The Good Thief: A Reflection

321926078_6ec4083fae_bFor you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 1 Thess 5:2.

Accomplished thieves leave no evidence. The very best thieves, if we are to believe Hollywood, leave calling cards.  Paul encourages his listeners in Thessalonica telling them they have no reason to be caught off guard by the “day of the Lord.” Since the Thessalonians are “children of light” and are not “of the night or of darkness,” they have no reason to fear Jesus’ thieving ways. Like the Thessalonians, we are also “children of the light” and have no reason to fear the thief of the night. However, there are times when we might let our guard down, times when we hang up the helmet of hope and lay aside the breastplate of faith and love. What are we to do when we, or our brothers and sisters, slip into the darkness. In this darkness, we need the Lord to come, but in our strange, dark comfort we fear the light of Christ. It’s ironic isn’t it? When we need the Lord the most, we tend to be most frightened of his coming.

What is left for the Lord to do but to steal our hearts back for himself? In the darkness of an addiction, for example, the addict puts up the strongest walls against the good thief: these are walls of denial, shame, anger, self-preservation, and self-sufficiency, etc. He barricades against the coming of the thief.

The darkness of sin has been compared to the prison of addiction. In the darkness of sin, we think the best way out of the dark is to hunker down deeper into ourselves. It would never occur to us to open up, spread out, let down the defenses, and become vulnerable to the thief. Like the addict, the sinner thinks the Lord will come with a vengeance, smashing down walls and laying waste to every obstacle. It’s just the opposite; the Lord becomes crafty like a fox, outsmarting our well-laid battlements. Before we know it, we’ve been robbed.

How does this dynamic work in the real world? It’s works when we “encourage one another and build each other up.” Here’s how the Lord works around our defenses. When we put down our weapons of criticism and judgment and pick up the trowels of unity and the shovels of love, then we help the Lord in his thievery.

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2 Responses to The Good Thief: A Reflection

  1. Virgil Kaulius says:

    Even though we have many a line in Scripture as you
    explore, to challenge both our reality, and our imagination, it nevertheless remains a foundational mystery, as to how this Divine “dispensation” is brought about, ultimately!

    And my own experience speaks to an existential
    demension that parallels the formal more organized
    “church” dimension, with its dogmas, dictates,
    and directives. Our personal one, a true struggle,
    involves an inner life of true battle status
    that very much involves the Lord’s battle hand,
    or thief hand, or love hand, or the hound of heaven
    realm, but it always involves our God as not
    the Reality of the possible but rather the God
    of the infinite reality of the impossible:
    be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is!

    Which means working through all the tendencies
    within oneself which are harmful to oneself
    or others! It is not blind freedom to do what
    one wants because one has broken through into a
    freedom beyond the moral response, rather it is
    a breaking through to a freedom beyond the moral
    response which becomes the ground out of which
    one faces the moral imperative: the moral task
    to love one another. And that can’t be done
    by mere psychologizing alone. It necessitates
    the mysterious presence of the phenomenon we label
    grace!

    It is not possible to reach it: the palace of
    nowhere. Because we are it. Nothing is missing
    when we live in the present moment, which even
    a thief cannot access! Because the Divine Thief
    occupies the Present Moment with His Presence,
    pervading it, and displacing all evil, all non-
    preparedness for the vageries of life, living,
    and Love!

    Our true self involves the divine because the
    Divine authored the true self, to which our false
    self dies when it awakens to this reality,
    in which moment we truly live, fully alive,
    and finally transcendentally free. Thus we begin
    to experience Eternal Happiness. Now!

  2. Rob says:

    Interesting how you compare the darkness of a sinful life to a life of addiction. The 2nd and 3rd steps of a “12 step program” work very well with your demonstration of how one’s heart must be stolen back when defenses are down. They state that we must turn our life and our will over to the care of god- we must lower our own defenses before we can start a path to recovery.

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