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O, Lord, we pray today that you would heal our nation. In the midst of campaigns and elections, deliver us from the need to belittle or attack those who look, believe, or think differently from ourselves. Deliver us, as well, from the divisions that stop us from living up to our highest and noblest standards.
We would not pray for the nation alone. O, Lord, we pray that you would also heal our world. Bring an end to the cycles of hate and retaliation and hate again. We pray for the end of ethnic anger and religious distrust. We pray that you would find a way to bring to an end all ancient grudges.
We offer ourselves to You in the hope that in, this year, our hearts would advance as much as technology. May our hearts be stirred, not by new inventions or new social media, but by the hope for peace that might come in these days. Whether in person, or on the internet, help us to acknowledge whenever our words wound and our spirits attack others. Should we demonstrate hostility, malice, or antagonism, convict us in the moment to cease. Help us to express our beliefs in ways that please Christ, no matter how others respond to us. In the greatest debates may we be found faithful, both in conviction and in expression. Make us instruments of your peace and teach us to examine our own words and the leanings of our hearts.
We also pray that you would heal our families. Come into our homes and give us hearts that love like Jesus, hearts that give, hearts that serve one another, hearts that forgive, and hearts that keep commitments. We pray that our homes might not only be at peace, but be sources for the peace needed so desperately in this world.
We pray today that you would grant grace to all who seek it. May every person who enters a church this Sunday know that you are love, know that you are welcoming, know that you have been looking for them, and know that their sins are forgiven. Grant peace to each restless soul.
Lord, make us more like your Son, Jesus, so that we might give glory to you and the world. In His name we pray, Amen.
Here is a sampling of quotations on God and Justice from my old sermon research notes.
For many people, justice is whatever they personally consider fair. It can be as arbitrary and changeable as stock market value, at the whim of circumstances and history, worth one thing one day and altogether another the next day. For others, it can be explained by such catch phrases as “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” And it all too easily can slide into vengeance, self-righteous demands, racism, or revenge and retaliation on an emotional level. But religiously in the Judeo-Christian tradition, justice always looks more like mercy than anything we would label justice. — Megan McKenna in Send My Roots Rain, p. 8
Charity is no substitute for justice withheld. — Augustine
Scripture and Christ’s explicit teaching make the call to justice just as non-negotiable as the call to prayer and private morality. — Ronald Rolheiser, in Against an Infinite Horizon, p. 124
If Jesus had only been a mystic, healer, and wisdom teacher, he almost certainly would not have been executed. Rather, he was killed because of his politics—because of his passion for God’s justice. — Marcus Borg, in The Heart of Christianity, p. 92
Another reason is the common misunderstanding of “God’s justice.” Theologically, we have often seen its opposite as “God’s mercy.” “God’s justice” is understood as God’s deserved punishment of us for our sins, “God’s mercy” as God’s loving forgiveness of us in spite of our guilt. Given this choice, we would all prefer God’s mercy and hope to escape God’s justice. But seeing the opposite of justice as mercy distorts what the Bible means by justice. Most often in the Bible, the opposite of God’s justice is not God’s mercy, but human injustice. — Marcus Borg, in The Heart of Christianit, p. 127
Do I want social justice for the oppressed, or do I just want to be known as a socially active person? — Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz, p. 20
Consider a harder, but more excellent, way. A group of lively Christians gets together to pray, eat breakfast, and discuss strategy for demonstrating the lordship of Christ in their business practices that day. They ask: “How, today, can we write a policy, sell a house, lobby for a law, advertise a product, in a way that honors Christ and makes God’s name more respected? How can we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God as members of our profession? How can we keep our jobs and still do what is right? How can we avoid being conformed to this world and yet work effectively in it as transformers of culture for Christ’s sake?” — Cornelius Plantinga in Beyond Doubt, p. 71
One might go as far to say that perhaps justice fails to be done only if the concept we entertain of justice is retributive justice, whose chief goal is to be punitive so that the wronged party is really the state, something impersonal, which has little consideration for the real victims and almost none for the perpetrator. We contend that there is another kind of justice, restorative justice, which was characteristic of traditional African jurisprudence. — Desmond Tutu, in No Future Without Forgiveness p. 54
Christ died to save us, not from suffering, but from ourselves; not from injustice, far less from justice, but from being unjust. He died that we might live—but live as He lives, by dying as He died who died to Himself. — George MacDonald: An Anthology – 365 Readings (Edited by C. S. Lewis), p. 103
Half-truths are often the worst lies. It’s hard to think of an innocent half-truth. Their whole purpose is to deceive. They hide lies behind a portion of truth. Like a magician’s slight-of-hand, a half-truth directs our attention away from what we aren’t intended to see.
Among the seven deadly sins, lust is the most obvious half-truth and therefore, the greatest deception. It represents sin’s slight of hand.
To see my point, we have to understand the proper connection between sex and love. Our society conflates the two. We use the expressions “having sex” and “making love” in the same way. To society at large, their meanings are close enough to be used interchangeably. In a biblical world view, sex and love are related, but not identical.
Love is patient and kind. It is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It’s not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. It never fails. (Of course you recognize the teachings of Paul in I Corinthians 13.)
When a couple loves each other this way and commits to each other for a lifetime, sex is the physical communication of their commitment in its highest form. Despite some flawed “Christian” views of sex, in this context, the context of marriage, sex is good.
Lust’s slight of hand tries to convince people that sex is always good, even when divorced from love, commitment, and marriage. It’s half-truth says that we can divorce the physical from the personal. From the biblical point of view, however, “casual sex” is an oxymoron. In this regard lust always fails. It can’t deliver the fulfillment it promises because it has come unmoored from it’s natural and necessary anchor, which is commitment. It becomes, what Eric Fromm calls, a “joyless pleasure.” (Think about that expression for a few minutes. It can describe binge eating, substance abuse, pornography addiction, and the hollowness of sex for the sake of sex. I find it revealing and haunting. See Fromm’s To Have or to Be, p. 100)
This is why lust always fails.
Here are some insightful quotes on lust.
Quoting Malcolm Muggeridge: “Christianity…does not say that, in spite of appearances, we are all murderers or burglars or crooks or sexual perverts at heart; it does not say that we are totally depraved, in the sense that we are incapable of feeling or responding to any good impulses whatever. The truth is much deeper and more subtle than that. It is precisely when you consider the best in man that you see there is in each of us a hard core of pride or self-centeredness which corrupts our best achievements and blights our best experiences. It comes out in all sorts of ways—in the jealousy which spoils our friendships, in the vanity we feel when we have done something pretty good, in the easy conversion of love into lust, in the meanness which makes us depreciate the efforts of other people, in the distortion of our own judgment by our own self-interest, in our fondness for flattery and our resentment of blame, in our self-assertive profession of fine ideals which we never begin to practice. Philip Yancey in Rumors of Another World, pp.123 ff
“When you have indulged a lust, your wing drops off;
you become lame, abandoned by a fantasy.
…People fancy they are enjoying themselves,
but they are really tearing out their wings
for the sake of an illusion.” Rumi
“There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.” John Paul II
Lust and disgust keep close company. John Updike