LUKE 13:34 (NASB) | "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!"
Jesus spoke these words as he was leaving the temple for the very last time. It was the last week of his life, better known as the Passion week, and Jesus' longing and anguish was still for his bride, the Church. When I think about the Church in its many expressions all over the world, I sometimes wonder if Jesus ever has second thoughts about the bride he picked. There is so much in-fighting, division, corruption, abuse. It often feels like the bride has decided not to show up for the wedding or maybe even run off with another lover. Whatever the case, she has undoubtedly been a source of pain for the one who loves her.
One of the local churches that I serve here in South Africa is coming out of a difficult situation that was ugly, painful, and just plain messy. In helping the church to pick up the pieces and heal, I have been journeying with both the congregation and the staff. One day, I was attacked verbally by someone whom I love and respect. It came out of nowhere and knocked me off my feet. Two weeks later it happened again, by another person. And again, it was unfounded, came out of nowhere, and hurt deeply.
As I was crying (yes, I'm human) and trying to offload this onto Jesus, I saw a picture of a wounded animal, caught in a trap. As many of you know (either from theory or experience!), when you try to help a wounded animal, it often lashes out at its rescuer. It doesn't distinguish between friend and foe. Animals are at their most dangerous when wounded. I think it's much the same with us humans, both individually and collectively. When wounded we also tend to lash out, say and do things we regret later, and are blinded by our pain and suffering to make decisions we would never have made when healthy and whole.
It was in this moment of reflection that Jesus asked me, "How much do you love my bride? Are you willing to be hurt in order to set her free from the traps and snares of the enemy? Are you willing to be misunderstood by those you are trying to help in order to build my Kingdom?" Ouch. From all angles. Yet this is precisely how the incarnate Jesus lived, isn't it? He was wounded by those he came to save, attacked verbally by religious leaders, and eventually killed. In a strange and beautiful twist to the story, it was his very death—the ultimate wounding—that enabled his killers and all of us to be set free.
Jesus never stopped loving, despite the wounds, despite the misunderstanding and lashing out of those he came to save. And even though these wounds caused great anguish, his focus and motivation remained on building his Kingdom and rescuing his bride. I believe Jesus calls us to do the same.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION
- Have you ever been hurt by someone you were trying to help? How did that make you feel?
- Jesus was able to love sacrificially and yet be strong because his mission was clear and his source of strength was anchored deeply in his relationship with his Father. Can you entrust your difficult relationships to God? Are you willing to take the risk of loving even if it means you might be hurt?
This reading is part of our "On Earth as It Is in Heaven" devotional series. You can also sign up to receive these meditations by email.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Annie Erickson and her husband, Dan, live in Pretoria, South Africa with their three children. They are a part of CRM's Ethne collective and minister to churches and church leaders in the region.