I have a beautiful friend who does jail ministry. She visits women who have been incarcerated for many different reasons. My friend listens patiently and without judgment as the women pour out their hearts to her. These relationships last for years, as she serves as an email “pen pal” while they go in and out of the system and hopefully home.
Regardless of the charges against these prisoners, they all seem to have one thing in common: at some point in their lives they succumbed to peer pressure that led them to make poor decisions. Some were influenced by bad boyfriends and became trapped in a criminal lifestyle. Some got involved in a drug culture that led them to get caught buying and selling illegal substances. Some succumbed to the violence advocated by their gang buddies. Some were desperate to feed their children and stole things. Feeling helpless and without options, none of them stood alone and refused to participate in activities that others around them were doing. And then they got caught.
Today’s passage from Jeremiah highlights the importance of standing alone and not letting the crowd influence you. This is a hard path to take, but the end result is righteousness:
Jeremiah 15 (Common English Bible)
You understand, Lord!
Remember me and act on my behalf.
Bring judgment on those who torment me.
In your mercy, spare my life.
Consider how I’m insulted on your account.
16 When your words turned up, I feasted on them;
and they became my joy, the delight of my heart,
because I belong to you,
Lord God of heavenly forces.
17 I didn’t join the festive occasions;
I took no delight in them.
I sat alone
because your hand was upon me
and you had filled me with curses.
“I sat alone.” There may have been times in your life where your faith made you the object of ridicule. This happened to me in middle school when my new conversion and decision to wear a cross to school resulted in being mocked and called “holy.” It was meant as a put-down, but I later learned that the definition of the word “holy” is “set apart.”
I’ll take it.
18 Why am I always in pain?
Why is my wound incurable,
so far beyond healing?
You have become for me as unreliable
as a spring gone dry!
19 Therefore, the Lord proclaims:
If you return to me, I will take you back
and let you stand before me.
If you utter what is worthwhile,
not what is worthless,
you will be my spokesman.
They will turn to you,
not you to them!
Proclaiming our faith can eventually result in others turning to us when they encounter hardships. When I got to high school, I met a few new friends who were curious about my faith, noticing that something about me was different. That opened up doors for me to share my story.
20 I will make you a sturdy bronze wall
against these people.
They will attack you,
but they won’t triumph,
because I am with you
to protect and rescue you,
declares the Lord.
21 I will rescue you from the hand of the wicked;
I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent.
You might be struggling with co-workers, family, or friends who mock your faith. Never mind. God is here to protect and rescue you and assures you that when you are attacked for his sake, your attackers won’t triumph. You are a sturdy bronze wall!