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He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.


Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (ESV)

Doing Nothing

Monday of Pentecost 11

25 August 2014

Passivity is a bad word in western culture. When we say an acquaintance is a "passive person" we are not complimenting them. We prefer people that are active, even if that activity seems ill-conceived. In the halls of government "doing something," even it if is hurtful, is preferred to remaining passive. More than one national political figure has done mischief just to make a name for himself as a "doer;" an active person. Similarly, if public celebrities slip from the limelight, they attempt to do something to thrust themselves back into the news, even if that would tarnish their moral reputation by doing it. The only bad publicity is none at all, or so the publicists say: "Just do something." We all know people who did something harmful and afterward defended their actions by saying "I just had to do something."


Sometimes the best thing to "do" is nothing; especially if our actions would be unhelpful, or might impede the work of another who could accomplish something truly helpful. This is the deal with God. If He has done everything to accomplish our salvation in Christ, then nothing we do will help and indeed might actually hurt. Our efforts actually get in the way of God's business. When someone is being rescued by a well-trained lifeguard, if the drowning person struggles in the attempt to save himself he may well make the rescue impossible. He is better off to stop struggling and remain as still as he possibly can. The professional will take care of it. He will live if he does nothing. In Christ, God does everything and gives everything. We have everything by remaining passive. Rather than our knowing of Him, His knowledge of us is decisive.


In our life with Christ, our "doing something" may well fight off our Savior, and in doing this our salvation would be lost. Good works can actually be harmful in the article of justification, if they intervene in our relationship with God by offering a righteousness of our own. This is what Paul means when he says: "For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith" (Phil 3:8-9). In the article of justification I have no righteousness of my own; this is what it means to be justified by God through the work of Christ. With God passivity is not bad, it is what faith is. It is receiving Christ's doing; Christ's work. Doing nothing is perfect, when it is making room for God's doing.


Martin Luther


"Truly, our knowing is more passive than active; that is, it is more a matter of being known by God than of knowing God. Our 'activity' is to allow God to do His work among us. He gives the Word, and by apprehending a divinely given faith, we are born as sons of God. Therefore the statement, 'You are known by God' (Gal 4:9), means 'You have been visited by the Word; you have been granted faith and the Holy Spirit, by whom you have been renewed.' Therefore even with the words 'You have come to be known by God' he is disparaging the righteousness of the law and denying it is possible to attain the knowledge of God on account of the worth of our own works. 'No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him' (Mt 11:27). And again: 'By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities' (Is 53:11). Therefore our knowledge about God is purely passive." 


Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 4.9

Dear Lord Christ, You have told us that we are to remain still so that by Your knowing we might be counted righteous in Your sight. Send Your Holy Spirit that we might not depend on our own works, but on Your work. Keep us from struggling while we are cradled in Your arms, as You carry us to our heavenly home. Amen.


For young people, that they might be upheld in the grace of God as they live out their lives in the world


For the victims of violence and oppression, that the Lord of heaven and earth would vindicate them and evil might not have the ultimate victory


For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that the Lord would give him strength to lead God's people using the divine Word 
Art: Crucifixes  Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)

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