The Lord says this:
‘A curse on the man who puts his trust in man,
who relies on things of flesh,
whose heart turns from the Lord.
He is like dry scrub in the wastelands:
if good comes, he has no eyes for it,
he settles in the parched places of the wilderness,
a salt land, uninhabited.
‘A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord,
with the Lord for his hope.
He is like a tree by the waterside
that thrusts its roots to the stream:
when the heat comes it feels no alarm,
its foliage stays green;
it has no worries in a year of drought,
and never ceases to bear fruit.
‘The heart is more devious than any other thing,
perverse too: who can pierce its secrets?
I, the Lord, search to the heart,
I probe the loins,
to give each man what his conduct
and his actions deserve.’
Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.
‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”
‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them.” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’
‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”
I would imagine that all of us have people in our lives that we find to be very stubborn and hard to deal with at times. Trying to get them to listen or acknowledge another viewpoint almost seems like a direct challenge to their sense of identity. It might show a sign of weakness that they’ve conceded to an opposing view and in no way would they ever want to be seen as being wrong or of having made a mistake. When a person’s heart is so hardened that they can no longer open themselves up to seeing reality for what it is – rather just forcibly fitting ideas, events and actions into their own world view… this creates alienation from others and eventually leads to difficulties in forming, developing and maintaining healthy relationships.
These people can be so frustrating to deal with that eventually it becomes better off to just drop it and move on. The issue becomes more severe when the “just drop it and move on” progresses beyond the topic of disagreement to the actual relationships with those whom we once were close to. The inability to find common ground and the refusal to acknowledge fault by either or both parties makes it exceptionally challenging to seek and grant forgiveness.
In the Gospel reading from today, Jesus illustrates to the Pharisees the dangers of their own stubbornness. They were given numerous signs and miracles, yet their hardened hearts did not allow them to hear the message nor accept the messenger for who He was, is and to be. Like the rich man in the parable – when his time came and he was ready to repent – it was too late. The rich man and his four brothers had already been given numerous teachings and time to seek out God for forgiveness. Yet, they chose to ignore these teachings and eventually had no relationship with Him.
I’ve written about the strained relationship I have with my brother in the past. Recently, things have gotten a little better. It’s been a long and slow path to recovery, but headed in the right direction. A few weeks ago, we saw each other as we both happened to be transiting through the same airport. A complete coincidence. Although the encounter was much shorter than I had hoped for (and the conversation was not as fluid as I would have wanted) it was certainly better than the frosty tensions in the past. God has been softening my heart and helping me to be less stubborn in how I’ve been handling this situation.
Brothers and sisters – our God is a God of reconciliation. He longs so much for a restored relationship with His people that He sent Jesus, His one and only son to die at the cross for our sins. Let us give praise and glory to Him for His great sacrifice.
(Today’s Oxygen by Steven Su is from our 2016 Archives)
Prayer – Heavenly Father – we pray for softened hearts and a desire for true reconciliation with the ones we’ve hurt and who’ve hurt us. Give us the humility to admit when we’re wrong and mend wounded relationships with those that we love.
Thanksgiving – Lord, we give thanks to You for the teachings of Moses and the prophets that You’ve sent to us. We thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus so that we through Your grace alone can we be reconciled with You.