We live in troubled times. As if the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t present enough of a challenge, the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer has placed a spotlight on the reality of white privilege and the pain of the black community. Meanwhile, anti-Semitism is once again rearing its ugly head. A Montreal synagogue was recently torched, and fully 20% of Britons surveyed blame a Jewish conspiracy for COVID-19. And this is only a partial list.
In the midst of all this turmoil comes the Biblical feast of Pentecost (Shavuot in Hebrew), celebrated by Christians today and by Jews three days earlier. Originally a harvest festival, Shavuot was one of three festivals (the others being Tabernacles and Passover) for which Jews were expected to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
The Book of Acts records that after Jesus had ascended into heaven ten days earlier, the community of about 120 disciples had gathered and were holding an extended prayer meeting. Meanwhile the city was filling up with Jewish pilgrims who had come from various places in the Roman empire to celebrate Shavuot. On the feast day, as the apostles were praying – probably on a rooftop terrace – the Holy Spirit was poured out in power, a crowd gathered because they heard God being praised and proclaimed in their various languages, the apostle Simon Peter preached a bold and powerful message, and three thousand Jews turned from their sins on that day, received Jesus as Messiah, and joined the community of His followers. While a nucleus stayed in Jerusalem, many of the pilgrims would have eventually returned to their homes, taking the new faith with them.
The new community of disciples was marked by several powerful features. They were full of joy by the power of the Holy Spirit. They stood in awe of God’s power and holiness. They lived together, shared their goods, walked in humility, loved their enemies and prayed for those who opposed them. Miracles of healing were common. Before long, persecution began to flare up as the new faith was a challenge to the established order. Yet many were drawn to the new faith because of the undeniable sense that God was with these lovers of Jesus.
Two millennia have passed since those early days. The new movement, which began as a persecuted minority among Jews, soon spread to Gentiles as well and after a couple of generations had rejected its Jewish origins as it began to penetrate Roman society. Within three centuries, the church had become an established institution, supported by the state. Its history is a mixture of good and evil. The list of wrongs perpetrated in the name of Christ is too long for this blog. Yet many of the best features of our Western society are also directly attributed by secular historians to the influence of Christianity. By God’s grace, the same Holy Spirit who fell on the eagerly waiting fellowship on that first Pentecost has continued to bring repentance and renewal, and the number of those who truly love Jesus and His ways, and seek to follow Him in sincerity, has continued to grow.
In these troubled times, when many things are being shaken and stripped away, I believe it’s time for God’s people to return to basics – to our first love. The Holy Spirit was given to empower His people to proclaim the good news. He has given us many gifts of power. But His first assignment – His very nature – is to draw our attention to Jesus himself. I’m very grateful for the gifts of the Spirit. But I am even more grateful that He gives us the power to grow in love for Jesus and His ways. He is the living flame of God’s love, poured into our hearts. Whatever good we do – whether preaching the gospel, giving to the poor or caring for the sick – it counts for nothing with God unless it springs from love. But consistent love for God and His ways – which Jesus called the first commandment – is the one thing we are incapable of without the power of the Spirit. I can’t even love my own wife consistently without His help. We need the Holy Spirit.
In these times of growing turmoil and trouble, it’s increasingly evident that no-one has a solution to the challenges we are facing. There is only one leader capable of bringing peace, justice and healing to the earth – King Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah, who will bring in His Kingdom when He returns. But He has given His people a deposit on our inheritance – the blessed Holy Spirit. In the chaos of our times – in the midst of adversity, when everything within us is crying out to God to change our circumstances – the Spirit empowers us to love and choose the Lamb and His ways. He is coming for a people who have learned to persevere and grow in love. In the end, that is how we will be evaluated.
Come, Holy Spirit.
In 1979, Bob Dylan surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. References to the Bible, Jesus, and God’s Kingdom began to appear in his concerts. His conversion was marked with a new freshness in his music and the release of a new album, Slow Train Coming. The track “Gotta Serve Somebody” became Dylan’s first hit in three years.
I had not been a huge fan of Dylan up to this point, but I loved this album and this song. It was hard-hitting, fresh, and focussed, with this repetitive, driving refrain :
It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, even with the partial lifting of lockdown restrictions, everybody’s life is affected. Whatever the details of our circumstances, we can easily become slaves to the pandemic. It can start to dominate our thinking.
I have found that to navigate these times, I need to step back, get perspective, and remind myself of who I am and where I am going. The COVID-19 pandemic is a circumstance that I cannot control, but I can choose how I am going to look at life. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I do not live without hope, direction or focus. I have a purpose. I am living for the Kingdom of God.
This morning I started my day with a walk around my neighbourhood. I prayed the ancient words of the Lord’s Prayer. I asked the Father to show me what it would mean for His name to be hallowed in my life. I prayed for His Kingdom to come on earth. I prayed for my neighbours and myself to hunger and thirst for His righteous rule in our lives. I thanked God for His daily provision, His forgiveness and His deliverance from evil.
I wasn’t made to live for myself. I was created to belong to the One who made me. I have been redeemed – set free at a high cost – so that I might serve Him and give Him glory with my life. In fact, living for yourself is an illusion – a costly mirage that leads to sorrow, emptiness, death and eternal loss. As Dylan wrote back in 1979,
It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Over many years of learning to follow Jesus, I have found that living as His servant and friend has given me a liberty that I did not have when I was trying to set my own direction and have my own way.
If you already know what I am talking about, let me encourage you to remember the Lord and reset your focus on Him today and every day. If you don’t know the freedom of belonging to Jesus, but want to talk about it, leave me a comment and I’ll contact you.
God bless you.
Hey you. I have some things to tell you. Secrets. Things that can help you. Are you listening? This is really important.
This is a time of many opinions, much commentary, many unknowns and uncertainties, many claims and counter-claims, much fear and anxiety, much suspicion and accusation, much unrest and contention.
In the storm of words, it is a great gift to be able to quiet one’s thoughts by giving our attention to the Holy One.
Before I was born again, I could not do this. I was a young United Church pastor – attempting to be a shepherd to others although I did not yet really know the Good Shepherd. I was driven and anxious much of the time. I wanted peace – wanted it desperately – but I could not think my way into it.
I found that the way to peace was through surrender of my will to Jesus Christ and baptism with the Holy Spirit. Right away my life became much simpler as I no longer felt compelled to solve every problem or come up with a solution for every situation. There was such freedom in not being responsible for everything.
I am very grateful for those who trained me, early on in my walk with Christ, in learning to listen to the quiet whisper of Holy Spirit speaking to my spirit.
Nowadays, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am finding that to stay healthy I need to practice a few simple disciplines. Physical exercise, prayer, Scripture, work, rest.
One of the most important is to pay more attention to the voice of the Lord than to the voice of man.
From the time I was a young child I always wanted to know what was true and what was false. I also have a strong sense of justice and hate to see lies and wrongs prevail. These are good qualities but I have found that in order to stay in God’s peace – which is the place of order and productivity and fruitfulness and life and hope – I need to discipline myself to listen to His voice in preference to all the other voices. When I forget this, even for a short time, I pay a price. When I remember it, peace returns and I am able to see clearly again because I have heard the voice of the One who is True.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Jesus, John 10:10
My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways …
as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God, Isaiah 55:8-9
The Lord knows the thoughts of man,
That they are a mere breath.
Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord,
And whom You teach out of Your law;
That You may grant him relief from the days of adversity,
Until a pit is dug for the wicked.
The Holy Spirit is such a blessing to me. In an instant He can cut through the confusion of human voices and give me His perspective. He doesn’t answer all my questions but He directs my attention to the one thing that I need to pay attention to in that moment. This brings rest to my thoughts and keeps me stable, focussed and productive.
One of my favourite Psalms speaks of the secret counsel of the Lord which is available only to those who fear Him. It is like the counsel that one gives to a trusted friend. I need that secret counsel on a daily basis, to guide my life, to show me His ways and keep me from trouble.
I daresay you need that daily counsel of the Lord as much as I do.
Are you listening?
How did Moses endure for forty years? How come he didn’t quit? How did he stay motivated?
His assignment was to lead Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. This should have taken only a few weeks. Moses, however, was leading a people that had gotten used to slavery. They didn’t like the hardships of their lot in Egypt, but they didn’t like crossing the desert either. God had gotten them across the Red Sea, but they quickly forgot about His past faithfulness when a new problem arose. They rebelled against Moses’ leadership time and again. In the end it took them forty years to get to the Promised Land. An entire generation died in the wilderness.
When I read the account of Moses’ dealings with them, I am amazed at his perseverance. What an assignment!
I was thinking about this today because – like almost everyone who’s been enduring two months of COVID-19 self-isolation punctuated by a constant barrage of fear-laced news and commentary – I’m finding that it’s starting to get old. I’m missing my kids and grandkids. It’s like a physical ache. I’m missing being able to go out and do things with other people. Every day I make the choice to set my eyes on the Lord. I do my workouts, take time to pray, do my work, prepare and lead Bible studies, write blogs, go for my bike rides, and remind myself that this is temporary. But I’m still finding it long. I believe God has a purpose in this test – I’ve told many people that. But in my weakness, there’s a part of me that just wants this to be done. And it’s only been two months! Imagine forty years!
How did Moses do it?
I found an answer in the Letter to the Hebrews. This fascinating and faithbuilding letter was originally written to encourage and strengthen Jews who had accepted Jesus as their Messiah, and were tempted to quit in the face of stiff opposition. There, we find this compelling assessment of the source of Moses’ stamina.
By faith [Moses] left Egypt,
not being afraid of the anger of the king,
for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.
Two things stand out from this statement.
First, Moses endured because of his faith.
He believed that God exists, and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. In that belief, he found the courage to face down Pharaoh – not once, but multiple times. In that belief, he found courage to lead his people out of Egypt. In that belief, he persevered for forty years.
Second, Moses endured because he had seen God’s beauty.
His faith was not a raw, naked conviction forged out of strength of will alone. That was the kind of leader Moses had been as a young man, when in his rage he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. But forty years in the wilderness, tending sheep, had changed him. An encounter with God in a burning bush changed him even more. Moses saw the One who can be seen only when God unveils our eyes, and he was humbled. He endured as seeing the One who is invisible.
Moses was desperately hungry for the glory of God. He eagerly sought the presence of God, and used to go to meet with God in a tent outside the camp. When Moses came out of the tent, his face shone so brightly with the glory of God that he covered it. Because of human impurity and sin, the brightness of God’s presence could not be seen on a permanent basis.
I’ve known people whose faces shine when they worship God. I want to be like that. I want to have a shining face. When Jesus died, the curtain of the temple was torn and access to the Holy Place – the presence of God – was opened. The Apostle Paul declares that as we turn to Jesus, the veil is removed, and we are changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another. I want that.
Moses didn’t make it to the Promised Land. Some believe this means God had rejected him. He was disciplined, but he wasn’t rejected. On the Mountain of Transfiguration, Jesus met with Moses and Elijah in a foretaste of his resurrection glory. They spoke of the things to come, and their faces shone with heavenly light.
These are the realities that keep me going. These are the realities that keep me motivated to press on and endure as I journey across the wilderness of this age. I find that I have to daily remind myself of these things. It’s easy to get dragged down by circumstances that seem hard to us. It’s good to remind ourselves of where we are headed. We are headed for the glory of God. I am so thankful that even now, in the darkness of this age and in the adversities of this life, He allows us – and even invites us – to feed on a measure of His glory.
Will you press on with me?
The boat pictured here is a replica of an ancient fishing vessel whose remains were discovered by a couple of amateur archaeologists in the Galilee region in 1986. It’s thought to be much like the type of boat that Jesus and his disciples would have used. It’s a sizable craft, capable of being either sailed or rowed.
Among Jesus’ disciples were several seasoned fisherman, familiar with the Galilee waters. Still, on more than one occasion the gospel narratives relate that they ran into trouble with high winds and waves. One evening, after a busy day spent helping Jesus meet the needs of a crowd of over 5000 people, they set off to cross the lake in a boat much like this one, while Jesus went off for some solitary prayer in the hills surrounding the lake.
This wasn’t just a pleasure jaunt for the guys in the boat. The boss had told them to meet him on the other side of the lake, and they were doing their best to follow his instructions. But they were having a rough go. The wind was against them and they weren’t making much headway.
Quite possibly they were having conversations something like this.
Can this trip really be God’s will? Maybe we didn’t hear him right. Jesus can’t want us to be having all this trouble, can he? I thought he cared about us. Maybe we shouldn’t even be doing this. I think this whole adventure was a bad idea. I’m not sure how much longer I can go on.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the next thing they knew, they had another problem – a really big one. The high winds and waves were a problem, but at least they were a familiar problem. They knew what to do about winds and waves. But then things got really scary. They thought they saw a ghost.
We’ve all had moments like those. We’re already beyond exhausted – at the end of our rope – but at least we have a plan and we know what we are dealing with. Then things just go to a whole other level and we have no idea what to do next.
What a relief to hear Jesus’ voice. “It is I. Do not be afraid.” The gospel of John records that when they heard his voice, they realized who it was, and let him into the boat; and immediately (as it seemed to them) they reached the other side.
The journey through life can feel like a tough assignment sometimes. As if our pre-COVID life weren’t challenging enough, the pandemic confronts us with questions to which nobody really knows the answers. Are we going to make it to the other side? What will “the other side” even look like? Where are we headed? Will life ever be normal again?
Here’s a different question. Do you have Jesus in your boat?
If you do, all the other questions might still be there, but suddenly everything looks different. Jesus is master of the situation. He knows the way through. Breathe deeply. You are going to be OK. You don’t have to be afraid.
The Apostle John, looking back on this event many years later, summarizes their feelings this way: Then they were glad to take him into the boat.
What about you? Is Jesus in your boat?
This morning I began my day with a walk to see the horses in the field at the end of our crescent. Although the weather forecast tells me a blast of winter is coming, this morning I can still taste, see and feel the glory of spring. It speaks to me of the Creator’s great wisdom.
The Biblical storyline tells us what young children often intuitively understand – we were made by a good Creator. Our lives come from His hand. The beauty and complexity of creation testifies to His goodness and power. He made humans for intimate fellowship with Himself.
That storyline goes on to tell us that a rebellious angel tempted our first parents to choose independence, and ever since there has been a curse on creation. But even when the curse was first pronounced, Eve was promised that her offspring would one day crush the serpent’s head. That offspring is Yeshua, who was, who is and who is to come. He came once to announce the coming Kingdom in words and deeds of great power, and to offer his life as a sacrifice for sins. He is coming again to restore all things.
Some ask why a good God would permit terrible things like the coronavirus to occur. There are many ways of answering that question, but anyone who has been paying attention to the message of the Kingdom shouldn’t be surprised. We know from Scripture that many things will be shaken before Jesus returns to bring in the Kingdom that cannot be shaken. We are currently experiencing one of those times of shaking.
Near the beginning of COVID-19 lockdowns, Marion and I watched a movie about World War II. It reminded me of my parents. They were 22 and 18 respectively when the Netherlands was invaded by the Wehrmacht in May 1940. They lived in an occupied nation for most of the next five years. Did they know how long it would last? No, but they held on to the hope that there would be life beyond the war, and in that hope they gave themselves to living for the day when the war would be over.
We are called to live with our eyes on an even greater Day – not just the day when the covid-19 crisis will subside, though that will be a day of great rejoicing, but the day when our eyes see the King in his beauty. Our response to Him in this age will determine whether that Day brings us the joy of sharing his reward or the horror of irreversible judgement. We are made to share in His glorious Kingdom that is coming, and to inherit a new heaven and a new earth. Don’t let the troubles of today cause you to lose sight of that hope. Let that hope anchor your soul. The King is coming.
The job of a hockey official is not always easy – especially during the Stanley Cup playoffs which we are currently missing. One of the more challenging aspects is keeping the peace between opposing players who get a bit hot under the collar in the heat of the game.
The COVID-19 pandemic, like a hockey game, could be likened to a battle between two opposing forces. But as with a hockey game, there are often various secondary skirmishes that take place on the sidelines. People have different points of view on the origins of the virus; the actions of government, public health and law enforcement officials; the wearing of masks; the rules for social distancing; the extent to which one should disinfect all surfaces – and they express them with great passion and conviction. This often leads to useless arguments.
Christians are not immune from such conflicts. We can get drawn into them like anyone else. Writing to the church in Colossae, Paul had this to say on how to avoid needless and unproductive quarrels.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. (Colossians 3:15)
The literal meaning of the Greek word for “rule” refers to the function of a referee or umpire in an athletic contest. Part of the assignment of officials at sporting events is to keep the players from fighting with each other. Hockey officials usually do this by trying to talk the players down. However the players don’t always listen. Sometimes they just seem to be intent on a fight.
Handled constructively, the expression of different points of view can serve a positive purpose. Unfortunately, some are so committed to making their point that their statements are like declarations of war, seemingly calculated to provoke an explosion. Even those who frame their comments in an entirely reasonable tone find that they sometimes land in a minefield of emotion and the result can be a raging conflict.
I have learned that although I have freedom of speech, it’s wiser to remain silent when a productive dialogue seems impossible to achieve. Even valid insights are of little value if they are hurled at others like weapons of warfare – or even if they are uttered peaceably, but unlikely to be well-received because of the mental state of the hearer.
A wise man wrote that one who is able to rule his own spirit is better than one who can capture a city. I have found that when I take time to listen to Holy Spirit He always leads me into the peace of Jesus.
The other day I went for a bike ride after a long day. I was feeling worn down from work but also from hearing too much information and too many opinions. The Internet can do that to you, especially during a contentious time like this. I told Jesus that I needed Him to speak to me. I think He already knew that, but I needed to say it because I needed to position my heart to listen. It was a beautiful afternoon and as I cycled alongside farm fields, I saw a small bright yellow goldfinch flying just above the drainage ditch. The beauty immediately caused a prayer of thanks to rise from my heart.
I heard the Spirit ask me a question.
Who made all this?
You did, Lord.
The turmoil that I had been carrying in my heart subsided as I recognized the amazing wisdom and power of God that is displayed in His creation. I saw again that God, who made all things, will bring in His Kingdom in His time. He uses storms like the present COVID-19 crisis to bring the nations to submission. Some recognize this and some fight it. I am asking the Lord to discipline and instruct my heart so that I am quick to recognize His wisdom.
We have to choose to abide in the peace of Jesus. It doesn’t come automatically. We can choose to recognize His authority over our lives, and allow His peace to rule our thoughts. When we do this, the result is a fruitful life and open doors to share the life, peace and joy of Jesus with others. This is the wisdom on which I choose to build my life. Nothing else will last. His ways alone will endure.
Come, Lord Jesus.
It’s become one of the dominant messages in the COVID-19 era.
But how, exactly, do we stay safe? How do we protect ourselves?
Before we can really answer that question, we need to ask another question. From what enemy are we trying to protect ourselves?
If you’re trying to protect yourself from getting COVID-19, there are recommended precautions. But what if you have a sneaking suspicion that COVID-19 isn’t your biggest enemy?
Yes, COVID-19 is an enemy. But it can be a useful enemy. Like any crisis, any situation that we can’t control, the pandemic raises important questions for us. Where is my real hope? What am I living for? What do I really want? What is my life really about?
Many people are experiencing heightened anxiety during these times. But their anxiety is not only because of COVID-19. That’s just the current threat. The reality is that we are all vulnerable to many possible harms. Death is a prospect that none of us can escape in this age.
Disciples of Jesus have a Master who has conquered death on our behalf, and set us free from the power of darkness. If we really believe that, we should be the happiest of people. But we also have an enemy who hates us and desires to rule our thoughts. He does this by planting thoughts which we can choose to accept or reject. But to recognize them and reject them, you need a good spiritual immune system. The contagion that I really want to avoid is that sneaky tendency to focus on myself, and the immune system I need is the good, old-fashioned blood of Jesus that washes me clean from sin, His Word that is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, and His powerful Spirit who guides me in the ways of love and self-control.
Recently I studied the First Letter of John with a small group of friends. John is identified as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Of course Jesus loved all his disciples but he apparently had an especially close relationship with John. By the time he wrote this letter, John was an old man who had seen most of the companions of his youth put to death for their faith in Jesus.
For John, the issues were clear. He ended his message to his flock with these sobering but hope-filled and powerful words.
The safest place to be is close to Jesus. That’s where I want to stay. That’s where I’m placing my hope.
The hope of glory.
The runners in this photo were both running for the prize. They were running to win. They were running with focus and determination.
One of them is my young friend Rebecca Greer. She is an exemplary young lady. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic she has continued to train and stay in shape.
Why does she do this? It would be easier not to.
The answer is that she has vision and a purpose that enable her to see beyond the limitations of this present time. She is living for fulfillment. She is running for the joy of it. She is running for the hope of glory.
God has designed humans to want fulfillment. We are made for joy. We are made for glory. We are made for the glory of God.
I would never want to minimize anyone’s positive achievements in this life. We all need hope and purpose to sustain us. Young people need the motivation of believing that there is a point to their efforts to live a productive life. But the energy of youth does not last forever, and so we need to ask ourselves whether we are spending the substance of our lives for a prize that is temporary and fading, or for a prize that is eternal and will never lose its luster.
Many of us feel that our plans, hopes and dreams have been placed on hold by this pandemic. Just yesterday I lost perspective for a few hours and needed a sister in Christ to remind me of my focus. The specific challenges are different for each person, but all of us are in a battle to hold on to hope. In the midst of that battle, it’s good to lift our eyes and look to the heavens, to the One who is seated on the Throne.
Why is this pandemic happening? There are many possible answers to that question. But in the end, no circumstance is outside of God’s control. Wicked people contrived to put Jesus to death, but God had a higher purpose. It’s up to us which narrative, which script, which agenda characterizes our life. It’s up to us whether these few months of pandemic are wasted time or fruitful time.
Like Rebecca, we can choose to continue training during this time. Physical training has some value in leading to a better life, so I continue to work out and ride my bike. I do this because I want to remain fit, productive and positive in my focus. I still have some years left in this life, and I want them to be good ones. But for what purpose? What is my ultimate goal? What is yours? If we make the daily choice to let Jesus work on the inside of us, to teach us His thoughts and His ways, the benefits will be eternal.
Writing from a prison cell, the Apostle Paul wrote these words of encouragement to his dear friends in the church at Philippi,
I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Although he was in prison, Paul wasn’t obsessed with his own troubles. His confidence was in God, and so he was able to encourage others with the hope of their eternal inheritance and God’s faithfulness.
I believe that promise. It’s one of the Scriptures that I speak over my life almost every day, and it has changed the way I think. Today and every day, I am choosing to fix my eyes on the hope of glory.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Deliver us from evil.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians are in shock because of the recent tragic sequence of events in Nova Scotia in which twenty-two victims lost their lives to a crazed gunman.
There are many dimensions to this tragedy. At the most basic level, there is the gut-wrenching loss and grief suffered by the loved ones of those who lost their lives. It’s hard to imagine the pain they must be feeling. They are greatly in need of our prayers.
One of the victims was an RCMP constable, Heidi Stevenson, a wife and mother of two children who had planned to rendezvous with a fellow officer. She was deceived by the gunman’s replica RCMP vehicle and uniform. We like to be able to assume that our neighbours and colleagues mean us no harm. This is basic to the fabric of life in small town Canada. When we are deceived, it can tend to erode that trust in the reliability and truthfulness of others.
It’s natural to prefer safety and trust to danger and betrayal. Yet Jesus taught his followers not to be surprised by evil. He taught us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. In other words, take full account of the existence of evil and the devious strategies of the evil one, and yet do not let yourself become cynical or hardened or fearful. Despite the presence of evil, disciples of Jesus in a fallen world are called to remain stable, fruitful and full of hope. To do this, we need both the innocence of a young child and the wisdom of a battle-hardened veteran.
Jesus of Nazareth, Israel’s Messiah and the hope of the earth, perfectly embodied both. He was fully given to his Father’s will and free of guile, yet he was wise regarding evil. The evil one had no hold on Jesus but he was fully aware of the schemes of the enemy. In that full knowledge, he freely gave his life as a sacrifice – for what? So that we could live out our days in this life with no more tragic eruptions of evil – no more plagues or shootings?
No, Jesus didn’t promise us that. Instead He promised us opportunities to bear witness amidst increasing trouble, with peace in the midst of trials – followed by a horrific final crisis and then a world restored, full of the knowledge of the Lord, to be inherited by those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
We can’t escape pain in this life. But we can make the pain worthwhile, by entrusting ourselves to the One who alone is good and who gave His life for us. There is a place for wisdom and prudence in the life of a disciple, but these things by themselves will not lead to life. In the end the only way to be safe from the schemes of the Evil One is to give ourselves wholeheartedly to Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb and the conquering Lion.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.