The first casualties of upheaval can be love, kindness, and patience. But crisis is also a moment when love for God & one another can spring up. For 150 days, starting on 17th March 2020, I will write 300 words based on one of the 150 psalms in the bible. How can I find and give love in the midst of coronavirus?
Two-Gun Crowley. Francis Crowley. In 1931 he went on a crime spree in New York, robbing, shooting and murdering a policeman. After 2 months he was surrounded by police in his girlfriend’s apartment on West End Avenue. 150 police spent an hour in a shoot-out with him. He was wounded 4 times as he returned fire. He found time to write a letter which was recovered when he was finally arrested. In amongst the bloodstains, he had written: “Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one; one that would do nobody any harm.” A murderer, a robber, a very angry young man – who finally went to the electric chair – was still convinced of his goodness. That under it all he had a kind heart, that would do nobody any harm. How could he be so deluded? Because he’s like the rest of us – we almost always think we are basically good, and it’s others who are the bad guys.
Hear some of the words of psalm 44:
17 All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you; we had not been false to your covenant. 18 Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path. 19 But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals; you covered us over with deep darkness. 20 If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, 21 would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?
The writer is convinced that he, and his nation of Israel, are good. Their feet had not strayed from God’s path. Really? Honestly? Where was this guy living? What was he looking at? You don’t need to be a university professor of the Old Testament to notice that the story of the people of Israel is one where they almost universally wandered from God’s path – again and again.
What he is doing, is wrestling with the sense that God has abandoned him and his nation. He is crying out for God’s help. For God to come. This is good, this is what God’s people should do. Jesus tells a story about a widow who keeps coming to a judge crying for justice – she doesn’t give up – and justice comes. Jesus says we should keep praying and not give up like the widow (Luke 18:1-8).
But, and it’s a big but, when we are struggling with our circumstances, and asking God for help – let us not fall into self-deception and assume that we are basically good, are hearts and motives are pure. They aren’t. We have good stuff within – but we are also wandering off from God’s path rather a lot. Jeremiah the prophet says that “The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9)
Instead of justifying ourselves when we ask for God’s help. Let’s come honestly and acknowledge that we are not as good as we like to convince ourselves we are. Jesus tells a wonderful and shocking parable about 2 men who go to pray – one believes he is righteous and the other can’t even look up and says “have mercy on me a sinner”. Jesus asks which one gets an answer to his prayer. He shocks his audience by telling them that it is the man who humbled himself. (Luke 18:9-14) Let’s be like him – and not like two-gun Crowley.
God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
May God bless you today. Love Matt