Monday, November 30, 2009

Having Jesus In Your Heart - 3

The next in a series of articles based on the Gospel of Matthew intended to equip us better to be followers of Jesus Christ.

“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him." King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, "Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?" "In Bethlehem in Judea," they said, "for this is what the prophet wrote:
'And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.'"

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, "Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!" After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod….Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men's report of the star's first appearance. Herod's brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
"A cry was heard in Ramah— weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.”
Matthew 2:1-18 (NLT)

No reality TV show could ever adequately cover what happened in Bethlehem shortly after Jesus escaped with Joseph and His mother. The babies probably didn’t suffer much, for they would have been quickly killed. But the tremendous anguish of the mothers, fathers and siblings is hard to imagine. Indeed, we shy away from thinking about it, lest we are overcome by the emotion and cannot find comfort.

If God is so great and loving, why did He let this happen? He was now on earth Himself! He could have stayed there and influenced the soldiers that were simply obeying the evil king’s command. Did they not recognize an illegal order when they saw one?

But, come to think of it, this same thing happened at the end of Jesus life. Soldiers mocked Him when they jammed a crown of thorns on His head, whipped Him, and then nailed His wrists and ankles to the cross, and even stabbed Him. Why didn’t He stop them then? Why didn’t He come down from the cross and thereby convince them that He was God incarnate?

Will knowing the explanation do much for us? The Writings for the New Church explain all this quite clearly. The killing of the children and the crucifixion were caused by evil present on the earth through people who had actually rejected the Lord’s love. These things did not happen because the Lord went away, or didn’t care, or couldn’t do anything about them. They happened because evil people freely chose to do them. And the Lord never, ever stops anyone from freely using their own ideas in their actions. Even if innocent people are hurt by it.

But this is only an explanation. It doesn’t take away the horror or the sadness. There are many other issues like this, both in the Word and in our lives. For instance, the natives of Central America were making human sacrifices about the time the Lord was on the earth. Why didn’t He go there? At the beginning of the industrial era, women and children had to work long hours for very little pay just to survive. Why didn’t the Lord create a just society while He was here? Millions of people were killed by the Nazi regime in Germany just because they were judged to be inferior. Most were His “chosen people!” And yet there are only a few stories of brave people stepping up to do anything about it. Ask your parents or grandparents for examples of this kind of thing. They will have stories, too, for it has been observed for all of history. They will probably first think of what horrified them the most. Even today the President of the United States is using his Constitutional authority to send American troops into battle. Will the Lord give him and his Generals the wisdom to do what is right and good? Will the Lord, having now made His second coming, be able to do anything about it?

What we have to do is learn to manage our horror of evil. Evil is real, and it is not going away. It will hurt us and others who are innocent. We will cry. We will rage. We will do something about it to stop it, sometimes making a difference. And the evil one will continue to exist.

The Lord alone gives us the means to put up with evil. Think about it. Your life is probably well balanced between family and friends; fun and work; serious and silly. This is because the Lord’s love and truth rules everything. Evil will never get the upper hand in your life or in the world. The Lord, using each of us, will keep the hells and the evil spirits from hell, in their place. And so most of life is really wonderful! All because the Lord wins every time. Herod lost. He died an angry, unfulfilled man. His kingdom was divided among his sons, but it didn’t last beyond them. And on Easter morning, all the anger, worry and sadness became temporary, past feelings when Jesus showed Himself to His disciples.

The Lord will show us His love and truth, too. And he will give us the tools to cope with evil. Try this task: The next time you are angry or sad, quickly find a Bible and start reading at Matthew 5, or the first Psalms. Really concentrate on what you are reading, but read without any analysis. Don’t try to figure anything out, just seek to read it with focus and understanding. Maybe set a timer to ten minutes. After some minutes, stop reading and it is likely you will notice that, while you may still feel angry or sad, you have a sense of control over it, and it doesn’t control you. Do this at least once, even if you have to remember being angry or sad in the past. And certainly do it if a friend makes you mad, or if your boss makes you mad, or if a coworker injures you somehow. Do it as many times as you have opportunity. You will begin to notice a change in your reaction of bad events. The Lord promises that you will manage your reaction better and better all the time. "I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)

1 comment:

Nancy said...

I haven't checked this for so long, since no internet access at home... maybe you should link to FB, or tell friends when you post?

Liked this very much.