We, those of us who minister to God and on behalf of others at the Throne of Grace, have only the Word of the Lord. And our faith and compassion. It is enough.
(From Marketplace Monastics, January 19, 2017)
We said last time that there are those who can loose burdens with the stroke of a pen, as when a prison sentence is commuted, or heavy taxes made light and payable.
There are those who can run to the battle, a street fight, a hostage situation, a violent campus uprising, who have public authority to protect and defend life and liberty.
Sometimes I smile a wry little smile to myself and think, it’s too bad we don’t have to pin on a badge in the morning. If we had to go to a desk and sign off to receive our service weapons, we would know what we do and why we do it.
But us … we are housewives, businessmen and women, retirees, artists, fathers, mothers, students who love the Lord God and love people. We do not ask to be seen or known, we don’t ask for an engraved sign on the door, name and title, check spelling.
Yet, it is essential that, having no corner office, wearing no shoulder holster, with no badge or even a stick-on name tag to identify us wherever we go, whatever we are doing, it is essential that we conduct ourselves and our office as if we were out and about with an entourage, as if wherever we go we might be called into action.
Have you not run to the battle when in line at the grocery store and a young mother or father begins to berate a child with that tone of voice that reveals how frustrated and intimidating they have become as a woman, a man, a mother, a father, a person. We can hear it, and it goes off in us like a cry for help. The child, too, whether in tears with that sound of hopelessness and fear that cuts through us, or wheedling for the lollipop refused five times until crying and begging carries the day (“Danger, danger, Will Robinson!”) … we are on point, and I might be standing two customers behind you, both of us on the clock. We will likely never see them again. We have that one opportunity. It is possible that nobody else has been or will be praying for that little family, but one day it will be me and another day, you, and things will change for them; the prayer of faith changes things.
But we have to know. By the Word of the Lord, we have to know what that level of anger, that degree of fear, of resignation, of revolt against the goodness of God, of parental abdication, of childhood manipulation will produce in families. We have to know, and we have to care. The minute we write them off as fools, as their behavior is foolish, unbelievers, unimportant, we have become just that ourselves. God always starts with unbelievers, all foolish, but all important to Him. Really, the minute we think we only came out for cream cheese and laundry detergent, we forget who we are. We operate inside our vocation, 24/7, because we know. We know so much.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.
Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools.
All of this just toward one minor grocery store occurrence, but such opportunities to pray crop up everywhere, along with the others that loom large in our churches, our families, our nation.
It’s what we believe that matters, about the world around us and our part in it. Two little verses above, of many, but if we take them to heart, if we believe the harm that is being perpetuated, father and son, mother and babes, if we were able to care deeply the way a Secret Service agent cares professionally about one angry, scowling person, glancing around furtively in a crowd at a political rally, with a bulging coat pocket and a hand that keeps slipping inside, we would pray quietly on the spot, we would go home and pray on our knees. On occasion, under orders, we might advance, we might offer to hold the crying baby while the mother lifts the roaming toddler into the buggy.
The Secret Service agent might be wrong. It might be a man who just had a bad encounter with his boss and is looking for a park bench where he can eat the sandwich he picked up on his way out. We are never wrong when we care deeply and appear before the Lord on behalf of others, without malice or condemnation.
These incidents are minute in the grand scheme of things, but not to those at risk. We pray at home for governments, for the Body of Christ, for nations in peril, for masses of people oppressed, endangered, and for their oppressors. We pray for those who have never known us, who never will know us this side of heaven. We pray for those who do, but who can have no idea how deep is our love for them, how far-reaching our watch-care over their souls.
Did you hear it? Have you ever heard it? That little insinuation, “Who do you think you are, to judge how to care for the soul of another? People don’t need you to pray change into their lives. They like themselves and their lives as they are. They have a free will. Back off. You’re meddling and who do you really think you are??”
That is the question we are here to answer this morning. I think we are ministers of righteousness in hidden places, warriors given to unlock prison doors and let the oppressed go free. Men and women who know that when the will of another is caged and tormented, it is never free.
Mongol Riders With Prisoners,
artist unknown, public domain, Wikipedia