September 16, 2020 - Week 2
15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17 ‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.
(Genesis 50:15-20 NRSV)
God not only calls us to love our neighbors as mentioned in last weeks devotional, but he also calls us to forgive one another, as God in Christ forgave us (Mark 11:25). I don’t know about you, but this a tough command to follow sometimes. Our verse above speaks about Joseph. The more I soak in his story, the more I am in awe of his Christ-like resemblance. Joseph was sold into slavery by his own jealous brothers and later falsely accused of adultery and thrown into prison, but through all these trials he continued to always put his faith in the Lord and speak kindly to those who had trespassed against him. In our verse above, Joseph’s brothers were yet again afraid of the revenge Joseph might seek on them after their fathers passing; they knew how wrong they were. So they created a factitious deathbed speech from their father to save themselves, Joseph responded by weeping at the fact that they thought he would ever try to harm them. Joseph said, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
There’s a verse I keep posted on my wall from Jeremiah 29:11 “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good.’” (NLT). When I say this with my 5 year old we throw our hands in the air like we just don’t care, at the end, “SO GOOD! SO GOOD!” Evil happens in our world and in our lives. I am not saying that this evil is done purposely by the hands of God, but rather what He does with that evil is always good. There are two choices we can make with the evil or wrong doing of others that pass through our lives; we can either try to make other people’s lives as miserable as we possibly can, or we can choose to forgive. Forgiving to me simply means I choose to do good rather than retaliating with more evil. It doesn’t mean I don’t still hurt from other’s actions, or that I condone what they may have done, but that I am choosing to move forward in Christ-like goodness rather than responding back with yet more wrongdoing.
God is challenging us, calling us, to forgive and love others as He does; especially those who may have offended us. This call is right in the Lord’s prayer: “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” So, what kind of neighbor are you? A loving one? A forgiving one?
Questions for Reflection:
- How have you seen God work evil for good in your life?
- Who do you need to forgive? Or, who do you wish would forgive you? Pray for the strength of forgiveness.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your grace, your goodness, and perfect plans. Help me become the loving and forgiving neighbor you have called me to be. Amen.
About the Author: Alex Dollar is a former teacher turned stay at home-homeschooling mama. She and her husband, Chris, teach 4-year-old Sunday school at MPLC and have 2 children: Christopher (5) and Abilene (1). Whenever she has a free moment (which is never…) Alex enjoys curling up with a good book.
September 9, 2020 - Week 1
Pastor Beth Ann L. Stone
8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10 NRSV)
Somehow it feels like the Big Ten Commandments are easier to keep than this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” No adultery—check! Don’t murder—done! Don’t steal—yep! Don’t covet—mostly, yes (if I’m totally honest). But loving your neighbor as yourself? Not so simple.
First, it means loving yourself. That’s easier for me now than it’s ever been, I think…part of the benefit of growing older, wiser, and being less self-critical. But some of us never quite get there, and that gets in the way of us loving others well.
Second, it means recognizing others as complicated, unique persons, each with their own needs and experiences. There’s a voice inside us that screams, “Grab as much as you can for yourself!” “There’s a bear coming after you…trip that guy instead!” “Be afraid…they might take advantage of you!” Somehow, we have to ignore that voice and listen to the other one, the one that says, “That person looks sad/mad/scared…I wonder what they’re going through?” “I have more than I need…who else could use what I could share?” “I wonder what it’s like to be that person who is so different than me?” Being interested in our neighbors and learning about them is the first step toward loving them.
Third, “loving your neighbor as yourself” means more than just thinking kind thoughts. It means actively seeking the well-being of others as much as I do my own well-being, considering other people’s needs to be as important as my own. That’s the kind of ethic that drives some people to deliver Meals-on-Wheels, or pick up groceries for a neighbor, or protest the way people are being unfairly treated, or vote in the interests of the most powerless segment in our community, or choose a vocation that puts them in harm’s way for the sake of others. That’s the costly, risky work of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Questions for Reflection:
- How well do you fare at “loving yourself”? How might you be more forgiving, accepting, gracious toward yourself, Child of God?
- Who’s a “neighbor” God has led into your life lately, someone whose well-being God is calling you to actively seek? What might you do about that?
Prayer: Lord God, open my eyes to see my neighbors right in front of me, and show me how I can help them live a more abundant life. Fill me with the love of Jesus, so I can share it with others. Amen.
About the Author: Beth Ann Lechtenberger Stone has been a pastor for nineteen years, and at MPLC since September 2018. She and her husband Karl-John are the parents of two teenage sons and a young, naughty dog. She is now the shortest in her family.