Bombing the soul

Today achievement turned to tragedy in the blink of an eye, as two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston marathon. As I write this, the identity of the bomber is not known, but it appears to be an act of terrorism, whether international or domestic remains to be seen. It was encouraging to see so many people on the scene jump into action helping the wounded and to read so many prayers offered up on social media for the well-being, protection, and comfort of those affected by the day’s events.

But I have also read and heard a good deal of talk – and even prayers – that are anything but encouraging. We seem to have to a place culturally where every event becomes an almost instant launching point for a tirade. Prayers for justice spoken so angrily that they are really just thinly veiled prayers for vengeance. Complaints about security measures taken in the wake of the bombings. Even nasty comments about assumed attackers. All of this is quite disheartening because such talk does what no terrorist could ever do – it unleashes a destructive force within our own selves, we bomb our own souls.

And it’s not like we accept that self-inflicted damage for some greater good. Tirades about terrorists, revenge, Obama (!?!), etc. – what do they accomplish? That ugly Facebook post, what does it achieve? The snarky tweet, how does it help anyone in any way? You might say, ‘well it helps me vent,’ but it does just the opposite. You aren’t letting off steam in those moments. You are inhaling poison of your own making.

Jesus told us to love our enemies. Not as a suggestion. Or a platitude. As a command. A command he expects his followers to keep. Love always takes a great deal of discipline, consistent practice, a strong commitment. It takes even more of all that to love the enemy. In keeping Jesus’ command, we participate in the healing and strengthening of our souls. The command is as much for our sake as it is the enemy’s (though it is for his too).

Love conquers fear – if we choose love over fear. Let us choose love. Let us guard our hearts. Let us govern our thoughts. Let us discipline our speech. Let us practice loving the enemy through how we think, how we talk, how we pray, even how we engage in social media. There is enough damage without us damaging souls as well. We can participate in tearing down or in building up, but we can’t do both. And which ever we’re doing, we are doing primarily to ourselves. Don’t bomb your own soul. Nourish it with love.

Red Letter Year: 4/15

Matthew 13:1-15

Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. A large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore. He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

10 His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”

11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. 12 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. 13 That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.

14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. 15 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes — so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’”


We are going to spend two days with this parable, reading the story itself today and the explanation Jesus gave privately tomorrow. I don’t want to say too much here and try to resist reading ahead. Instead, sit with this parable today. Let it paint pictures in your mind. The sower. (Is that all he does? Is that a real job title?) The seed (spread all over, with an inherent power to sprout). The foot path – probably busy with traffic. The ground with a thin layer of soil over hard rock. The soil that is not well tended, full of weeds. And the good soil – quiet, deep, taking the seed in and letting it do its thing to maximum effect. We are not the people who hear but don’t understand. Yet, Jesus still taught in parables, often without a follow up explanation. Spend a day with this one before checking the answer key. 

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.