When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."
I arrive at Wednesday morning Bible study to find Pastor Emily sitting by herself. I'm surprised no one else has shown up yet, but delighted for some one-on-one chat time.
As we talk about last Sunday's church service and share recent events in our lives, our conversation takes a more personal turn.
"I just loved your post about our Bible study group, Martha," Emily beams at me. "What a great read that was!"
"Thanks so much! I really hoped you'd enjoy it. And, thanks to you, I learned how to post blogs ahead of time. That was a lifesaver during vacation."
"I'll bet. It sure was for me when I was on my mission trip this past summer."
"You know, Emily, writing these daily devotions has really opened my eyes to scriptures. And, I have to admit, to myself. Which is a good thing, examining my own heart, my own sins; just not always easy to do. I sometimes worry that the folks who read these think I have all the answers when I'm on the same journey they are. Seeking God, and trying to figure out His will for me along the way."
"But, that's what it's all about! When I'm preparing to preach, especially when I plan to talk about a particular sin, I take a long, hard look in the mirror. How can I possibly stand in front of the congregation, pointing out sins which my plague their lives, if I haven't made an honest assessment of my own shortcomings, my own failings? And, no, it's not easy, not at all."
"I have to confess; my most difficult obstacle in following Christ is loving my enemies."
"Oh, Martha, that is one of the hardest! Possibly, the most challenging of all. But, it is certainly one you and I agree we must try with all our might, and God's help, to do."
"And, forgive them."
"Seventy-times seven. Again, no piece of cake."
"And, just when I think I'm there, here come the thoughts, the memories . . ."
"As they do for all of us. It's in the repeated act of forgiveness, the conscious act of love, no matter how many times we have to do so, when peace finally comes. And, it will come. It will. We need to continue to pray."
"Pray without ceasing?"
"My favorite! 1 Thessalonians 5:17."
"Now, there's a daily devotion for another time, for sure."
"A work in progress!"
Are you throwing stones at your enemies, or are you loving them, forgiving them?
Will you pray with me?
Help us, Father, to take that long, hard look at our own hearts before we judge the hearts of others. Give us the grace to love and pray for our enemies. Thank you for Your forgiveness when we try the seventy times seven, and still fail. Grant us strength to try for seventy times eight. Amen.
Psalms 38 or 119:25-48
2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
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