Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 123; 146, Joshua 8:1-22, Romans 14:1-12, Matthew 26:47-56
“Christian” is not always a useful term. To people outside the faith, it’s often defined by a set of assumptions and biases that may or may not reflect the beliefs and actions of any particular person. Inside the faith … well, it’s pretty much the same thing. Not only have we divided ourselves into denominations, within those denominations we differ along liberal/conservative lines and other polarities. Non-denominational congregations often become de facto denominations with a single member church. On our good days we work toward being ecumenical, on most days we are tolerant but pretty convinced we are right, and on bad days we think “those people” are not “real Christians.”
Chapter 14 of Romans offers us some advice. Paul tells those who are strong in the faith to welcome the weaker (even those terms contain judgment), but not to quarrel over opinions. If the weak reject certain foods, or consider some days holier than others, the strong (who had moved beyond the law) should not chastise them, but instead recognize these actions were intended for the glory of God.
Our mistake lies in assuming that once we have embraced the Christian label, we have reached a destination. In truth, we have only begun a journey. We follow the path to Christ our whole lives and beyond. We’re all at different places on the path, and that’s fine. If our fellows aren’t as far along as we are (and isn’t that a subjective call!) we may feel like they are holding us back and be tempted to drag them forward. Ever physically dragged someone along? Not only is it exhausting, it results in unsafe stumbling for both parties. What we can do is blaze a trail, mark it with friendly sign-posts, and wait to offer the refreshment of bread and wine before resuming our journey together. We can offer guidance when asked, and corrections if they wander off the path entirely or try to drag us backward with them. And we can humbly remember that up ahead, maybe out of sight beyond a curve in the road, someone waits patiently for us.
Comfort: Faith is like a road trip; we’re all trying to get to the same place.
Challenge: Faith is like a road trip; we all have to stop at different times.
Prayer: Loving God, grant me patience and endurance for my own journey, and patience and generosity to help others on their own journey. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever been tempted to think that someone who identifies as a Christian is not a “real” Christian? Why or why not?
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