Have you ever read a verse of Scripture that you really wished wasn’t in the Word of God? Some little “do this” or “don’t do that” that leaves you saying, “Um, God? Can we talk?”
Or maybe you try to come up with an alternative to the “holy rule,” so to speak. Okay, you think, I know God’s Word says this but maybe, if I do this awesome deed, I can eliminate this one thing...
One night I sat in a restaurant with two friends enjoying a lovely dinner. Somehow we got into a debate on the Scriptures, what they say, what they mean, and … well … what they really mean.
At some point I started paying attention to the Caesar Salad in front of me as friend #1 expressed her feelings on a particular theological subject.
Friday #2 said, “But what about the verse in Isaiah that says …” and then she rambled it off verbatim.
To which Friend #1 calmly said, “I just ignore that part.”
But you know what? We cannot “just ignore that part.” Or any part. Even those that make us uncomfortable … make us squirm a little.
Recently I came across a verse of scripture I’ve read time and again and yet have managed to ignore or at least assume I was already adhering to its principles. It goes like this:
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior (1timothy 2: 1-3 NIV).
What caught my eye was this: for kings and all those in authority…
Anyone who knows me knows I’m not totally thrilled with our nation’s setup these days. I’m not making a political statement, I’m just giving a fact so you’ll understand better the point I’m trying to make (and a little bit of how God jerked my chain).
…for kings, it said.
Well, I don’t know any kings, I thought. I can ignore that part. But then the Holy Spirit whispered, “He may not be a king, but he’s the president…”
They may not be kings, but they are the members of the Congress … the Supreme Court Justices …
Slowly the list began to filter down to anyone and everyone who had even a scintilla of authority in my life. The local and state police, the judges who rule in our county, the traffic cop who directs the children across the road before and after school, teachers, or our pastor (and the elders and deacons of the church), our home owner’s association – the one that determines everything right down to the color paint we can use on our houses – my “boss” (in my case, my editors or the publishers) and the list goes on and on.
Some of the names on my list are also on your list but some vary with our circumstances.
And if making that list wasn’t enough, God brought my eyes back to Paul’s words, which declare we are to pray for everyone.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5: 43-48).
I started a whole new list…
The Second List
Someone told me years ago that you cannot be in ministry and not get your feeling hurt or endure a few woundings along the way. At first I didn’t quite buy or believe that. But I’ve been in ministry long enough now and I’ve lived enough days that I can attest to it.
But, quite frankly, we all get a little hurt from time to time. As we grow up (especially us girls) we have disagreements with our friends and we say things like, “I’ll never forgive you.” Or, maybe we expressed such a thing with our siblings (it happens). Perhaps there is a co-worker who makes your life miserable or – if you are a student – a teacher or professor who just doesn’t seem to like you for reasons you cannot begin to fathom.
There could be someone who has lied about you. Taken something from you. Hurt you in ways too horrendous to think about much less write about. Killed someone you love …
Those people make up a part of the “everyone” list. They are the reason we often want to “just ignore that part” of the Lord’s teachings.
But we can’t.
Lists 1 to 3
I made three lists. Those I find it easy to pray for were in the first column of names. My family. My friends. My I-just-love-this-person people.
The second list was of people who’d hurt me or someone I loved. (For instance my daughter’s neighbor – who has made her life miserable – made my list. Say anything you want about me but don’t touch one of my kids! I’m the proverbial mother lioness over her cubs.)
The third list were those who were in authority over me in whatever position God had placed them from the man in the Oval Office to the police officer parked around the corner from my house making sure I don’t go over the speed limit as leave the neighborhood.
As I pondered the names I realized that while I may not go to the Throne with them on my lips every day of my life (especially those from List 2 and List 3), there are times throughout the day … or the week … or whenever that the face which goes with the name comes to mind.
And this is my cue to pray.
Who Would Make Your List?
At a recent weekly Bible study held in my home, I challenged those who sat around me – Bibles splayed across their laps – to grab a piece of paper and a pen, divide the page into three columns, and start making “the lists.” There were a lot of giggles at first – especially when it came to List 2. (Sometimes, I think, we laugh at our hurts because otherwise they are too painful.)
One member pointed to a name on her husband’s list and said, “Be careful; she’s going to make you pray for that person.” We all laughed again.
“Not me,” I said. “It’s not my rule.”
We found that, for the most part, it was too difficult to discuss the names on List 2. Then, one member said, “But when we pray for our enemies, it releases the pain. I don’t know how, but it does …”
I replied, “I find that when I pray for an ‘enemy’ I often find myself slipping into their skin … seeing things from their perspective … realizing that some pain in their lives has led them to be the hurtful person they are toward me …”
So who would make your list? Care to join me in a little uncomfortable name-dropping?
Eva Marie Everson is the coauthor of the award-winning reflections of god’s holy land and the recently released things left unspoken. For more information about Eva Marie or to book her to speak at your next event, go to: www.evamarieeverson.com
Original publication date: July 6, 2009