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- What kind of person just really drives you crazy?
- What have you been told is something that you do that drives a friend or family member crazy?
- Do you actively try to stop doing it or have they just had to learn to deal with it?
During their wandering years in the wilderness, living so close to each other in such difficult conditions created a great deal of tension between the people of Israel. Family and neighbors complained, accused each other of theft or unfaithfulness and gossiped about each other. Many often threatened to turn around and go back to Egypt, claiming that slavery was even better than this. Tempers ran high. There were arguments and even physical violence in the camp of the Israelites. To combat this, God gave Moses and the Israelites very specific rules for how to live in holy community with one another. Some people were put in charge, but not to rule over the others like Egyptians had with the crack of the whip. And other men and women could take special vows to live holy lives of clean living that was even higher than those of their neighbors. They didn’t do this to build themselves up, but to serve as an example for those around them of what was possible if they lived for God and in peace with each other. The priests had to pray for those they guided.
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites:
You shall say to them,
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The Lord life up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.
There were rules, tough rules, for the Israelites. They often seem arbitrary and even cruel by our standards. But they existed to make sure that everyone was living a holy life, not just for themselves and for God, but for the people around them. God would travel with the people. They would see his presence in a great cloud that hovered above their camp. When the cloud moved, they would pack up and follow it. But following God’s command to trust him and love each other would prove more difficult than traveling through an actual desert.
In our youth group, we repeat the above scripture every week as our benediction on Wednesday nights. We stand in a circle, with right hand over left, holding the hands of those on either side. We look into each others’ eyes and say these words that were first spoken thousands of years ago. Do we say it with the same zeal? Sometimes it is easy because things are going great between us and those around us. And sometimes it’s hard. We may have very good reasons to be upset with those around us. God really expects us to look into the eyes of an ex or a frenemy and say that we hope that God makes their life awesome.
Remember: Everyone counts. Everyone matters.
The toughest prayers that we lift up are usually not the ones where we are asking for God’s blessing or forgiveness for ourselves. They are the ones when we pray for other people, especially if those people are difficult for us to get along with. These are powerful prayers and they reflect God’s will for our world. Living in community with God and with each other means high expectations. Everyone counts. Everyone matters.
In your mind’s eye, see the face of the person who you most cannot stand or who makes your skin crawl. See the face of the person who has really done or said something bad about you. Now pray for them — not for God to knock them down a bit from their high horse, but pray that God blesses them like the blessing in Numbers 6:22-27 says to do.