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A Heathen, a Donkey, and the Angel of the LORD

Monday, May 20, 2024

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“It is always a mistake not to close one’s eyes, whether to forgive or to look better into oneself.” – Maurice Maeterlinck

Maurice Polydore Marie Bernard Maeterlinck was a Belgian playwright, poet, and essayist who was born Flemish in 1862, but wrote in French. Sent to the Jesuit College of Sainte-Barbe by his parents when he was 12, Maeterlinck rebelled against the Catholic Church and was a major critic of it – as well as organized religion, in general – throughout his life.

Maeterlinck rose to fame in 1890 when his first play, Princess Maleine, received a positive review from the literary critic for Le Figaro, France’s oldest newspaper. He subsequently wrote a number of other plays such as Intruder and The Blind in 1890 and Pelleas and Melisande in 1892. His most successful play was The Blue Bird, which was written in 1906 and produced in 1908.

At different points in his life, Maeterlinck battled depression, had two long love affairs (one with a married woman and one with a lady 30 years his junior), and supported many socialist causes. Although he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1911, he was accused of plagiarism late in his career.

So, why use a quote from a man who led such a hedonistic lifestyle? Because, perhaps unwittingly, he stumbled on two important elements of the Christian faith.

The first involves introspection. Until a person can look at themselves in the mirror and realize that (1) he is a sinner; and (2) his sins have separated him from God and destined him for hell; he will never admit his need for a Savior. We all need a “Woe is me, for I am undone!” moment like Isaiah experienced in Chapter 6, Verse 5. When confronted with God’s holiness, he couldn’t help but proclaim, “I am a man of unclean lips.”

The second element of Christianity that Maeterlinck uncovered is the need to forgive. Jesus very pointedly told His disciples that forgiving others was a prerequisite for God forgiving them (see Matthew 6:14-15). That is why He included the words, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” in the Lord’s Prayer.

One final lesson from today’s quote: if God can use a heathen like Maurice Maeterlinck… or Balaam’s donkey to speak and then save his master’s life from the Angel of the LORD… just imagine what He can – and will – do through a born-again believer who is living in close fellowship with Him.

More on that theme tomorrow…

"But let a man examine himself..." I Corinthians 11:28a (NKJV)

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” I Corinthians 1:27 (BSB)

- Rev. Dale M. Glading, President

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