Set up for hope

Obadiah 17-21
It’s much easier to criticize people than it is to listen to them.

Never mind that we don’t really know their position. We have our assumptions about what we know. And we certainly don’t value their positions unless they agree with ours. Take what we assume about them and what we’re convinced about ourselves and watch out! Put them together and you get an unending cycle of frothy arguing.

Forgive me for such a general view. Maybe I’ve read too many social media comments.

But wouldn’t you love to see more civil, honest debates happen in our country? Don’t you wish we could weed out those people who only want to stir the pot for their own benefit?

I’m not convinced that’s impossible to do.

The church is set up to offer such hope. But it’s going to take a willingness on our part to be better. Maybe an uncomfortable willingness. Ever notice how we can be just like everyone one else?

How do we offer such hope and become something better than what we see and know now? Holiness. Our first pursuit is not more civil debates. It’s not more polite conversations. We don’t even need to make truth-telling our top priority. As God’s church, those kinds of things are the fruit of our holiness.

Anyone can be nice. Anyone can be honest.

Not everyone really cares about being holy. And that is precisely why the world needs the church. As such, our priority has to be our pursuit of holiness.

That was to be Isreal’s pursuit. The people of God were to show the nations what it meant to live at peace with God and others. We tend to talk a lot about their inability to do that. Be aware that we also learn something about our shortcomings when we read of theirs.

For example, let’s consider how most people might respond to Obadiah’s future vision. As a reminder, the prophet condemned the Edomites. They were Israel’s ancestors, but preyed on God’s people in their most desperate time of need. God promised a day when the tables would turn on them. They would suffer as their brother did. Obadiah said Israel would then “take possession of those who dispossessed them.”

Now, our culture loves this kind of situation. Think about so many of our movies and favorite stories. When someone whose role was the underdog or the abused is able to take control, something happens. So often in those scenarios, people now in control can yield their newfound power. They do so by exacting revenge or making others suffer.

So, if Israel does take possession as the prophet sees, how should they respond? What kind of power should they exert over those who wronged them? What would you want to do?

A lot of us might think we’d use our power for good. You could be right, but power does strange things to us. More to our point, power without holiness corrupts. Remember, we have a tendency to be just like everyone else. 

People love Ghandi’s quote: Be the change you want to see in the world.

That sounds good. But what if the change you want to see isn’t rooted in love and holiness? Eventually, we’ll always end up being like everyone else.

That’s why we look to Jesus. Our Lord appeared as God’s Son to fulfill what Israel did not. Think about how he engaged the world, not forgetting the needs of those on the margins. He brought to light how we tend to use our power and even our faith for our own benefit.

But holiness sets us apart.

As we pursue the holiness of God we become something different. That is the difference the world can see.

Stay blessed…john