We soon discovered that red soil stains clothing in a way that normal washing just fails to remove. Perhaps it was also the hard mineralised water. Certainly, after a holiday break elsewhere, the white came home somewhat whiter.
One day I saw a mother and daughter in the local supermarket. The daughter, possibly five years old, was wearing a beautiful white dress. The inevitable happened and she was down on the floor. At this, the mother said, "Donít be naughty! Youíll get your dress dirty! God wonít love you if youíre naughty!"
I didnít know the whole situation, of course. Perhaps - against her motherís wishes - the little girl had insisted on wearing this new dress. On reflection, the mother surely wished she had over-ruled this very impractical wish. But - bring God into this?
The Bible - Old Testament as well as New - says in many places that God is a forgiving God. In Romans 5.8, Paul writes, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Sin is serious and has disastrous consequences. God is Lord and Judge. But he wants to forgive and receive us back. Surely we shouldnít be painting this wholly negative view of God!
Psalm 107 emphasises that the Lord "is good; his love endures forever" (v. 1). The psalmist calls on a number of groups who have been "redeemed" - rescued in a variety of ways - to "give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love."
Todayís selection (vv. 17-22) says, "Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death" (vv. 17-18).
No indication is given as to what their "rebellious ways" may have been. Perhaps they had neglected some of the food laws which protected the Jewish people from a number of diseases. Or they may have engaged in sexual promiscuity or homosexual acts - all forbidden and all having the potential of spreading sexually transmitted diseases.
Sin may not have such immediate consequences in this life. Some sins do. On the other side, it is important not to attribute all sickness to sin. Seeing a man born blind, the disciples asked Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus replied, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life" (Jn 9.2-3).
Whatever the "rebellious ways" referred to here, these people "cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave" (vv. 19-20).
They knew they needed help. Their cry to the Lord was more than a "Someone, please help me!" It was a real and conscious turning to God that would change the rest of their life.
All who cry to the Lord are heard, but not all receive physical healing in this life. The criminal on the cross next to Jesus asked to be "remembered." He died on that cross - but with the promise of being with Jesus "in paradise" (Lk. 23.42-43).
From time to time we hear about psychosomatic illness. It isnít, as some suppose, "all in the mind." It is real physical illness triggered by a whole range of factors in the human psyche. Anger, envy, fear, unresolved guilt... all contribute to our dis-ease and poison us to differing degrees physically and emotionally.
God offers us forgiveness and release - and healing. Letís not carry our load, but "cry to the Lord" in our trouble.
|Prayer: Dear Lord, what loads we carry! How they affect us! We cry to you. Forgive us, cleanse and renew us! We know that Christ died for our sins and carried our burdens. Help us to leave our burdens with you and walk free. Enable us, having received your blessing ourselves, to be a blessing to others. In Jesusí name Amen.|
How we poison
our physical well-being!
How we pollute
Yet one came,
for our transgressions,
for our iniquities,
to bring us peace -
by his wounds
we are healed.
Then why carry
he has carried?
Bring it to him,
lay it at his feet,
and go free!
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