Friday, December 9, 2016

Submitting to Right

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

Balaam replied, "Although Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God." - Numbers 22:18

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:21

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 141:1-4; 2 Kings 8; Acts 2:14-28

In today's scriptures, I see a common theme of doing the right thing no matter what, and firmly persisting in it by faith, and trusting that whatever happens, God will be there to help keep us connected to each other and to the right thing for the next stage of the journey.

"There is always some peace in having
submitted to the right. Don’t spoil it by
worrying about the results, if you can help it.
It is not your business to succeed (no one
can be sure of that) but to do right: when
you have done so, the rest lies with God."
- C. S. Lewis

The sketchy prophet Balaam gets his priorities right in today's Numbers 22 verse, understanding that every true word of prophecy comes from God, and that his command as a prophet is to speak the word God gives him, nothing else - not even for money. In 2 Kings 8, the woman who cared for Elisha listens to his word again, spares herself seven years of famine, and is restored to her house and land. Peter's speech in Acts 2 proclaims to the crowd that faith in Jesus means life, because it was impossible for Jesus to be held in the power of death. In Romans 12, Paul tells the young, conflicted church community not to sin, but to do what's right and good - even (in the very next verse, 13:1) submitting to authority, the same authority that will eventually imprison and presumably execute Paul.

There is a sense, in all of these stories, that the ups and downs of life don't change or lessen or go away for God's people. In fact, they may be sharper and more difficult, because faith in God can attract resistance from other forces. Danger, and even death, are real possibilities. Yet, in all of these stories, there is some learning and growth and witness that comes from the journey. And in the long run, God's kingdom is served.

I think we face a number of moments in life where we can choose to do the right thing, or what seems to be the easy, more comfortable, more expedient thing. We can stick with God's way, trusting in God's help along what we (probably rightly) judge to be a challenging path. Or we can cave in, compromise, or chicken out, hoping (probably in vain) to avoid trouble while at the same time weakening our faith and distancing ourselves from God's strength.

I believe it can sometimes be hard to tell which way is the right way, especially when numerous options are available. But there are many times when the choice is clear, simple, and direct. In my own life, I've had times that have gone both ways. And I've learned from both. When I've chosen the easy way, I've found that I'm disappointed by the shallowness of the results, or I've missed out on an experience that would have made me a better person. When I've chosen the right way, there is always some sacrifice, but I've never lacked for the resources to make it through (even when I had some doubts about that along the way) and the blessings and learnings have been far beyond what I could have imagined in the beginning.

This kind of choice (what C. S. Lewis called "submitting to right") is a recurring part of the faith journey of any person who tries to follow God. I see it in my personal life, and I see it in the decisions I have to make as a pastor. I definitely fail to make the right choice sometimes! But I believe that God will continue to reveal truth to us, whether we choose the right thing or the easy thing. It's a blessing just to get to see God's kingdom unfolding and growing, as it weaves our own individual lives into the big picture of God's love for the world. May we choose to stick with God, and see more of the picture.

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