Musings: Sometimes I Want to Turn Around

2016-0916

Following Christ – not just on the streets, as in the name of this blog, but in everyday life – is the best kind of life I can imagine. Seriously.  Sometimes, though, it would be so easy to turn around, walk away, pick a different path… because Jesus asks a lot. He asks us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.[1] He asks us to forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven times,[2] and that doesn’t mean to keep a tally; it means to forgive them every time – EVERY time. It isn’t easy.

We discussed this very topic recently in a Bible study I facilitated, discussing verses from Proverbs 24:29 (Do not say, “I will do to others as they have done to me; I will pay them back for what they have done.”[3]) through Matthew 6:12 (And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.[4]) and 1 Peter 3:9 (Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.[5]) We talked about the idea that forgiveness is like a muscle that needs to be exercised, forgiving the same offense over and over again until it no longer haunts us.

This past week I’ve found myself living in the Psalms – not the Psalms of praise or lament, but the vengeful Psalms:

Lord, avenging God—
    avenging God, show yourself!
Rise up, judge of the earth!
    Pay back the arrogant exactly what they deserve![6]

For the sin of their mouths,
    the words that they speak,
    let them be captured in their pride.
For the curses and lies they repeat,
          finish them off in anger;
        finish them off until they are gone![7]

2016-0916-bI was reminded that while it’s o.k. to “vent” – one of the lessons I believe can be learned from the vengeful Psalms – it’s important to be careful that’s all I’m doing. I can wander away for a little while, but like a toddler on a harness, God isn’t going to let me wander too far. Eventually, I can’t help but turn back to God and allow myself to forgive, to be soothed and comforted and, definitely, focus on praying for the person who has wronged me or someone I love.

Granted, it may have been easier to allow God to pull me back because I was feeling more hurt and betrayed and outraged than angry; my desire for revenge didn’t go all that deep. I have no doubt, though, that God keeps me on a pretty short leash. I’m not allowed to forget my own sins so easily, and I believe we’re all damaged in some way and for the most part are doing our best. Nobody really wants to be a bad guy, any more than I really want to walk away from following Christ.

Sometimes I think I want to turn around, pull away, break the bonds that tie me to an ethic and a moral code that require me to do the right thing… always. The truth is that being Christian is the greatest constant in my life. Although, like a spoiled child, I sometimes have fits of rage or selfishness, at my core I want to please my Heavenly Parent in everything I do. I’ll keep on following Christ – on the streets and, to the best of my ability, in the privacy of my own mind – and pray for mercy and grace, even for those who have wronged me.

[1] Luke 6:27.
[2] Matthew 18:22
[3] Proverbs 24:29, NRSV.
[4] Matthew 6:12, NRSV.
[5] 1 Peter 3:9, NRSV.
[6] Psalm 94:1-2, Common English Bible
[7] Psalm 59:12-13, Common English Bible

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About Pastor Mary Jo

I have a passion for social justice and the outcast, marginalized members of society. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology from Cal State Long Beach (2003) and a Masters of Divinity from the Claremont School of Theology (2007.) I was ordained as a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) – "a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world" – on August 26, 2011, the eighty-seventh anniversary of passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. I enjoy reading, especially mystery or science fiction/fantasy novels; going to movies with my spouse, Charlie; and spending time with my family – including my children, grandchildren, and dog – and my friends. My goal in life is to leave the world a better place than I found it. I cling to the fundamentals of what it means to be a Christian: Love God, and love your neighbor … or, as it was put by the Prophet Micah, “God has showed you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
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