By Amy Barker
Monday, March 20
Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” 5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. Jeremiah 7:4-7
One of my kids recently had the flu. On day three, he had a fever of 104. On day four, his fever had broken and the boredom kicked in. He came into my office and slyly asked, “Why don’t we make a deal?” I raised an eyebrow and asked what he had in mind. He responded, “If I can run a mile in less than seven minutes, then it means I’m well and I can go play soccer.” When I rejected his proposal in favor of more rest and recovery, he proceeded to rephrase his offer in several different ways, in vain hope that I might somehow see it in a different light.
In today’s reading, Jeremiah points out that you can say “This is the temple of the Lord” as many times as you want. If your words aren’t backed up by your actions, those words won’t change the outcome. God is watching our actions, and He calls us to always honor His two greatest commandments: to love God and to love our neighbor. In case that’s not clear enough, this passage further defines what that means. Our neighbor is the foreigner. Our neighbor is the fatherless. Our neighbor is the widow. Our neighbor is the innocent.
I love my kids unconditionally. Nothing they say or do will ever change that. However, that doesn’t change the fact that if they choose to disregard my instruction, there will be consequences. Those consequences won’t change my love. They won’t change my intent to do what’s best for them. Those are unchanging.
Even more so, God’s love is unchanging. However, His unconditional love doesn’t preclude our responsibility to follow His will. It does not negate the need for us to love Him, first and foremost, above all else. And it does not neutralize our obligation to love and care for those around us.
Dear God, please center your will in my heart. Help me remember that your temple and your church are not limited to four walls on Sunday, but instead surround us every day and in every place we go. Please give me the strength and courage to love you and your children without apology. Please show me how to distribute your love to all of your children, especially those you have challenged me to care for. Please help me remember to be just when I deal with every one of my neighbors today and always. In your Son’s name I pray, Amen.
Additional Readings: Psalm 80; Psalm 77 ; Jer. 7:1-15, Rom. 4:1-12, John 7:14-36