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Psalm 116

 

I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the LORD: "O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!" Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. I believed, even when I spoke, "I am greatly afflicted"; I said in my alarm, "All mankind are liars." What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD! (ESV)

 

 

Not-So-Friendly Fire

Patrick, Missionary to Ireland

17 March 2015

Friendly fire casualties are a desperate problem in the prosecution of war. It is both destructive and demoralizing to recognize that the people who should be making common cause are killing and maiming each other. With friends like that who needs enemies? In the church, plenty of the faithful are maimed by friendly fire, because we are willing to say and do things to our fellow congregants that we would never say to a coworker or to a stranger shopping next to us at Wal-Mart.

 

Make no mistake; we are at war with our enemy the devil (Eph 6:12). That war will go on until the last of the faithful are brought home from the battlefield of the world by our Lord. We remain ever on a war footing, like ancient Israel in the Promised Land. War is the normal state of affairs. Peace is the anomaly. Realistic war planners are aware of this even if the worldly politicians try to hide it from the populace. Those worldly politicians inhabit both church and state as Jeremiah says of them, "They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace" (Jer 6:14). Satan will never give up. Either we are at war or we are defeated and have become slaves of our enemy.  If we are to be on a war footing continually, then using our ammunition against those who, together with us, are the body of Christ is destructive and demoralizing.

 

There is no excuse for friendly fire incidents among us. For to attack those who share our faith and confession is to attack ourselves. If there is but one Head of the church (and I don't mean a guy with a tall hat in St. Louis or Rome), then to attack a fellow believer is to attack the body of Christ and to attack a member of our own body. For we are members of His body (1Co 12:12). Friendly fire incidents are ultimately suicidal to the body of Christ, which is our own body.

 

Have you ever noticed that in movies mobsters seem to spend a lot of time eating together while hatching their plots? There is a hint of the sacrum convivium in this time of eating together. Mealtime is sacred and while evil plans might be made while the mobsters share food, none may be carried out. There is a sacred code of fellowship even among robbers when food is shared.  In the church, those with whom we eat are united in one body. How terrible then that at the table of the Lord we consider our plots against the very people with whom we commune. Our minds wander from the body and blood of the Lord to consider how we might disadvantage those with whom we commune, all the while unctuously calling, "Peace, peace." We are sharpening the knife while the Lord is feeding us with His body. We are plotting our attack while His blood poured out for us is drunk. He is giving us spiritual life, while we plot death and destruction against those with whom we eat.

 

But you say, "I would never do that!" Yes, you would and you do. Your weapons are tongue and eyes; firing deadly projectiles of words and looks. Satan would love us to make common cause with him against our brothers rather than with our brothers against him. The Supper calls us to battle against our enemy rather than against ourselves.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"Reverence now, oh reverence, the table [of the Lord] of which we are all partakers (1Co 10:16-18)! Christ, who was slain for us, is the Victim that is placed on it (Heb 13:10)! Even robbers, when they once share food at table, cease to be robbers in regard to those with whom they have partaken. The table changes their relations, and men fiercer than wild beasts it makes gentler than lambs. But we Christians, though partakers of the table [of the Lord] and sharers of its food, arm ourselves against each another, when we ought to arm against him who is carrying on a war against all of us, that is, the devil. This is why we grow weaker and he stronger every day.

 

"We do not join to form in defense against the devil, but along with him we stand against each other, and use him as a commander for such hostile ranks, when it is he against whom we should be fighting. But now letting him pass, we bend the bow only against our brothers. What bows, you will ask? Those of the tongue and the mouth. For it is not javelins and darts only, but words too, sharper even than arrows, that inflict wounds. Someone may ask, 'How do we prosecute this war?' If you perceive that when you speak ill of you brother, you are casting up mud out of your mouth. If you perceive that he is a member of Christ whom you are slandering, that you are eating up your own flesh (Ps 27:2; Gal 5:15), that you are making the judgment seat more bitter for yourself (fearful and uncorrupt as it is), then you will see the shaft is killing not the one who is struck, but you that shot it."

 

John Chrysostom,  Homilies on Romans, 8.6

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, You have given us Your body and blood as a meal of unity for those who battle against our enemy. Keep us united in the one faith, that we might do battle until the end and thus live free in You. Amen.

 

For the family of Fred Winslow, whom the Lord called to heaven, that they would grieve with hope in the resurrection

 

For President Barack Obama, that the Lord would keep him safe as he carries out his constitutionally mandated duties

 

For all those who have friends suffering from disease and affliction, that they might be fervent in prayer on their behalf and supportive to them

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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