By Robert Halsey Pine
What would we do without St. Paul to guide us in our life in Christ?
“Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end. As it is said, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’” (Hebrews 3:12-19 NRSV).
St. Paul reminds the Hebrews of their ancestors that even after leaving Egypt under the leadership of Moses and by the grace of God, they were rebellious and full of sin. God left them in the wilderness for forty years to cool their heels so that He might get their attention. The result was God’s Ten Commandments being brought down from the mountain by Moses to his people. We’ve all been struggling with these commands ever since. Each generation has to struggle with its rebellious nature toward God.
Some time ago, a friend of mine heard the bad news that his twenty-one year old son had been arrested for armed robbery. Evidently this wasn’t the first time that his son had done this. He has been connected to several other robberies. My friend is a devout Christian man. He and his wife have worked hard to raise their children properly. Their son ignored the leadership that was provided by his family and his church. He connected with other influences outside of his church community. They were evil influences and he trusted them.
What is a father to do when he has done all that he can do to love and guide his child, but the child does the unthinkable thing? I think about my friend and how he must feel. I wonder how I would react to such an event with one of my children. Then I think about God and how He must feel about so many of the children of His creation that have strayed from Him and surrendered to evil. It is a difficult thing for us to change the heart of another, much less one of our own children.
Despite all of our efforts to help our children grow up to be good spiritual citizens, it is ultimately their decision to do good and seek the Lord. We cannot force others to seek God in their lives. We can only seek Him ourselves and live a life that is a witness to the Lord so that others may also choose to know Him. Our Father is there for us. What He wants for us we must choose. “As it is said, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’”
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.