really struck by how much this man loves God and loves people. The degree to which I felt surprised revealed a bias that’s been developing more strongly in me over these last few weeks… that all cops are power-hungry, abusive, and corrupt. But honestly, that’s about as true as if I had decided all men of color are criminals because I was carjacked by a few of them. We do have a problem with systemic racism. We must fix that. And not that it’s everyone’s problem, but I noticed that I was starting to have a problem applying a stereotype to all-white policemen. There are good cops out there too. Dear God, thanks for bringing to light my own faults. Thank you for forgiving me of all my shortcomings and loving me despite them. I want to say a prayer for those four men who hurt me 27 years ago. I haven’t had a chance to forgive them yet, but I know that I can love them because you first loved me. I pray that you will bless them and protect their families. I pray that you will heal all the hurt that they must have experienced over the years because the system is stacked against them. May they know your power and your love, and may they come into a deeper relationship with you through the events that surround us. In your son’s name, Amen.
Elaine and I recently watched a few episodes of “The Borgias”, a Netflix series that depicts the story of Pope Alexander VI (born Rodrigo Borgia) who with his family was suspected of many crimes including adultery, incest, bribery, theft, and murder. The depiction of the times helped me to understand a bit more about the churches historical views on usury (lending money with interest), which I found myself reading about and meditating on this morning. For most of church history, the lending of money with any interest was considered a sin. In modern society we understand intimately that money has time value, and functioning credit markets with rates of interest serve a vital role in helping people in all strata of society to improve their lot. If you look at the original verse on usury from the Bible, God relays to Moses and the Israelites that “if you lend money to any of my people who are in need, do not charge interest as a money lender would.” Note that this is specific to lending to the underprivileged, and the practice of lending at the time “as a money lender would” meant charging exorbitantly high interest rates. A modern translation might yield “don’t rip off poor folks.” But in a world that lacked transparency, where those with means could take advantage of those without, it was just simpler to say “all lending with interest is wrong.” Dear God, it’s so important to have a relationship with you, and not to rely solely on the wisdom of others. There is of course a role for godly council, and you call us to honor authority even though those in authority are often corrupt. But we love because you first loved us. If we waited for you to honor us when we were perfect, we’d be holding our breath for a really long time. People are not perfect, leaders are not perfect, but you are perfect, and it is in you that we trust. Thank you for giving us the gift of relationship with you. In your son’s name, Amen.
“Another word for temptation is options.” – Mike Bickle Over the last few days I’ve hit writer’s block for my vlog. As I made attempts to identify its root, I noticed that I have lots of options for different posts sitting in my folder. So I make a bit of headway on one post, but when I get a bit stuck I have so many other ideas waiting that I get distracted on another one. But all the switching back and forth grinds my momentum to a halt until I have no more steam to charge ahead with anything. In Luke 18, Jesus tells the parable of a persistent widow who harasses a judge for justice against her adversary. She was desperate. She had no other options. So she kept at him and eventually he caved “because she keeps bothering me” and “so that she won't eventually come and attack me!” Jesus told his disciples this parable to “show them they should always pray and not give up.” God thanks for reminding me that you are the only option. I submit all my plans to you and ask that you speak clearly to me on which idea to pursue. In the grand scheme of all that’s going on in the world, this seems so insignificant, but as a loving father I know you take great care in every detail of my well-being. Thank you… in your son’s name, Amen.