Deliver us from evil/the evil one. The evil one is the personification of what happens when fear overcomes the disciple, who then refuses the call, who cannot then go where God is leading. The Bible is filled with stories of those who could not follow. Jonah, Elijah, Peter, and many more, could not accept the challenge of faithfulness to the call of God, the way of Christ. Even Jesus himself struggled with the call, we are told, in the story of his temptation. Surely, there must be an easier way to embody God’s rule on earth, Satan tempted him. Certainly, it doesn’t have to cost this much.
In the story of Abraham the root of the fear is waiting. Abraham and Sarah have been promised a child. God has made a promise. Abraham and Sarah have accepted the risk of following God on an unknown path toward this promise and have made it through many challenges and unforeseen obstacles, but they still await the fulfilling of the promise, the child. So Sarah and Abraham takes things into their own hands, wrench back control of their lives and put into motion their own plan to achieve the promise.
The root of our debilitating fears is not always waiting. For Jonah it is the fear of God’s mercy for Israel’s enemies. He knows that if he obeys God’s call to preach to the enemy, and they repent, God will forgive, and Jonah wants retribution, not mercy and forgiveness. Elijah follows God’s call to confront the political and religious might of his own King Ahab. Elijah is the lone voice to criticize his cruel and unjust leadership. But the message does not cause immediate change. As a matter of fact it put’s Elijah’s life in danger. Peter, like Elijah I suppose, expected success and victory in following Christ. Instead, he got the way to the cross. The way with Jesus was more about giving than receiving, loosing for the sake of others, instead of gaining for the self.
We are tempted to water down this gospel which challenges us to offer mercy instead of vengeance and retribution. The cost of advocating publicly, as did Elijah, for the poor and against the political and religious powers has lead the church of America in the 20th century to completely spiritualize the gospel, making it about my personal inner soul and not justice and peace for the community. Peter’s experience of cost instead of immediate gain has lead many to present the gospel as a self-help strategy instead of a mission that asks much and costs much.
When has faithfulness been hardest for you? When have you been tempted to water the gospel down because it just seemed too hard?