OT: Deut. 7:1-8:20
"One thing God has spoken,
two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong,
and that you, O Lord, are loving." Psalm 62: 11-12a
Okay, that was random. But that verse kept popping into my head today as I read our OT passage. Specifically, I was pondering the relationship between strength and love. In the case of the Israelites today, they could not be loving because they were not strong. In this passage, Moses didn't say that they were to destroy the inhabitants of the promised land because those inhabitants deserved it. No, Moses makes clear three times in today's reading that if the Israelites do not destroy the inhabitants, those inhabitants "will be a snare to you" (7:16--see also 7:3-4 and 7:25). It stands to reason that if the Israelites had been strong enough to influence the inhabitants, and not vice versa, then perhaps they would have been permitted to live. But they were not strong enough. So they could not show them mercy or pity (7:2, 16).
I'm going to break away to the NT now, and that's not because I don't have any more to say about this. It's just because the NT ties in so well...
NT: Luke 7:36-8:3
Unlike the Israelites, Jesus was strong enough to coexist, to hang out even, with "sinners." He spent quality time with drunkards and prostitutes...and was without sin. Now, that is some strength! In fact, in today's reading, a prostitute (I guess) comes right up to Him and literally covers him (his feet) with kisses and rubs her hair against them, and He is totally fine with that. As a woman, I honestly cannot imagine doing something so passionate to a man that involved physical touch. There have even been times where I wish it was okay to be more affectionate, but it just seems that no one (including myself) is strong enough for that kind of affection.
But Jesus was. The Israelites had to put up barriers (in a big way); Jesus didn't. We have to put up barriers; Jesus didn't.
But it makes me ponder the relationship between strength and love in my own life. There are some things that I am strong enough for (right now). There are some relationships that I can handle, in which I can be the influencing factor and not the other person. But today's reading makes me consider what I am not strong enough for. When I am around negative people, do I get caught up in negativity? When I am around worldly people, do I get caught up in worldliness? When I'm around impatient people, do I start acting impatient, too?
In so many ways, I am a weak person. And yet, I can't exactly kill people who cause me to stumble, can I?:) And I don't even know if, as a disciple of Christ, that I am supposed to avoid those people. I mean, if things get to be a real problem, then there is always a time to cut people off, simply because I am too weak to handle the relationship. But more often, I think I need to cultivate my relationship with God and to seek His Spirit, so that I can be strong enough to be truly loving to those who need it.
I don't know if that made sense to anyone else. It was a little abstract even to me, but that's just where my thoughts went today.
Psalm 69: 1-18
Reading David, I am reminded again how blessed I am by love. I have always had at least two people who loved me deeply and unconditionally. And so often, I have had even more! And on the flip side, I have very rarely been mocked and scorned, and then for only brief periods of time (say, Jr. High). I remember in college, a mentor in the faith inexplicably "turned" on me, and for the first time, I experienced what it was like to have someone consider me an enemy. And let me tell you, it was a horrible feeling. I have always lived in a little bubble of love. Even if people didn't like me, I guess they kept it to themselves. And never would their negative feelings approach an animosity that I could regularly feel.
What I learned from that brief experience with someone who truly and vocally did not like me was that it is awful to have enemies, especially when you did nothing wrong. It totally does a number on your self-confidence and, no matter how unfounded it is, it makes you question yourself in big ways. It is also really humbling.
And David seemed to experience that all the time, and in ways that far surpassed my experience. I simply cannot imagine what that had to be like. I do know that God probably used the experience to humble David and to draw David to Him. As Moses said in our Deuteronomy passage, God sends hardship to discipline us (8:3-5).
Oh, and in case you were breathlessly following my life story here (ha!), the person randomly and completely apologized years later after I had moved away. So...we're cool now, I guess:).
Only quoting this verse can do justice to the "smack!" it gives you:
"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid."
Wait, I love knowledge...but discipline and correction? Not so much. Well then, I guess that makes me...*smack!*