God cares for his own
The ambassadors of Jesus
40 Blogs of Lent: Day 8
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Where have all the sparrows gone?
As a child we had a garden with a bird table situated in full view of the dining table. Scraps of bread and bacon rind were put on the table and nets of peanuts hung underneath. We had visits from blackbirds, thrushes and starlings, which my mother disliked but I was fascinated by incandescent colours in the feathers. Magpies were also common, as were tits and in winter the occasional robin. Spotting a robin at Christmas was a treat. But most of the time we had house sparrows which if the larger birds or aggressive robins were on the table would perch on surrounding rooftops awaiting their turn.
Now I don’t see sparrows that often. I live about five miles from my childhood home, but sparrows have become scarce. More than a few years ago but the time when you could look out of your window at a bare winter tree and be almost be sure of seeing a sparrow or two are gone. There are more wagtails around, but nowhere near as many birds as when the sparrows flocked. (Sterling murmurations are depleted too. I have walked into too many lampposts watching them swirl overhead.)
The Father God cares for sparrows, said Jesus. He knows when they fall. Yet we are worth a lot more than these small brown birds, God knows us so intimately that he not only knows how many hairs I have, but which ones I have lost. Male patent baldness runs down the males on my maternal line.
It is always an error to read a passage of the Bible in isolation, it’s fine for five-year-olds in Sunday schools, but when we have grown up there is meaning to be gleaned from context. This passage is about God’s care when Christians are being persecuted for their faith, dying because they love Jesus who assures us that God loves us even when persecution means we are dying in large numbers, like sparrows in the late twentieth- and early twenty-first-centuries.
This passage is immediately after the passage which tells us not to fear men but fear God who can destroy both the body and soul in Hell. God cares for his own. The long term reality is that we have been already granted eternal life, hope for now, not just for the future. The “If you acknowledge me I will acknowledge you, if you deny me I will deny you” passage brings comfort to those who are being persecuted for their faith now in the twenty-first century, more than at any time in the history of the church. Persecution is not just about the Roman lions, persecution is now.
Pray for strength for Christians being persecuted in many parts of the world.