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(Part 46)


June 23, 2014

Today’s readings:
2 Kings 17:5-18
Psalm 60:3-13
Matthew 7:1-5

We are called to holiness, to witness, and to mission. In order to be able to respond well to the call, things need to happen, that is, the Lord’s will in our lives. On the other hand, if we reject the Lord’s call, dire things happen.

God raised a people from Hebrew slaves in Egypt. He entered into covenant with them, that He would be their God and they would be His people. He gave them the promised land. They were to be set apart, to be holy, unlike all the other nations. Unfortunately, the Israelites “followed the surrounding nations whom the Lord had commanded them not to imitate.” (2 Kgs 17:15c). “They rejected his statutes, the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and the warnings he had given them.” (2 Kgs 17:15a). Israel under God had grown to be a mighty and prosperous nation. But now “they surrendered themselves to doing what was evil in the Lord’s sight, and provoked him.” (2 Kgs 17:17c). The results were tragic. “The Lord became enraged, and removed them from his presence.” (2 Kgs 17:18a).

As God’s holy people, we are to “give up (our) evil ways and keep (God’s) commandments and statutes, in accordance with the entire law” (2 Kgs 17:13b). We are called to be saints. In God is our protection. In God is our guidance to do what is right. If we are not walking on the path of holiness, then we are regressing along the path of darkness. If we are not going deeper into the bosom of God, then we are endangering ourselves with more of the world’s influence.

Now as God’s people we are also called to be witnesses. We witness by the testimony of our holy lives and by the word we proclaim. The word we proclaim would be ineffective if we lived lives not in accordance with God’s will. We would be hard put to call people to repentance if they see that we have not repented ourselves. We would be hard put to encourage people to live Christ if they do not see Christ in our own lives.

Jesus says, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?” (Mt 7:3-4). You would be a “hypocrite” (Mt 7:5a). And others will see that hypocrisy. Thus you would not be an effective witness. You would in fact be denigrating the name of Jesus.

So we work on our own walk to holiness. It does not mean we need to be perfectly holy before we can proclaim the gospel. But at the very least, what should be in our eye, compared to the one we are evangelizing, is the splinter and not the wooden beam. And if there is to be any wooden beam at all, let it not be on our eye, but let it be that on which we are crucified, as a martyr.

Now if we are not growing in holiness, and thus most probably regressing in our Christian life, if we are not removing the wooden beam from our eye or the dark stains from our lives, we will not only be ineffective in our efforts at witnessing, but we will be easy prey to the enemy, which we are engaging in spiritual warfare. We are called to mission, and in responding to this call, we become warriors for our God. It is God who empowers us, and the only one who can assure the ultimate victory. But if God is not with us, because we are unholy warriors, then we are in deep trouble. As we suffer defeats, we will have to face the stark reality and ask, “Was it not you who rejected us, God? Do you no longer march with our armies?” (Ps 60:12).

We face intense spiritual warfare. The enemy is powerful. On our own we are weak and powerless. We can only survive and be victorious if God is with us. And indeed, if we are growing in holiness, and if we are doing effective witnessing, then we can call upon our God. “Raise up a banner for those who revere you, a refuge for them out of bow shot. Help with your right hand .... Give us aid against the foe” (Ps 60:6-7a,13a). We fight under the Lord’s banner, and He protects and empowers us. Then we can be assured: “I will triumph over Philistia.” (Ps 60:10c).

God has shown us the way to being empowered to witness.

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