[tweet_dis]“Am I, at times, the Devil’s accomplice?” My immediate, defensive answer is, “Of course not!” But then I start thinking:[/tweet_dis]
Do I steal a person’s reputation by what I say? Do I rob worth and freedom from those around me by my forcefulness? Do I render an “honest day’s work and pay” to my co-laborers? Do I take the glory that belongs to God by boasting?
Jesus contrasted himself, the giver of life, with thieves whose only purpose is to steal (John 10:10). And, he mentioned that all that came before him were in some way or another thieves. Further, God, because he knew what would bring life to both ourselves and our communities, warned us in the 8th Commandment, “Do not Steal.” As one of Jesus’ commissioned followers, I’ve been sent into the world, as part of his team that’s redeeming what the thief has stolen!
[tweet_dis]With honesty and embarrassment I’ve repented: “I am that thief.[/tweet_dis] However, with greater joy and thankfulness I’ve also declared: “I am my Father’s child and at his table there is forgiveness, healing … and deliverance. For from death he brings life, from nothing he makes something.” When both of these confessions are viewed together, we admit with M. Luther that we can be both: sinner and saint – a sinner in need of forgiveness, a saint thankful for promised impartation and direction.
The Ten Commandment’s preamble “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Deut 5:6), places the teaching of grace as the foundational part of walking in life and love, much like Paul’s pattern of making a statement about grace from which he then launched ethical imperatives about “how should we then live.” God’s grace and mercy always proceeds obedience! He doesn’t ask us to do what we cannot do. That is, the choice and pathway to walk forward into new life has been cleared by God; [tweet_dis]we can rise to walk in newness of life, because Christ has preceded us![/tweet_dis]
Like M. Luther, I’ve found it profitable to regularly meditate on and pray through the Ten Commandments, seasonally making them a part of my morning devotional time. Here’s my prayer, based on the Eighth Commandment, as I too transition from being that sinner, who steals, to that saint, who is part of God’s team of redemption that’s taking back what the thief has stolen. On that Day, this process will be over; but, until then, I’ll be praying something like this:
LORD, [tweet_dis]may I not be counted among those who preach against stealing yet steal.[/tweet_dis] May I not rob from you what is rightfully yours: glory and honor or all that you’ve called me to be and do, whether by means of my specific vocation or general duty to love my neighbor.
I hear you, LORD: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the debt to love one another.” May I never deprive from someone what you have called me to give them: love to my family and neighbor, the message of deliverance to those in need, prayers for the needy, clothing to the naked, honor to whom honor is due, taxes to whom taxes are due … and an “honest day’s work and pay” to my co-laborers.[tweet_box design=”default”]Convict me of slander that steals a reputation but also forcefulness over others that raids worth and freedom.[/tweet_box]
Thanks, God, for the forgiveness, healing, restoration … and victory we have through Jesus. Jesus your mercy knows no limits: who else, while in great agony, would pardon “the thief on the cross”? And that, per the united testimony of the synoptic gospels, after he had initially railed upon you but later came to his senses. Truly, you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. What or “who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” I honor you, Lord Jesus, as Christ the Victor, taking back what the thief has stolen and helping me enter deeper into new creation life. Creator, shine light, new creation life, into darkness; may the light of your Good News – “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” – release people whom Satan has stolen from you. You alone are faithful and loving and good. Be my Counselor, today: what area in my life are you taking back from the thief? What about in the lives of those I know? Send me out this day to join with you in redeeming what the thief has stolen!
LORD, regarding possessions – mine, my neighbors, or the businesses of our community – thank you for a country where your directive to not steal, for the most part, is still honored; and when it isn’t respected, it’s enforced by your public servants. Strengthen, protect, and prosper these men and women who join you in enforcing this Eighth Commandment. I praise you for your ways, which bring to us safety and stability.
May I be a good steward of the property you’ve put in my care and generously offer thanks to you, for your provision and protection. With these things may I give and lend freely, as directed by you, so that those “who see” may praise you. Help me to encourage my neighbor to do likewise. Keep before me your words to your disciples: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”
LORD, you are my provider and my protector, my sustainer and healer. “‘Who has ever given to God, that he should repay him?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
(Deut 5:19; Job 4:11; Matt 16:26; 17:44; 19:16-20:30; Mark 15:32; Luke 23:39-43; John 10:10; 16:5-11; Rom 2:21; 8:18-39; 11:34-36; 13:6-8; 2 Cor 4:1-6; 8:1-9:15; Gal 1:14-15; 1 John 3:7-10)
Dean Kalmukos says
I was remembering our days at the Academy. We were both tutoring classmates, me in physics and you in differential equations. You were always amazed that those you tutored could not understand what you were telling them. I remember it frustrated you as well as them. I read your present reflections and see my friend is now a teacher of grace and mercy – teaching with grace and mercy -wow! How the Lord has worked in both our lives.
Peter Dubbelman says
Wow, what a great memory you have, my friend! Let’s grab a cup of coffee this week at Common Grounds in Apex, NC. Can you make it? I’m going to need you close by my side as we both progress through the years.
The LORD is indeed good, gracious … and kind. I’m slowly, all too slowly, growing up in such things. Helping in this effort, of course, is God but also being a grandpa … and the ability to look over the years and see how many times I’ve need grace and mercy. You, your wide smile … and genuine faith will always remain a precious part of those memories. My mom even remembers you staying in her house. God is good!