Love enough to live

Mad enough to die?

The Old Testament Prophet Jonah was. At least he said so, twice.

Just how mad do you have to be to want to die? When people get mad, they usually want someone else to die, which explains why cycles of violence and hate can go on for centuries.

Last week, when the city was still reeling from the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue, a Presbyterian minister was seen on camera shouting at the President who had come to pay his respects. “You’re not welcome here!” the minister shouted in the video, which quickly went viral.

And the cycle escalated.

We spent the next morning dealing with Facebook posts and messages which came in to the church from across the country. To the angry people who posted or called, it didn’t matter that the minister didn’t serve at our church. We were Presbyterian, so we must be responsible.

At the presbytery office, the deluge of hate was even worse.

People weren’t mad enough to die, but they were mad enough to wish the worst for that minister.

And the cycle escalated.

Jesus never responded to hate with hate. He wept over the city he knew would crucify him. He prayed for those who carried it out.

Do we believe he died for us, haters that we sometimes are, or not?

Do we believe it, or is it just an abstract idea, like a favorite saying we hang on the wall?

I think a fair test of whether the Gospel has penetrated your heart is whether you can avoid being hateful to people you think deserve it.

Can we love enough to live?

Comfort, comfort

Their people had been killed or exiled, and their place of worship had been desecrated. It even seemed to some that God had abandoned them.

Can you imagine losing your family and friends, your home, your country, and even your faith? It really happened to the Jewish people in 586 BCE when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians.

The Book of Lamentations is a record of their hopelessness. “This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears.” Lamentations 1:16. “People have heard my groaning, but there is no one to comfort me. Lamentations 1:21.

It was into that utter despair that Isaiah spoke words of hope: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem…” Isaiah 40:1.

The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are full of dire warnings about God’s judgment. So, when Isaiah started talking about comfort, people took notice. “Comfort, comfort my people…” is a plural imperative. God commanded the voices of all the heavenly host to speak comfort to his people.

Many voices clamor to be heard in the wake of a tragedy, like the awful shooting here recently at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and not all of them are comforting. But God himself has spoken into the chaos and hopelessness, and now all of history points to the time when the glory of God will be revealed.

That’s why in Isaiah 40:6 the prophet says, “Cry out.” In other words, “Lift your voice! Don’t be afraid!”

The God of the universe gave himself over to the chaos of this world in the person of Jesus Christ. The forces of evil threw everything they had at him, but they were powerless to stop him.

Despite all the horror and evil, God gets the final say.

“Comfort, comfort my people.”