In seventh grade, I felt torn between the popular crowd and a longtime friend the other kids considered dorky. The popular girls were cute, well-dressed, bragged about fabulous parties, and felt free to pick on anyone they didn’t like. My friend proved an easy mark: frizzy hair, thick glasses, low self-esteem. I navigated between the group and my friend until one day the popular girls’ leader told me I had to choose. Them or her.
From where I stood, I could see my friend standing alone with no one to protect her from mean girls. With longing, I considered all the parties I would not be invited to—and then chose my friend.
The overarching theme of First John is love, particularly love of “brothers and sisters.” The children of God do not pursue the way of lawlessness; they choose to do what is right.
There have always been people who pick on others. Bullies use emotional or physical intimidation, act in person or on the Internet. Hate crimes are on the rise. The anti-bullying movement encourages kids and adults to be “upstanders,” reaching out to anyone who seems bullied, offering support, speaking up when necessary. The children of God are upstanders, those who do what is right.
“My dear children, don’t let anyone divert you from the truth. It’s the person who acts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Messiah” (The Message). We are called to be upstanders even when no one else sees our good works or when it takes courage to speak truth to situations that demean others.
Who am I? A person who seeks to do right.
Strong God of love, give me strength always to do the right thing, to protect those who need protecting, and to show the love of Jesus in everything I do. Amen.
A repeating theme in scripture is our failure to recognize God’s work among us. In Acts, Peter declares that the death of Jesus happened because his fellow Israelites acted in ignorance. The psalmist decries the fact that so many people follow lies, yet God’s blessings for the faithful continue unhindered. John tells his audience to expect that the world will not recognize them as God’s children because the world did not recognize God to begin with. In Luke, Jesus appears to his doubting disciples. He proves the reality of his resurrection by allowing them to touch his body and by eating food in their presence. Only then do they feel certain that they recognize him. In what places in our lives do we not recognize God’s work?
• Read Acts 3:12-19. When have you initially bristled at someone’s remarks only to discover some truth about yourself as you reflected on your strong reaction? What did you learn about yourself?
• Read Psalm 4. How do you daily reinforce the idea that you are “more” rather than “less”?
• Read 1 John 3:1-7. When have you been an “upstander” for love on behalf of another? In what ways did that empower you to take more initiative to love?
• Read Luke 24:36b-48. To what do you look as a revelation of Christ’s presence?
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