Day 37: The Strength of Love
12 About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. 2 He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. 3 After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) 4 When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. 5 While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.
6 The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists. 8 The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. 11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
Is this not an amazing story? It tells us many things—not the least of which is that the first disciples were in tremendous danger, because they were teaching people how to live as God commanded when God said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10.27) That is the crime for which disciples are being killed. But the early disciples will not fight back in the usual way. They are determined to follow Jesus; they are committed to peace.
When we look at our churches today, are we as committed to following Jesus, or have we become too entangled in the customs of our culture? This is not a finger pointing question, it is not meant to judge anyone or any church. It is simply a question that asks us to examine what it means to follow Jesus. What it means to love—not like, not prefer—but truly love each other. Why do we fear loving in a way that honors everyone? Richard Rohr says our egos are too fragile to accept God’s grace. What do you think?
Prayer Recap: Dear Lord, Your power is greater than anything we could imagine. Help us to accept Your grace and to pour Your love into the world without fear. Amen.