“I bless the Lord who counsels me; even in the night my heart
exhorts me…” Psalm 16: 5
Taken together, the readings for today show the contrast between God’s counsel
and worldly counsel. The dispute between the Pharisees and the Sadducees
erupts into harsh conflict. This conflict distracts these religious
leaders from their shared interest in the business at hand (what to do about
Paul) and threatens to tear Paul to pieces! How easily we fall into
two camps and then spend all of our energies fighting each other. We
see this kind of polarization and conflict in politics, in our religious
communities, in local communities, in workplaces, and in families.
Numerous social science studies confirm the pervasiveness of this human tendency.
Experimental research demonstrates that people will polarize even over seemingly
trivial questions such as how many dots are on a card. We are so easily
distracted from working together on problems at hand and instead spend our
energies on dividing into camps. We elaborate at length on the “weaknesses”
of those in the “other camp” and even engage in outright conflict or violence
against them. Yes, God does speak through prophets to challenge injustices,
and God’s wisdom in the epistles confirms our responsibility to confront
those who demonstrate in self-destructive or community-destructive behavior.
However, the counsel in scriptures almost always emphasizes that the most
important task at hand is reconciliation and that the correction must be
done in love.
The prayer of Jesus in the gospel of John for today emphasizes Jesus’s counsel
of unity and love for His followers. He models for us the need to pray
for unity and pray that we will be able to love one another. As He
predicts, the prayer is as necessary today as it was then. In other
discourses Jesus even tells us to pray for our enemies. This counsel
clearly differs from that modeled in today’s reading from Acts and the stories
in our newspapers today. Jesus knows that unity does not come easily
for us. It is not a trite thing to really love one another.
Each of the readings for today offers wonderful glimpses of God’s gracious
We can meditate upon these so as to better recognize God’s counsel
and to “be transformed by the renewal of our mind” to more closely adhere
to it instead of worldly polarization. In Acts, we see that “The Lord
stood by him and said, ‘Take courage.’” The Psalmist reminds us that
God’s wisdom will show us the path to life, fullness of joys and delights
at God’s right hand forever. Finally, the gospel account gives us a
wonderful truth to consider during this Easter season – “I have given them
the glory that you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in
them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one.”
May we continue to pray with Jesus that we abide in His love, continue to
encourage one another to take courage, and continue to seek the path of life
with fullness of joys so that we may be brought into perfection as one.