Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Authority to not be hurt

Throughout my years of ministry I have met many Christians, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, who expend a great deal of energy attempting to avoid struggle. In most of these cases people have been consumed with a certain level of self-pity because there exists something or someone that would dare to attack them. The belief was always that if we confess God then we wouldn’t suffer. Nothing can be further from the truth. Consider today’s Gospel Reading.
Luke 10:19-21 (RSV) - The Lord said to his disciples, "Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will."
There are two ways to read God’s promise of this authority. Either the serpents and scorpions won’t attack you, which is what many Christians mistakenly believe, or the serpents and scorpions can’t hurt you no matter how many times they bite and sting you. The main reason for many who are consumed with self-pity is because of how they choose to interpret this authority.

If we read this passage as a promise from God that nothing will attack us, and that we will never feel pain, we run the risk of losing our faith in God because the realty of pain and suffering is obvious. If on the other hand we read this passage as a promise from God that nothing can hurt our chances of entering heaven, then even when we are bitten and stung and attacked, we will rejoice that God has open heaven to us and welcomed us in as citizens of paradise.

It’s all in how you read. I invite you to dwell not upon the pain of the attack, but on the promise of heaven. The pain will fade away and eventually you will be left only with what is in your heart. If your heart is consumed with self-pity and anger toward God, then that will be what is left in your heart when the pain dissipates. We call that hell. If your heart is consumed with thankfulness that God has open the doors of paradise to you, then that will be what is left in your heart when the pain ends. We call that heaven. God has already given you that authority....the authority not to be hurt. Will you use your authority?

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