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Dear COA Family,

As we intentionally focus on meditating on God’s words in this season of Lent, what are we to make of some of the sayings in the Bible which are difficult and even bordering on unkindness?

Here are two examples of such verses (which are not quoted out of context):

1. The Apostle Paul: “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves” Galatians 5:12.

2. The Psalmist: “O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock” Psalm 137:8-9.

In the first instance, the apostle Paul was strongly wishing that those who taught circumcision as the way to righteousness with God should go ahead and castrate themselves, thus carrying the act to its fullest.

In the second instance, the psalmist was strongly wishing for retribution on Israel’s enemies, to the point of wishing bodily harm on their innocent young.

What are we to make of such statements?

First, we need to recognise that strong feelings exist even in the Christian faith. We are all human beings and are not exempt from human emotions. The capacity to feel is granted to us by God and it should not be buried but be healthily acknowledged.

Second, the desire for rightness and God’s will to come to pass should be as strong in us as it was in the writers’ hearts. Both Paul and the Psalmist were reacting to what they deemed as wrong teachings or unjust actions, which were not according to God’s will. They were so strongly jealous for God’s glory that they were unable to remain unmoved.

Admittedly, what they expressed may not be acceptable in our modern society’s preoccupation with non-offensive speech and behaviour. This emphasis is, in many ways, a virtue. This is because a healthy respect and appreciation for others lies at the heart of our careful choice of words.

Yet, somehow, I pray that we would be able to more passionate for God’s kingdom and glory in our lives, just like the apostle and the Psalmist. Their passion for God and his people is unmistakable. For if we don’t feel at all about something, if we are totally apathetic to what is taking place, then it means we really don’t care about that thing at all. It doesn’t matter to us whatever others do or whichever way they go. We are simply blasé and unaffected and go on living our lives as usual.

Beloved, it would be such a tragedy for us if we view our Christian faith in this way. Christ’s gospel is something so precious and worthy to be pursued with all of our time, energy and resources. It has the greatest benefits possible to the largest number of people. How can we stay apathetic about our Lord and his gospel? We should be willing to risk everything and devote our lives fully and passionately to his call.

We can and should grow in feeling more for God!

Revd Ian