O God, save me, by your name, and vindicate me by your might. O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. For strangers have risen against me; ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before themselves. Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. He will return the evil to my enemies; in your faithfulness put an end to them. With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good. For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies. (ESV)
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A Peaceful Course
Friday of Advent 1
4 December 2015
Winston Churchill said, "A fanatic is someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." There is a big difference between godly zeal and downright fanaticism. Knowing the difference is important to a balanced life and a godly ministry. Especially our pastors must be quite clear about this distinction. God calls the ministers of the Word to be zealous in the proclamation of the truth. However, they must remain within proper bounds in their advocacy of the truth. Inappropriate methods will not advance the message of the gospel in the world. Even if the enemies of the truth use every trick and weapon at their disposal, we may not reply in kind. We may not "fight fire with fire."
Sometimes quiet suffering is the appropriate response to the bad behavior of others. I don't always follow my own dictum, however I found that biting back to be frightfully counter-productive (especially on social media!). If your reputation for probity is well known, responding in kind is not only useless, it can tarnish your good reputation. We should pray for those who attack us and we should speak well of such persons, even though they might be attacking and slandering us. This is Christ's own way. This is a path from which we may not diverge. He prayed for His persecutors and slanderers.
Jesus never fights back, although He has both the power and the right to do so, because He wants to break the cycle of warfare that arises out of the maddened heart of man. Only He can do it. He does for us. As His servants, we ought to do no less. He has never treated us as we have treated Him, but has been patient and forbearing with us. He has absorbed into Himself every bit of our animosity and anger against God and man. By this absorption animosity will not come back into our hands. It is no longer a weapon for us to use. Our Lord has taken it away in Himself on the cross.
Our only weapon is the Word from which we may yield nothing, although our goods and reputation might be lost in the process. We may not go beyond the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. There is no better or greater weapon for us Christians, in any case. How could anger or invective or bitter insults improve what God has given us? It couldn't. So why resort to it? We should not exasperate the faithful by viciousness. The Word of God is not improved thereby. However, we must stand fast in the Word of God against all comers. That alone will be a peaceful course of action.
"We are not undisciplined in our exercise of discipline. We do not hurl insults, as many do, who attack not the argument but the speaker, and sometimes strive by their invective to hide the weakness of their reasoning; as cuttlefish spread ink before them, in order to escape from their pursuers, or to hunt when unable to be seen. But we show that our warfare is on behalf of Christ by fighting as Christ, who is peaceful and meek (Mt 11:29
) and bore our infirmities (Is 53:4
), would have fought. Though peaceable, we do not injure the word of truth, by yielding a little (Mt 5:18
), just to gain a reputation for reasonableness. We do not pursue that which is good by ill means. We are peaceful because we use a legitimate form of warfare, confined as it is to our own limits and the rules of the Spirit. Upon these points I lay down the principle for all stewards of souls and dispensers of the Word: Do not exasperate others by your harshness, nor render them arrogant by just submitting to them, but use good words in treating of the Word, and in both directions keep a proper balance."
Gregory Nazianzus, Theological Oration, 42.13
O Lord, graciously receive the prayers of Your Church that, being delivered from all adversity and error, she would serve You in safety and freedom and dwell in Your peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For Rev. Dr. Daniel Gard, President of Concordia University Chicago, that the Lord of the church would strengthen him for his calling
For John Meyer, who will be undergoing surgery for a blood clot in his brain, that the Lord would grant him strength and healing
For the family of Trudy Kallus, who was called out of this vale of tears, that they would confess the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come
For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that the Lord Jesus Christ would be his strength and shield
Art: VOUET, Simon Annunciation (1640s)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015