I took a Saturday self-defense workshop recently. I learned a lot (I’ve forgotten a lot, too!). Our group had hands-on practice and drills. At the end of the session, we formed a circle, and one by one, each of us took a turn in the center to “battle” those of us forming the outside ring with kicks and punches. It was a simulation of a situation where one stood against several. The instructor had a way of encouraging us to take action when we hesitated. He bellowed loudly, forcefully, and commanded, “GO!”
I think on moments in life when I had felt uncertainty, fear, hesitation, intimidation. Moments (at a table instead of encircled in an alley) where I had to face a foe–whether human or situational: to take on a responsibility, to address a conflict, to speak truth, to be accountable. In some of the most stressful moments of my life, I can practically guarantee that I wouldn’t have wanted to be there. But want or not, there I was.
Paul found himself in situations I could only describe as outrageous. How many times had he stared death in the eye? How many times did he go head-to-head with evil? He spoke from experience and reality. I read his words in The Message:
Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us,
I heard your call in the nick of time;
The day you needed me, I was there to help.
Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.
11-13 Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively! (2 Corinthians 6:1-13, MSG)
Paul didn’t waste words. There’s a lot he wanted to share, and his message is concise and urgent.
Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18, MSG)
Lord, help me to carry your word with me every day of the week.