Excerpt from Luke 13:31-35
"How many times I wanted to put my arms around your people but you wouldn't let me."
Reflection by William C. Green
Roman rule in Jerusalem was abusive. Kings Herod Archelaus and then his brother, Herod Antipas, beautified the city. However, as Jesus said of its religious leadership as well, what was inside was "full of impurity and corruption."
It's hard for both rulers and ruled to know much about love when one has all the power and the other is helpless, at best resigned. Sometimes those with power don't know or care when it's corrupting or abusive. Often those suffering from it don't know a way out.
Sometimes what's corrupt is considered normal - as with Lance Armstrong, dominating the world of cycling for years and later maligning all his former friends and other competitors by saying that performance-enhancing drugs were normal, "everyday." Nothing exceptional about him.
Corruption and abuse can be experienced innocently and also considered normal. I've known a boy I love whose birth parents had abused him from the day he was born. Anger and hunger were all he knew before he was adopted. He mistook abuse for the way things are supposed to be. It was years before he could understand that love is not a form of neglect.
What abuse do we know? Abuse is not always physical. Sometimes it's verbal. Sometimes it's silent. How is this pushing God away? What or who are the Herods in our own lives? A key to outsmarting them is overcoming their corrupting influence. Help is available to break free. Good pastors and counselors, or smart colleagues, are close at hand. We don't have to stay stuck. We can know love all over again, as if for the first time.
God, help us break free from all that holds us back and keeps us down. Put your arms around us as we face what we fear, and overcome it. Amen.
William C. Green is Vice-President for Strategy and Development, Moral Courage Project, NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and the author of 52 Ways to Ignite Your Congregation: Generous Giving.