“Why do you hate me?” I can’t ever seem to get over the shock of someone assuming that, because I disagree with him, I must then, therefore, hate him. This is an amazing and modern phenomenon that to disagree with someone is to hate them. To point out the flaw in someone’s argument is to hate them. To suggest that someone’s choices or lifestyle is actually damaging is to hate them. Amazing.
“Hey buddy, all I said was the stove was hot. If you touch it, you’ll get burned.” “See, you do hate me. You just want to deprive me of my freedom. If I want to touch the stove, I should be free to touch the stove! You’re just trying to control me! I can do whatever I want to do!”
Oh well, OK, I guess you are free to do whatever you want. But none of us are free from the consequences of our choices.
“Hey, that stove is hot! I just burned my hand! That’s not fair, and you better do something to make me feel better or that will prove you really do hate me!”
This is a pretty ridiculous conversation, isn’t it? And yet, how far off the mark is the underlying thought process of so many of us in our quest to achieve freedom from consequences? Over and over again, I have been “burned” by my shortsighted thinking in choosing some immediate gratification with little or no thought of the consequences of my choices. And then, in my immediate, emotional response to these consequences, I look up in the sky and ask God why He hates me to put me through all these troubles. But all of this flows, I believe, from an enshrining of a perpetual adolescence that our modern age has made the norm instead of a mature mentality.
And a Voice comes from heaven and say “I told you the stove was hot!”
In our Scripture Lesson today, we get to read about just such a situation. In Isaiah 65:8-16 The Lord confronts people whose choices are exactly opposite to their own best interests and now they are being told the consequences of these shortsighted choices, and it ain’t pretty.
Thus says the LORD: “As the wine is found in the cluster, and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah inheritors of my mountains; my chosen shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there. Sharon shall become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, for my people who have sought me. But you who forsake the LORD, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny; I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter; because, when I called, you did not answer, when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes, and chose what I did not delight in.” Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, my servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry; behold, my servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; behold, my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame; behold, my servants shall sing for gladness of heart, but you shall cry out for pain of heart, and shall wail for anguish of spirit. You shall leave your name to my chosen for a curse, and the Lord GOD will slay you; but his servants he will call by a different name. So that he who blesses himself in the land shall bless himself by the God of truth, and he who takes an oath in the land shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten and are hid from my eyes.
The Lord recites the consequences to these people and then He tells them why all this is happening to them when He says “because, when I called, you did not answer, when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes, and chose what I did not delight in.” Isaiah 65:12
That’s the bad news. Fortunately, there is also Good News, and the Good News is it’s never too late to turn from those self centered choices to chose what God delights in (and, by the way, the reason God delights in certain choices is because it leads not to His happiness but yours!).
We approach the raising of Lazarus this Saturday as Great Lent comes to an end again this year. And the message of the raising of Lazarus is it is never too late to undo the mistakes of the past. Our great enemies, Death and Mortality, are simply no match for God’s grace and His redeeming Power.
So, today, regardless of the mistakes of your past, the path to that Resurrected Life lavished on humanity by God’s Victory over Death and Mortality, lie in the dual revelations of Honest Repentance and Joyous Embrace. Honest Repentance has little to do with mere regret and everything to do with a transformed way of thinking about your life. This repentance moves you from a self centered lifestyle and the childish slavery to some notion of your own autonomy, and more towards the wise path of choices meant to make you truly free, not to do anything you want (that usually leads to addiction) but to the freedom and strength to choose wisely. And the Joyous Embrace of the path of taming your passions through the wise stewardship of your gifts and abilities through the spiritual labors of the faith created specifically to be your spiritual “exercise routine” to make your soul strong enough to master your body! After all, telling someone “that stove is hot” isn’t hate, it’s a Purposeful Orthodoxy that proves true love!
P.S. Great Lent is coming to a close, which means Holy Week is right around the corner! Please consider these daily devotionals a help in keeping you focused on this wonderful week. We will have specific and special devotions to correspond to each day of Holy Week. Check faithencouraged.org each day of Holy Week!