An old prayer:
grant us, we pray,
the spirit of Christian reconciliation and meekness,
that we may heartily forgive every injury
and be reconciled with our enemies.
Grant us to overcome the malevolence and offenses of people
with Christian meekness and true love of our neighbor.
We further beseech Thee, O Lord,
to grant to our enemies true peace and forgiveness of sins;
and do not allow them to leave this life without true faith
and sincere conversion.
And help us repay evil with goodness,
and to remain safe from the temptations of the devil
and from all the perils which threaten us,
in the form of visible and invisible enemies. Amen.
יִשְׁלַח מִשָּׁמַיִם וְיוֹשִׁיעֵנִי חֵרֵף שֹׁאֲפִי סֶלָה יִשְׁלַח אֱלֹהִים חַסְדּוֹ וַאֲמִתּוֹ
“He will send from heaven and save me, he will put to shame those who trample on me. Selah. God will send forth his steadfast love and his faithfulness.” (NRSV.)
Recently I posted some thoughts about the first phrase in this Psalm: “[God] will send from heaven and save me….”
The next phrase (“he will put to shame those who trample on me”) points up one of my long-standing problems with the Psalms.
When I first began to read the Psalms, as a young man, I was put off by the recurrent theme of “enemies.” Praying to God in the midst of confusion and need I could understand. Praying to God in times of distress and suffering I could understand. But, the frequent and recurrent theme of persecution by enemies was something with which I could not connect.
Or, maybe I just didn’t want to connect with it. (more…)
In this passage Jesus is continuing the series of antithesis statements he began in verse 21. In these he fleshes out what he means by coming not to to destroy the law but to fulfill it. He goes beyond the law — not relaxing it, but pushing it further — pushing it toward its spiritual fulfillment. Jesus forces us to consider more than just outward fulfillment — he challenges us at the level of our motivations — our inner lives.
In verses 21-37 the issues were: destructive anger, covetous sexual desire, divorce, and the swearing of oaths. Here the issues are vengefulness, enemies, peace, and universal love for all. Here the issue is how we treat — and think about — each other. This passage can be seen as a unit because of its closely related themes.
This is also one of those passages in the New Testament that uses the word τέλειος — often translated “perfect” — which gave rise to the phrase “Christian Perfection”— often used by John Wesley (and his followers) to talk about the spiritual life. The phrase was misunderstood from the beginning and still is today — and it’s easy to see why. Looking at verse 48 in its context may help to sort out some of the confusion.
But, our goal in looking at this passage is much larger than that one issue — it is to understand how Jesus interprets the Old Testament law and applies it to life. (more…)