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Lent Reflections (7)

One week in already!  Time flies.

Today's lectionary readings:

Psalm 77

Job 5: 8 - 27

1 Peter 3: 8-18a


Many, many years ago I read the Bible from front to back... a foolish undertaking in retrospect, it became more an exercise in determination than any kind of edification or spiritual enlightenment.  When I look back at the copy of the Bible I then used, I find large chunks of the book of Job underlined... I was at the underlining phase then, evidently a sign of 'soundness' in some circles!  And as I read the passage this morning, I felt that had I still been in that phase, I would merrily have been underling again today.  When I read Job all those years ago, I got a nasty shock... all this stuff I had underlined came from the mouths of Job's 'comforters' who are roundly criticised by God later on in the book.  Huh?  They say lots of good things, true things, but they fall foul of God?  What's that about?

Setting this memory alongside today's reading from 1 Peter 3 is maybe helpful.

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.   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.  For "Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."  Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?  But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. (1 Peter 3:8 - 18a NRSV)

It is particularly the first couple of sentences that strike me  It's not rocket science, it's not anything we don't already know but it cuts to the heart of the matter... knowing all the correct doctrine is not enough, our attitude to, and treatment of, one another matters too.  How hard it is not to react or to respond in kind to those who insult, criticise, abuse or attack us.  How difficult not to become defensive and aggressive (for me anyway) when we find ourselves cornered.  This is turning the other cheek expressed differently.  This is where grace is grown and shown.

So here's the challenge... to orthopraxy as the liberation theologians call it - to right practice, right living - rather than merely orthodoxy, right knowing and right believing.

Today Lord, someone will say something that challenges my commitment to love

Today, someone will act in a way that demands I demonstrate grace

Today, at some point I will be tempted to react harshly

Today, at some point I may experience harshness from another

Today I may be tempted to legalism or judgement

Today I may experience judgement based on legalism

Today, Lord, in whatever happens, may love and mercy, wisdom and gentleness transform my actions and reactions


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