Monday, March 4, 2013

Hungry for Right (Part One)

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied"

I’m starving.  I’m not about to die, it’s just that I've been up for a couple of hours and still haven’t had breakfast.  I have some Honey-Nut Cheerios sitting here … and those things have been calling to me since yesterday afternoon.  Before I write this article, however, I want to get this out and look at it, because I want to write while I still have the craving. 

You know what I’m talking about, right?  Some of us get headaches if we don’t eat often … others get very whiny and irritable, still others get just plain angry.  Stop for a moment and think about that feeling and join me in it.  Or … maybe you should even wait to read this article, and only consider this blessing when you feel the feeling of hunger and/or thirst. 

Jesus promises satisfaction for the hungry, and a cool drink for those who are desperate for a drink.  But in this case he isn't talking about real food.  He isn't even talking about spiritual food or spiritual drink, like in John.  Here Jesus is talking about having a certain feeling about righteousness. 

How does one describe hunger? 
I don’t know, but I know what it feels like 

How do you become hungry?  
Simply by doing without 
The quickest way to be hungry for regular food is to fast – go for days without food, and you’ll learn the difference between mere craving and real hunger.  You’ll learn what real starving feels like when your blood sugar drops to zero and you seem to even lose your appetite.  Yes, it’s true … extended fasts will show you that your cravings for food actually get less after the first couple of days! 

So what is righteousness?  It’s justice or fairness.  Ever hear a kid (or childish adult) say “It’s not fair”?  Ever been the victim of a cheater or a liar?  For that matter, if you've ever been the victim of anything which you didn't deserve … you've suffered an injustice.  Now you are hungry for retribution.  Now you hurt for justice, like David:
…at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered themselves together; the smiters whom I did not know gathered together against me, they slandered me without ceasing. Like godless jesters at a feast, they gnashed at me with their teeth. Lord, how long will you look on?  Rescue my soul from their ravages, my only life from the lions. I will give you thanks in the great congregation; I will praise you among a mighty throng. Don’t let those who are wrongfully my enemies rejoice over me; nor let those who hate me without cause wink maliciously.  (Psalm 35)
Of course, this is easy and natural to want justice when we've been unfairly treated.  What does not come naturally is waiting to let God make it right.  We want to take matters into our own hands when others “wrongfully” are our enemies.  But people who wait for the Lord’s justice – they are hungry for it, and wonder (Like David) “How long”? 

The more spiritually mature one becomes, the less selfish is our hunger for righteousness.  Instead we want righteousness for others.  David prayed for justice for Israel, as did many of the prophets.  Their desire wasn't for their own safety or ease or peace … their hunger was for people they loved.
How long, Yahweh, will I call for help, and you won’t hear? I cry out to you, “Violence!” Yet you don’t save. Why do you make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted.  (Habakkuk 1:2-4)
Habakkuk saw that Judah was disobedient to God, and so harming each other, so that “strife exists and contention arises.”  Have you ever seen strife or contention within your spiritual family?  When God’s law is ignored in his own house, trouble follows.  When you and I “see” it like the prophet did, we will hunger for justice.  Some people will take matters into their own hands, and churches split and divide.  Some will simply ignore the problems and roll along calmly ignoring or excusing their church’s failures.  The faithful will be actively looking out for their brothers and sisters, and so they will be aware – but rather than take matters into their own hands, they’ll “cry out” to God like Habakkuk. 

Just as hunger and thirst come naturally to us all, so hunger and thirst for righteousness come to us all naturally.  But hungering for justice for others is a sign of maturity: being concerned that your fellow disciples may be following after false teachings, or getting lazy, or ignoring scripture – this is a good thing, because Jesus promised we’d be satisfied.  Trust God! 

With this in mind, revisit our passage from last summer:
Love sincerely. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and don’t curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; don’t be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:9-21)
We all want payback – even to our brothers and sisters who hurt us – just as we want food when we’re hungry.  But God has taught us to help each other to grow, to love one another.  If one sins, we rebuke him, and if he repents, we forgive him.  Never are we allowed to take revenge or hold grudges or be mean or divisive.  Instead we are called to wait for God to take care of justice while we “hunger” for it.  

The challenges for us are: 
  • Is your hunger for your own hurt, justice for others, or for God? 
  • Will you try to satisfy your hunger yourself – or will you stay hungry and trust Jesus’ promise that you’ll be satisfied?  

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