Category Archives: Religious Issues

What’s the Relationship Between Forgiveness and Repentance?

Forgiveness and Justice: A Christian Approach was written as a tool to help victimized people work through the pain of their injury, specifically as they confront the issue of whether or not to forgive their offender, and if so—when, and on what basis. If you’ve sustained an injury in the past that is still causing emotional trauma for you today, or if you have an old injury that has never healed but you’ve dealt with by consciously refusing to ever think about it again, then this book might be helpful.

That being said, Dr. Maier’s book reads like a doctoral dissertation, so it’s primarily an academic exercise in trying to understand the nature of forgiveness and the interplay between forgiveness and justice…aimed more at the head than the heart and clearly written to provide insight for Christian clergy and health-care professionals as they minister to the spiritual and emotional needs of victims.

Maier begins by refining the definition of “forgiveness,” pointing out that “the overarching meaning of forgiveness is manifesting and sharing redemptive grace.” However, he feels that the basic concept of forgiveness as “letting go of the need for vengeance and releasing negative thoughts of bitterness and resentment,” or “giving up one’s right to hurt back” may be too simplistic, because many people have trouble actually forgiving by that definition.

After exploring the definition, boundaries, and contours of forgiveness, Maier argues that our pattern for forgiveness should be modeled after God’s manner of forgiving us, which includes: “A readiness to forgive, an other-centerd focus, a foundation in the gospel, and a requirement of repentance.”

Although I believe that Maier’s observations on how God forgives us are sound, I do not believe the Bible teaches that we are to forgive others using the way in which God forgives us as a model. In fact, I don’t think it’s even a possibility! Jesus taught us to pray, “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4). Do you sense the difference? Jesus teaches us to forgive on the basis of our having been forgiven, but this is not true of God. God has never sinned. God has no need of being forgiven. God does not appeal to any higher authority, because He is the highest authority in the universe! God does not offer forgiveness based on his willingness to forgive those who’ve offended him, although this is exactly the model he sets up for us when Jesus teaches us to pray.

God, as the divine judge, is required to demand justice. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God is incomprehensibly merciful and ready to forgive. God has an other-centered focus in forgiveness because He is perfect in love and needs no healing or help for himself. God is only able to offer forgiveness and remain just based on Christ’s death as the complete payment for our sin: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). And finally (Maier’s fourth point), God does require repentance for salvation: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

God, as divine judge, forgives us based on our repentance, but he does not tell us that we are divine judges who must base our forgiveness on repentance. Rather, the Bible teaches, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). This places the weight of forgiveness squarely on our shoulders and gives no indication that we cannot—or  even need not—forgive if our offender has not repented.

Instead, he urges us to remember that He is the judge, and he will hold each man accountable for his sin: “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth” (Romans 14:4). Paraphrased, I believe this verse means, “Who are you (me…any of us) to judge someone else, because each person is ultimately God’s servant, not ours. God is omniscient. He knows all the facts. He alone can judge with perfect insight and wisdom.

Does that mean that we should forget about justice? No. We have every right to seek for justice, love justice, and applaud justice. We are required by God “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8). However, we are not to take justice into our own hands (unless we are the appropriate, responsible authority, such as in our homes and work places). God and government are ordained as the conduits for prescribing punishment for unjust behavior, and when we are mistreated, we can fight for justice (as portrayed by Esther), but we’re not supposed to take personal revenge on others: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Like Abraham, we need to trust, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).

In my experience, offenders have very little insight into what they’ve done wrong, and if they do repent, it usually seems shallow and inadequate. If that hasn’t been your experience, you’re very blessed! However, I’m acutely aware that this is without a doubt also true of my repentance. I have very little insight into how sinful my attitudes and conduct often are, and when I realize that I’ve been wrong, I’m sure I don’t fully realize the negative impact I’ve had on others.

Therefore, it’s easy for me to feel compassion for others when they offend me, and I often find consolation in verses like: “The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy” (Proverbs 14:10).

Well, the book has many helpful ideas and definitely made me search the scriptures to refine my own thinking, but in the final analysis, I believe God does require us to forgive: “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses) Mark 11:25-26. In fact, I believe God calls us to a life of forgiving: “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22).

Although reconciliation definitely requires repentance on the part of the offender: “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” (Matthew 18:15), I truly believe that forgiveness is based on, “freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8), and God is extremely hard on those who are unwilling to forgive: “And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matthew 18:34-35).

If you find that you have no desire to forgive someone in your life who has injured you, I beg you to pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the grace to forgive and heal your soul, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15). An unwillingness to forgive will keep us from experiencing the freedom that comes from releasing all our pain and sorrows to God, who alone is able to redeem, restore, and reconcile our hearts and our relationships. We don’t have to wait for our offenders to repent! If we’re believers, we can forgive based on the fact that Christ has forgiven us. Let’s leave divine justice in his capable hands. This will free us to heal, and who knows? The day may even come when we can be like the good shepherd in Luke 15, who went out seeking for a lost sheep!

Stratford Scenes and Asian Harvest Adages

Stratford, Ontario, on the Avon River, is a quaint and charming city that hosts the Stratford Festival every May-October. It’s the county seat for Perth County, has a population of just over 31,000,  and is reputed as being one of Canada’s best places to live (and retire).  While there, we always enjoy our strolls along the Avon River,  their beautiful Shakespeare Gardens, and the quiet ambience (and restaurants). Today, I’d like to combine some of my favorite photos from our holiday  with a few adages gleaned from An Asian Harvest I hope you’ll take time to ponder!

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”
~Abraham Lincoln“If God calls you to be a missionary, don’t stoop to be a king.” ~Jordan Grooms  “The greatest missionary is the Bible in the Mother tongue. It never needs a furlough and is never considered a foreigner.” ~Cameron Townsend

“The greatest ability you will ever have is your availability” ~Paul Hattaway, quoting some of the best advice he ever received, from an old man in his church named Bruce.   “The principal danger of the 20th century will be: a religion without the Holy Spirit, Christians without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God and a heaven without a hell.” ~William Booth, 1899  Quotes by  “Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be strong men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle.” ~Phillips Brooks  “If you give God the right to yourself, He will make a holy experiment out of you. God’s experiments always succeed.” ~Oswald Chambers   “It is an extraordinary power from God, not talent, that wins the day. It is extraordinary spiritual unction, not mental power, that we need. Mental power may gather a large congregation, but only spiritual power will save souls.” ~Charles Spurgeon “It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed.” ~Charles Spurgeon  “Jesus has many who love His kingdom in heaven, but few who bear His cross. He has many who desire comfort, but few who desire suffering. He finds many to share His feast, but few His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him, but few are willing to suffer for His sake…Those who love Jesus for His own sake, and not for the sake of comfort for themselves, bless Him in every trial and anguish of heart, no less than in the greatest joy. And were He never willing to bestow comfort on them, they would still always praise Him and give Him thanks. ~Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471)   “No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.” ~Oswald J. Smith  “The Lord rarely provided my needs early, but He was never late.”~Paul Hattaway   “What matters most to God is my obedience.” ~Paul Hattaway  “If left to flourish, small character flaws grow into large defects which can bring about a Christian’s demise.” ~Paul Hattaway   “I believe the Lord would rather His children attempt things for Him and fail than to never take a risk for His kingdom.” ~Paul Hattaway   “John Stott once warned of the dangers of Christian tadpoles in the Church. Tadpoles, he explained, have huge heads but little else.”   “Many preachers say, ‘Before someone can die for Jesus, they must first be willing to live for Him.’ That sounds logical, but I have discovered the opposite is equally true. Before we are able to live for Jesus, we must first be willing to die for Him.” ~Paul Hattaway   “As I gradually learned the principle that in the kingdom of God, human weakness equals strength and human strength equals weakness, our work became more effective.” ~Paul Hattaway                      “No broken life is beyond repair with Jesus.” ~Paul Hattaway  Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

What’s the Cost for An Asian Harvest?

Ready to be blessed and challenged…to have your heart broken but also filled with joy? If your heart bursts with the love of God and you have a passion to share his love with others so that they, too, might experience salvation by faith in Christ, you’ll love this book. Through Paul’s ministry, millions have received Bibles over the past twenty-five years.  Although his story is monumental compared to the quiet, quite insignificant path of my life, I really resonate with his love for Jesus and his desire to share God’s good news, and I’m hoping you will too!

Paul wasn’t just your average kid. He suffered from a loveless home life and was such an underachiever that one of his high school teachers told him his life was “a waste of oxygen.” From his days as a high school dropout in New Zealand and living as a homeless kid hiding out on the top of a public toilet in Australia (in an effort to keep warm and evade vagrancy charges), through his conversion and life of walking by faith, Paul tells his amazing story of grace with humility, candor, humor, and passion.

Some of the low lights include his first job scrubbing toilets, his first “apartment” (chicken coop) with a stench so awful that some of his friends refused to visit, the night he almost died from altitude sickness in the mountains of Nepal, green flies for lunch in Indonesia (and the discovery that mangy dogs served as the family dishwashers by licking the bowls clean), the years of harassment from his exposing a pedophile posing as a minister, and a sudden stroke that left him with only half a brain. Some of the highlights include his challenging romance with the love of his life, all the miraculous ways that God provided for him through the years (despite specific instructions from God that he never ask anyone but God for money), and the great joy of working in his Father’s vineyard so that others may come to know the love of God.

Was it worth the cost? Paul says, “I have been the beneficiary of a completely lopsided exchange. I handed Jesus my futile existence, and in return He gave me a life of purpose and fulfillment…If all the pain and struggles we endured were necessary to open the doors to fruitful service for Jesus, then it was all worthwhile, and those experiences have proven inconsequential compared to the overall plan of God in my life.”

I will very gladly spend and be spent for you” (2 Corinthians 12:15).

I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields;
for they are white already to harvest
” (John 4:35).

 

 

 

Timely Thoughts from Charles Spurgeon’s on Hurricane Irma

For today— September 7—I read this encouragement in Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional, Morning and Evening: “The Cruel Sea: We have no idea what sorrow may be on the sea this evening. Far away, a hurricane may be seeking the lives of sailors…” Spurgeon died over 120 years ago, but his words still ring true today!  Hurricane Irma is a deadly Category 5 tropical storm that’s furiously pounding it’s way toward Florida with an eye larger than Detroit and a mass that would more than engulf  the entire state of Michigan (where I live). Yesterday, the United Nations Secretary General spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, reported that “Across the western Caribbean, up to 37 million people could be affected by Irma,” and Meteorologist Phil Klotzback observed: “Forecasters say Irma is the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic, outside the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean. It has also set a new all-time high for the amount of wind energy ever recorded over a 24-hour period.” (Speeds of over 188 mph were recorded.) At least ten people have died so far. In St Martin and St Barts there’s no drinking water or electricity, homes are destroyed and public buildings are unusable. Hurricane Irma passed directly over Barbuda, destroying their communication and making it impossible to determine the condition of the 1700 people living there.  With Guyana and Texas still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey just days ago (causing over 140 deaths in the Western Hemisphere and an estimated $188 billion in damages to the greater Houston metro area alone), the U.S. is hardly prepared to face another huge disaster.  However, unless Irma makes an unexpected turn, it’s possible that she could sweep right up the heart of Florida, affecting multiple millions from Miami through Orlando and even up to Charleston and Charlotte in the Carolinas. My sister, who lives in Orlando, is closing her hurricane shutters and buying up drinking water and food…along with everyone else who’s not heading north. We wondered if she should join the exodus along with the hundreds of thousands who’ve been told to evacuate Miami and Dade counties, but gas stations are out of gas and roads are clogged, so she’s decided to stay put and pray for “the best,” whatever that may be. Storms sometimes seem to develop out of nowhere. Irma started brewing up just this past week. In considering the probable disaster that this storm may bring, I think it’s a good time for all of us to be thinking about our own lives. What can we can to be prepared for the storms of life? There are a few safety measures we can take to prepare for physical dangers, but there are also some really important spiritual preparations we can make. Do you know the God who rules the storms? Have you made peace with Him? Are you trusting Him with your life, not only now but for eternity? If so, you will find comfort in this:Spurgeon concluded his devotional for today with these words, “There is a land where there is no more sea (Revelations 21:1), and our faces are steadfastly set toward it. We are going to the place the Lord told us about. Until then, we cast our sorrows on the Lord who walked the sea of old. Our Lord makes a way for His people through the depths of the sea.”

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock (Matthew 7:24-25).  Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me. Hear me, O Lord; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies. And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily.” (Psalm 69:1-2; 15-17).

(Information gathered from the Detroit Free Press, Miami HeraldAssociated Press, Charlotte Observer, ABC News, CNN, Wikipedia, and other online sources.)

 

Contrasting America and Africa: What Are You Looking For In A School?

A few days ago, I had the privilege of escorting a pair of darling twins home from their first day of school at a lovely, modern facility. I was there early, waiting a little anxiously with all the other parents who were wondering how their cherubs had done. Joshua came bursting out the exit door first, showed me his new lunchbox with its cool, flashing lights, and immediately asked if he could join in with the other children on the playground. Grace took forever. In fact, I had to ask several times where she might be, and eventually a teacher went back inside to find her. She’d gotten lost and wasn’t sure where to go. However, she seemed perfectly unworried and untraumatized (although I was a bit of both), and all the way home (which took close to 45 minutes through construction and rush hour traffic), she kept up a bubbly conversation about her day, what she ate, who she met, what she did, and what she was planning for the next day. Joshua, on the other hand, fell asleep! Their first day appeared to be a success, at least from the outside.

Last fall, while in Africa,  we visited a school in Swaziland  and brought the children lots of food, toys, and school supplies.  It was in a poor, rural village with a dirt yard  enclosed by barbed wire  and a big room with a concrete floor, which served all the children.  This was not a mission school,  so I was happy for the opportunity to share with the children  but had no particular expectations for what the children would be like  or what they would be learning.  After they excitedly helped unload the bus,  they played with us,  and we enjoyed watching them play.  The teachers had the children form lines,  and we helped pass out the supplies,  which made the children (and us) very happy.  And then, something unexpected happened!  The teachers had prepared the children to give
a little “thank you” performance for us!  The kids sang songs with their teacher in their language,  but they also sang Christian songs, like” Jesus Loves Me,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Amazing Grace” (in English),

and then one of the little girls did a wonderful job of telling the story of Jonah with a clear gospel message. She did such a great job it made me teary-eyed, and I marveled that at this little school deep in the heart of Africa, the gospel was going out to the world who were coming to them!  Isn’t that beautiful?Here in America, we take the knowledge of the gospel for granted, and in the public schools, teaching about God is actually suppressed. How sad! Instead of “freedom of religion” (no state-selected religion so that children of all faiths can practice their religion without being oppressed) it’s become “freedom from religion” (no religion allowed at all). Millions are going to schools where they do not learn about God. As you send your little ones off to school, I hope they will be learning about God and how to share His love with those around them!  In some ways, America may be darker than Africa at this point! If your children are not learning about Christ at school, I hope they’re learning about Him at home, and that you’re teaching them how to share his love with others at school.  As my spiritual big brother used to say, “Wherever you go, you’re either a missionary or a mission field.” What about you and your children? Are you preparing them to be missionaries in the dark and needy nations…everywhere “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).

(The first photo is not of “Joshua” from my story, but it’s the son of a dear friend, whose son is also just starting school. I know this little boy will be well taught at home, no matter where he goes to school! Thanks, Amy. 🙂  )

Recapping The Unreformed Martin Luther

Written by an analytical German with the head of a theologian and the wit of a radio journalist, Andreas Malessa’s The Unreformed Martin Luther delves into the myths and materialities of one of the world’s most monumental men: Martin Luther. Malessa cleverly wrote this book in part to celebrate the 500th anniversary of this “Man of the Second Millennium” who ended the Middle Ages by posting ninety-five theses on the palace church door in Wittenberg. Wait—that was a myth!  In not one of Martin’s 121 volumes of collected publications, letters, table talks, sermons, and songs does he ever mention nailing his theses on the door. The fact of the matter was, when a professor (such as Dr. Luther) wanted to engage in public debate, he submitted his paper to the dean of the university. From there, history reveals that Luther’s handiwork ended up on the desk of the pope, who was not pleased.Do you know much about the life of Martin Luther? If you want a fascinating look into sixteenth century culture and church, I highly recommend reading The Unreformed Luther. I found myself shocked (many times) and touched (at many—but other—times) with the life and times of this mountain of a man. For instance, when Martin’s sister died suddenly (likely from SIDS), Martin’s mother believed it was the fault of a neighbor lady whom she had summarily beaten to death. What? How could that happen?? (Martin did write later: “There is nothing more powerful in the world as superstition, but before God it’s an abomination.”)I knew Luther opposed selling indulgences (and that is not a myth), but I had no clue how evil this practice actually was. We’re not talking about hoping for pardon from venial sins (like failing to feed the cat on time), but Markus Menner was absolved from perpetrated homicide! Tetzel himself was an adulterer who even trafficked indulgences for sins yet to be committed. No need to fear God’s judgment or look to him for mercy, for a (high) price, no sin was so egregious but that you could be assured the freedom to commit it without fear of retribution from God or man. This undermined the entire foundation of our faith and the gospel of salvation through Christ. I’m glad Luther had the guts to stand up against this ghastly blasphemy!However, Pope Leo X (who was in the midst of building St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome) and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, did not appreciate Luther’s objecting to their financial and moral management styles, and so the hunt began. Luther was “kidnapped” by friends, who hid him in Wartburg Castle, where he spent his time feverishly translating the New Testament into German. Was it the first German translation? No, Malessa points out that there were already seventy-two partial translations, but Luther’s was the first complete translation. Oh, and did he really throw an inkwell at the devil’s head? No. Another myth. (If you don’t believe me, read the book!)Why did Luther go to all the trouble to write a Bible in German? Because he disbelieved the myth that salvation can be earned through indulgences or even good deeds, and he believed that if the people could have a copy of the Bible in their own language, they could read the truth for themselves. Salvation is a free gift of God’s grace to be received by faith in Jesus Christ as our redeemer from sin. This is clearly taught in the Bible (which even the Roman Catholic Church has recognized since the turn of this century through the writings of Pope John Paul II).Did Luther really say, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise!”? What is recorded as his response to being asked to recant is this: “…I am overcome in my conscience by the passages of Scripture and trapped in the Word of God. Therefore, I cannot and will not recant because it is neither safe nor healthy to act against the conscience. God help me. Amen.”  Fact or fiction? “Katharina von Bora, the nun who became his wife, was spirited away from her convent inside a herring barrel.” Fiction, but the facts surrounding their marriage totally charmed me, and one of the delights for me in reading The Unreformed Martin Luther was in learning that he was a devoted husband and father…the kind who changed diapers and washed them out! If you like touching romances, you’ll find one in this book!  🙂 In the course of demythifying Martin’s life, Malessa addresses over two dozen commonly held (and cherished) traditions surrounding the life of Luther, everything from “Did he eat while he preached?” to “Was he a boozer and a warmonger?” If you want to know, get the book! In fact, if you enjoy history and want a deeper look into the man behind the Reformation, this is an excellent resource! Martin Luther died on February 18, 1546, and 427 years later to the day, Alan and I were married after I waltzed down the aisle with “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” as my bridal processional. As Martin Luther’s great hymn has always been a favorite of ours, I would like to end this review with the words of his most glorious anthem.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
(~Martin Luther, inspired by Psalm 46, sometime between 1527-1529)

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing.
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe.
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side,
The man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He.
Lord Sabaoth, his name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure.
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers
Not thanks to them, abideth.
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also.
The body they may kill,
God’s truth abideth still.
His kingdom is forever…

(All photos from Wikipedia, except the first, which is—of course—a photo of the book!)

Rise Up, My Love (249): Rescue

Song of Solomon 7:12 Perhaps you’ve heard about the man who dreamed he saw a beautiful grassy field full of flowers where men and women and children were all playing and laughing. It was a perfect summer day, full of sunshine and warmth. Some of the men were playing ball with their sons, and the women and their daughters were sitting in circles here and there on the grass making daisy chains to wear in their hair. It reminded the man of the wonderful fellowship that Christians enjoy together, and he felt a warm glow inside him.

But suddenly, it was as if he were lifted up into the air so that he could gain a greater perspective. He realized that not 200 feet away from the group, just over the top of a grassy knoll and down into a little valley, there was a deadly precipice, and that a huge number of filthy, wretched people, dressed in rags and blindfolded, were stumbling about, moving in the general direction of the cliff. Every second or two one of these poor souls would fall over the edge and let out a bloodcurdling scream, which made the other blind people freeze in their places for a few seconds.

However, the terrible crying seemed to have no perceptible effect on the happy families who were enjoying each other’s company just over the hill, even though sobbing could be clearly heard. Sometimes one of the blind people would stumble and fall and knock another blind person over the cliff, or, as they began to fall, they would clutch at someone nearby and drag that person over the edge too, all the while crying out for help.

Finally, there was an especially agonizing cry, and one teenager did respond. He was playing ball with his father and two friends, and it was his turn to bat, but he dropped his bat and went racing over the top of the grassy knoll to see what was going on. He was horrified at the amazing sight of the seemingly numberless throngs of people cascading over the edge of the cliff with a roar as loud as the thundering of Niagara Falls. He tried to stop the terrible tragedy, but the edge of the cliff was so vast, and the number of people was so great, that he couldn’t begin to rescue everyone alone.

In desperation he cried out to his friends to come and help him. His father and the two boys came to the top of the knoll and looked down, but they just stared with a sense of helpless disbelief and didn’t even try to come. “Help me!” cried the boy again. “No!” called one, “It’s hopeless. Why even try?” “No!” replied another. “It must be their own faults; leave them alone.” “Come back,” cried his father. “You’ll never succeed, and you’ll just get yourself killed trying to help.”

Do you feel the stab of pain that pierced that young man’s heart? Where is compassion? Where is love? Are we all so self-centered that we can’t be bothered to go into our Father’s vineyard and help to reap the harvest of lost and dying souls who are crying out in their blindness and fright? Isn’t it worth giving our lives to save some? Isn’t that what Jesus did? Isn’t our willingness to suffer for the sake of the gospel a measure of our love and devotion to Christ?

Ah, beloved, the wife was responding to the need. Let us be like the faithful wife and enjoin our heavenly Savior to “let us get up early to the vineyards.”

“…pain is quiet, and love.
And even childbirth pains
Are soundless in themselves
So came our Lord,
Amid the pain, the ache, the dirt, the hate,
To tell of love.
And as He lived in love, giving it,
Knew the pain as well.” —Ellen Weldon in Essays on Love