It is 1989. Ted “Theodore” Logan and Bill S. Preston have some pressure. They are in school and must pass history class. But they are the epitome of slackers without a clue. In comes Rufus played by George Carlin. The plot is not really that important right now, but there was one really important scene toward the end that never left me. The boys found themselves faced with a future world where world peace had been achieved through the power of music and they discovered that there is one defining statement they make to their future selves: Be excellent to each other.
This notion is not new nor is it novel. But it is increasingly rare. Many of us spend a great deal of time finding ways to serve ourselves. Not because we set out to, but because we simply think of self before others. It could be because that is how we were trained when young and that is reinforced as we age. But Paul says very clearly to the church of Ephesus that we are to be excellent to each other. In fact he writes to be kind toward one another, which to me is no different. But what is kindness? Someone once said that kindness is the byproduct of Gods love. One cannot be loving without expressing kindness.
I believe that Paul is asking us to let go of the very thing that felled pharaoh; a hardened heart. But there’s more. Paul also says to forgive one another. Forgiveness is necessary for us to move forward after some great pain has occurred in our life. It’s purpose is to allow us to be freed from the past.
Why do all of this? Because we have a requirement as Christians to respond to the love of Jesus with love. It is a natural thing to respond with love when we are shown love. Likewise the expression of kindness is nothing short of being excellent to one another.
Our father, which art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Forever. And ever. Amen.
For all my life I’ve never looked at this model prayer and considered the importance of discerning and comparing it to James 1 and psalms 23:4.
I know of no one who wants to actually walk into evil. I know of no one who actually desires to be led into the tempters snare. But the fact is God never promised to guide evil away from our path or that by entering into relationship with God would be a “get out of jail free card” from bad things happening. In fact it’s been written that trouble will come, but joy cometh in the morning. But to get to that morning, you must first get through the night. James 1 is teaching me that I should not be bitter and callous towards God when I am tempted. In fact I should rejoice. But how is that possible?
Think of of it like this:
God knows his child and what we can handle with his help. There is no temptation that is greater than us so long as we know that greater is he that is within us. We must be open to the fact that when we are tempted by strange fruit we can be confident in knowing that we won’t fly over it unscathed, or be wended around it unaffected. But instead we will know the love and power of God as he hardens us into hammered iron by his presence as we pass through it. We are to know that when dark nights come, and temptations come to steer us into troubled times, God will be with us. He hasn’t abandoned us or left us to our own devices. He is with us and by going through it with him we will learn his presence and his peace and patience.
In these troubled times, I know I could stand to learn a little more patience. So God, I ask you today to allow temptation to come my way. In that temptation I will count it joy for I know you are not the God of temptation but will be with me as I pass through it. In Jesus name. Amen.