In this morning's reading in 2 Corinthians 4, I was struck by three "do nots."
In verses 1, 2 and 16:
1) We do not lose heart
2) We do not use deception
3) Nor do we distort the Word of God
4) We do not lose heart (Paul states this at the starting and ending of this chapter)
At the end of the chapter Paul states, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
How we need reminding of that! This was reinforced as I was listened to an interview with Terry Waite on CBC radio this evening. In 1987, after volunteering to negotiate the release of hostages from Beirut, Lebanon, he was taken captive himself. In a previous interview with CNN he said,
"Because of faith, I could say in the face of my captives, 'You have the power to break my body and you've tried, the power to bend my mind and you've tried, but my soul isn't yours to possess,'" he said. "That little affirmation was enough for me to maintain hope and I think in a situation of real difficulty if you can maintain hope, you're half way home."
In the interview tonight he shared how his captors told him he had five hours to live--surprisingly he coped by going to sleep, then after five hours he was taken into another room where he was allowed to write one letter. He was then told to face the wall and a gun was held to his head...which was then dropped and he was told, "Not today." He lived with the constant awareness that any moment could be his last and said that what this did was to bring life into sharp focus.
That focus was actually a gift. We get things so mixed up, thinking this is the real world--the one that will go on forever, when it's not. If we could live more fully aware of that without having to go through a trauma such as Terry Waite endured, I wonder how different our experience of life would be?
More recently Mr. Waite, now approaching 70 years old, offered to go to Iran to negotiate the release of the 15 British Royal Navy personnel. He was quoted on Sky News as saying, "All this talk about force and violence gets us nowhere.
"We need to get beneath the problem and find a face-saving way out of it."
These are the words and impulses of a brave man whose life is God's and who knows that this world is temporary.