Daily Devotion for May 14, 2016
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
The wonderful old Golden Gate Quartet vows they “ain’t gonna’ study war no mo’.”2015* Doris Akers - Every Time I Feel The Spirit, old gospel, B+ 283 323 454 497 500 87x 1124 1177 1595 2015
For a Sense of Wonder at God's Creation
Dear Lord, grant me the grace of wonder. Surprise me, amaze me, awe me in every crevice of your universe. Delight me to see how your Christ plays in ten thousand places, in limbs and eyes not His, to be the father through the features of men's faces. Each day enrapture me with your marvelous things without number. I do not ask to see the reason for it all; I ask only to share the wonder of it all.
For Each of Us in Our Work
Almighty God, heavenly Father, who makes it possible for me to work and who gives every creature its food, declaring your glory and showing your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth; Deliver me, I pray, in my work, from coveting material goods, from falling into the temptation of serving mammon and putting money in the forefront of my life. Help me to perform the work which you have put at my hand, in truth, in beauty, and in righteousness, with singleness of heart as your servant, and to the benefit of my fellow men as well as myself; for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lived and died only to serve us.
[We need to change to follow Christ, but sometimes change, in the form of self-improvement, is nothing more than pride. There are shortcomings we must accept.]
I pray that I may be blessed every step of my path this day by the great God of light. May your sun shine upon me; as the moon moves the tide, may your Spirit move my emotions with every grace and magic; may my heart sing with the voice of your angels and my hearth be warm; and may this and every blessed day You have given me be filled with joy.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies - or else? The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Matthew 5:43-48 (NKJV)
Sermon on the Mount - Love Your Enemies 
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Notes on the Scripture
In verses 38-42, which we read two days ago, Christ told us not to resist evil people: If someone sues us for our shirt, we just give it to them, and offer them our coat. Here he develops and extends this theme. In the previous verses, he told us how we must behave. But his primary message, remember, is that we must change our hearts, and here he teaches how we must feel towards those who wrong us.
First, we must understand the meaning of “love”, for English, a language ordinarily rich in synonyms, uses the single word “love” to denote several different emotions. Greek had four different words which are translated as “love” in English:
- Eros, or romantic love. To illustrate the point about how inexact and overbroad is the English usage, consider that people are reduced to saying, “I love him but I'm not in love with him” to distinguish between two very different feelings towards a boyfriend.
- Storge, which was used primarily among family members. It includes feelings of affection and attachment. Oddly, it would be the correct word for the way many people feel about their dog or cat!
- Philia, the feeling one has for a close friend. The word “love” was commonly used to describe this feeling before 1900; but the usage has fallen out of favor, as have the words “fond” and “fondness”.
- Agape, the word used here, denotes an unchangeable benevolence. We might say, I love Yale University, or I love my church. Or, to the point of today's Scripture, we might say, “I love people.” Both agape and storge might be used about someone or something one doesn't particularly admire or get along with.
(Most people do not realize how much overlap existed between Greek words for love, just as in English. Just as we use “love” in very different ways, the Greeks used their words for “love” in different ways. In the koine Greek of the New Testament, philia and agape are virtual synonyms; and in the Greek Old Testament, agape is used to denote erotic love! But we will follow the simplistic notion taught in Christian circles today, since Christ uses the word agape here and means a more general, spiritually-based love.)
To understand what Christ is saying about agape, think about a person who loves whales; who dedicates his life to saving them from destruction. If a whale attacks his boat and turns it over, killing several of his friends, he is still going to love whales. He loves them for what they are and forgives them if what they do causes him personal damage.
In fact, a hunter might agape-love the animal he hunts. This is the reported state of many native American tribes, who had to hunt to survive, but who would ask forgiveness of the animal they killed.
This raises a practical point, for although Christians are taught to forgive even the most heinous of acts, it does not mean a criminal cannot be imprisoned. But where this is done, it must be done without vengeance or self-righteousness, and only for the good of the criminal. Hypocrisy is unfortunately the rule here. People say “it's for your (or his) own good” while harboring other motives.
Continued tomorrow . . .
Note: The Latin noun “caritas”, translated “charity” in the KJV Bible and “love” in many later translations, is identical to the noun form of the Greek “agape”.