I feel heavy. This morning when I woke, my head ached and my legs were leaden. No wonder as I’m heavy with child, this coming Monday to be 40 weeks. That is if she hangs in there till then. But with the progression of morning, rather than sleepy aches and pains diminishing, I found the heaviness to escalate. So much so, it eventually made its way to my heart. Thus, I find today I’m not only heavy with child, but also heavy of heart. And when I tried to pray, I could do nothing but weep…
They said to me, “The survivors in the province, who returned from the exile, are in great trouble and disgrace. Jerusalem’s wall has been broken down, and its gates have been burned down.” When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned… Nehemiah 1:3-4
Nehemiah wept, too, when he finally heard the news. See, he was the King’s cupbearer and must have been somewhat isolated from everything that was happening in his homeland. He had to have been in a bit of a protective bubble from the outside world as he resided with the King of Persia. For he had a pretty cushy job in comfortable surroundings. But in the course of time, his brother arrived and Nehemiah asked. How’s it going? And when he heard of the broken down state of his homeland, he cried. Nehemiah was heavy of heart. So much so, his face reflected it. The king even asked, “Why are you sad, when you aren’t sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.” That’s when Nehemiah found the courage to speak up. He said, “Why should I not be sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” He was braver still when he made a request, “Send me to Judah and to the city where my ancestors are buried, so that I may rebuild it.”
And here, I see the similarity between me and Nehemiah. Because we cry for the same reason. When I finally heard the news of my homeland, I could do nothing but weep. See, I’ve been in a protective bubble. I have a cushy job as I work from home. My contact with the outside world has been minimal. And I’ve been so busy. And so preoccupied preparing for my joyful arrival, who is imminent any day. I’ve been living in my own world… until this past week, that is. Finally, I was caught up, all preparations complete. And finally, I was laid up as I reached maximum physical capacity, all energy sapped. So this week, I rested. There’s been a lot of couch time. And with what’s happening in our country today, in addition to what’s going on globally, naturally the news has become the focus of my attention this past week. I couldn’t tear my eyes away.
Last night, I dreamt of protests. No wonder as Ferguson is flooding the news. I’ve been feasting on what the networks feed me, and I found that I made up my mind. I made a decision based on the media. I decided who the good guy is. I judged who the bad guy is. This past week, I’ve become so upset and stirred up and self-righteous that I lost sight of the most important thing. There is a mother. And there was a son. I saw her picture on the internet first thing today, and my heart broke. For her. She lost her son. And no matter what happens in Ferguson, she will live with the loss of the boy she loved. And so, I was halted. By her tears. And mine.
Oh, this week I’ve been full of tirades and speeches. I’ve ranted about what’s just and fair. I’ve been full of what’s right and wrong. For I thought I knew. This one’s the bad guy and this one’s the good guy. And isn’t that the basic question? Isn’t that the reason for the protest. The world has already decided. This one’s good and this one’s bad. This one’s right and this one’s wrong. And it doesn’t stop with only the two persons involved. It’s ever more far reaching than that. More questions arise. And so, lines are drawn. Anger is fueled. Love is taken out of the equation and hate is perpetuated. And the whole world focuses on this. Ferguson, Missouri. The whole world forms an opinion. Each person is right in his own mind. Each one knows what is just. And fair. Every single one of us knows. We all think we know who the good guy is. And who the bad guy is. And we draw our lines, form our opinions and walk in the way we think is right.
The way of Cain…
On August 15, I penned in my journal the following question, “Who’s the Bad Guy?” And I contemplated all the following: Jihad and Hamas, ISIS and Israel, and of course, Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. And so, I went to my frame of reference. My guiding light. My moral compass. I sought God’s word. Through Hebrews I meditated on pursue peace with everyone and let brotherly love continue. And there, I realized God gives warning about two particular souls… He gives us examples of who not to follow. For in reading about brotherly love, the words of Cain echoed in the chambers of my heart, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And so, I pause at Cain… the firstborn murderer. The first bad guy.
1 John 3:12 says, “We should love one another, unlike Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil…” Cain murdered because he was angry. Furious. And it was there, right where fury originated, that God cautioned Cain. Sin is crouching at the door and its desire is for you, but you must master it. But Cain didn’t. He must have fed on that fury. He must have fueled that fire for he led his brother into the field. He attacked him. And then, he then killed him.
“What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground!” Genesis 4:10
God called out to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” though He already knew. Abel’s blood had already cried foul and God heard it. So I’m not sure why God asked where Abel was. Perhaps He posed the question in order to prick Cain’s conscience. Maybe He simply wanted Cain to realize the gravity of what he had done. Where is he… the one you killed? Or, was God giving Cain the opportunity to take responsibility for his actions? But I don’t think Cain did. Because I find his response to be kind of flippant. “I don’t know… Am I my brother’s keeper? Am I his guardian?”
And so, Cain is a bad guy in my book. Obviously. He was a cold-blooded murderer and God says to not be like him. But wait. Just. One. Second. It’s there in 1 John 3. Yes, God’s warning. God’s words. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” And so, the way of Cain is a little less clear to me. It’s not so black and white. Not so easy to discern. For God says hate is as bad as murder. And isn’t there a time to hate? Can’t hate be justified?
On August 15, I began in Hebrews. That’s where another bad guy was illuminated through the pages of Scripture. His name was Esau. God’s words are clear, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble by it, defiling many. And see that there isn’t any immoral and irreverent person like Esau who sold his birthright in exchange for one meal.” What made Esau so bad? He’s called godless. And honestly, I can empathize with him through his story. I felt sorry for him. It began with stew.
He worked in the fields one day and so, when he came home he was hungry. He asked for some of his brother’s stew, but rather than just graciously serving him, Jacob wanted something in return. Give me your birthright. And Esau did. A foolish thing to do, but Jacob isn’t so innocent in this scene. And later, Jacob tricked their father into giving him Esau’s blessing, too. Jacob got Esau’s birthright and blessing. Oh, the injustice. How unfair! When I read about Esau crying to his father, I cried, too. But see, here’s the thing. Esau stewed over what was done to him. He nursed a grudge. He comforted himself thinking about the day he would murder Jacob. And though we read about the brothers later meeting and reconciling, I don’t think Esau ever let go of what Jacob did to him. It’s in Hebrews. Esau never repented. Meaning, he never changed his mind, or heart, about the way he felt when he lost his blessing. He wanted to murder Jacob. And perhaps over time, furious thoughts of murder ebbed to a slow flow of simmering, bubbling hate. But the fact is, the spark ignited the day Esau feasted on Jacob’s stew never went out. Oh, the flames may have lost their intensity over time. But time just made the coals burn hotter. Hate is what Esau passed on to his offspring.
The proof? Obadiah’s prophecies against Edom, Esau’s line. Destruction because of the violence done to his brother, Jacob. See, Esau’s line stood aloof when Jerusalem fell. They didn’t help when strangers captured the city. God said they were just like the forces who attacked. For they gloated over Jerusalem’s calamity and fall. They rejoiced. Because in their minds, wasn’t this justice? Remember what Jacob did to Esau. He tricked and stole. And so, when Jacob’s descendants went down, Esau’s lineage felt justification. The sweetness of Jerusalem’s fall went down smoother than the bitter stew Edom feasted on. That hateful concoction… it simmered on low and never went out. That old, old issue never fully went away. The one that flooded their hearts and mind again and again through the years.
Yep, it’s clear. Just as Cain is a bad guy in God’s book, so is Esau and his lineage. There’s no denying it… we’re not to follow their ways. And so, again, I ask the question, “Who’s the bad guy?” For today, with everything that’s going on in the world, who exactly is the bad guy? Can I glean enough knowledge and insight and discernment from God’s word to judge on my own?
The way of Pam…
Truth is, I’m the bad guy. Because I’ve smugly sat here in my comfortable home and judged the entire world by simply listening to biased reports. I hear one thing, and think one way. I hear another, and am steered the other way. All the while, my rage has been fueled. I’ve been feasting on pots of bitterness that have been simmering for way too long. I have been so irate over the unfairness of the situations I’ve seen. I’ve been angry. And yes, there has been hate in my heart. Hate. For love has been snuffed out through my self-righteous attitude. And God says if you have hate for your brother, you’re no different than a murderer. I’ve been walking in the way of Cain feasting on Esau’s stew this past week. And from a week’s worth of broadcasting, I think I know. Right and wrong. Just and fair. But I don’t. I don’t know everything about what’s happening. And because I live in a small, secluded, safe town, there is no way I can possibly fathom the reality of what those on the outside are dealing with. I haven’t a clue.
There is a war today. It’s right here on our home soil. Our walls are broken down. And this morning, I cried as if I had lost a loved one. It was the picture of a mother. Her tears. It was a reality check. See, in the heatedness of recent activities, I lost sight of what really happened. A woman lost her son. What of her?
And so, my eyes are opened. I see the real war begins right here in my home. It begins with me. It’s the battle that rages in my heart. It’s the one of love vs. hate. And sometimes, hate wins. As it advances through the chambers of my heart, love is diminished. Until there’s none left. And the hate makes me a murderer. It makes me divisive. I draw lines and project all the things I stand against, rather than the things I really stand for. Like peace… blessed are the peacemakers. I rant about the bad guys or the enemies, but this itself makes me one of them! And what does God say, but to love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you. And so, He calls us to love. For love covers a multitude of sins. Especially the sin of hate.
Yes, this morning I felt heavy. So heavy. Now I know it was the hate. For I had been feasting on divisiveness. But it was the eyes of a mother who brought me to my senses. It was her heartache that made me realize the truth. I’m the bad guy. And so tears that began over the state of my nation turned to tears for me. And a wordless prayer for my country turned to prayer for me, the enemy. The persecutor. For in my own way, I had been murdering and pillaging. Though I had no words to offer God, He knew. And afterward, it was as if He said, “Where is your brother?” And in truth, my brother is everywhere. He is Michael Brown. And he is Darren Wilson. I am my brother’s keeper. And that means, I am to love them both. God help me.
When they heard these things, they were enraged in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at him. Then they screamed at the top of their voices, stopped their ears, and rushed together against him. They threw him out of the city and began to stone him. They were stoning Stephen as he called out: “Lord, do not charge them with this sin!” Acts 7