Saturday, October 22, 2016

Me and mine

Remember the story of Jesus' post-resurrection appearance to the two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)? They were withheld from recognizing Jesus at first and He drew out their thoughts and feelings asking for their take on the momentous events they had witnessed in Jerusalem (the crucifixion). Their response is remarkably provincial, perhaps revealing how much their focus was on their own nation and people to the exclusion of the rest of the world: "We had hoped that He was the One who was going to redeem Israel." It would seem that they embraced the hope that Messiah would bless Israel, but didn't care much whether He would bring anything other than judgment to Romans or other peoples. Apparently in their reading of the prophets and hearing of Jesus' message, they totally missed the universality of God's love and His plan to restore the whole creation to its original perfection, fixing all that sin broke. They misunderstood God's selection of Israel as a vehicle to bless the whole world and assumed that God loved them above all others and that the focus of history was for their nation to the exclusion of all others. The tendency to focus on "me and mine" is all too familiar -- both personal and national. Of course we should prioritize our own family and people (1 Timothy 5:8), but not to the exclusion of others. "God so loved THE WORLD . . ." is the familiar theme of perhaps the most famous Bible verse -- John 3:16. Love of one's own should be the foundation from which love for all of one's "neighbors" both near and far can flow. Selfishness and pride sometimes show in a nationalistic and cavalier apathy regarding the needs and suffering of those beyond our families, our neighborhood, our city, and our nation, even as an appropriate love of family can perversely morph into selfish neglect of others and their needs. The promise of the Gospel -- that Jesus will redeem not just Israel but all nations and peoples -- is beautiful, hope-filled anticipation which should fuel our prayers and actions to match God's global love.