Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 42; 146, Job 29:1-20, Acts 14:1-18, John 10:31-42
Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered, “It is not a good work for which we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy.”
– John 10:32-33
No matter what power Jesus displayed, it was his words the Jewish leaders feared most. Maybe this was because their own power depended on strict adherence to the letter of the law, and not its spirit. They could handle transgressions against the specific rules, but a revolution in thinking was a serious threat to their power. Unfortunately, this attitude survives in some of our churches even today.
While the two great commandments are simply to love God and our neighbors, some churches more strongly emphasize specific beliefs, or right thinking. An insistence on right thinking is another form of legalism which betrays God’s command to love. Over the centuries Christians have been forced to accepted certain creeds or face rejection by the church. Many schisms – and denominations – are directly attributable to differences in theological opinions that have little if anything to do with loving God and our neighbors. Trinitarian vs. Unitarian; transubstantiation vs. consubstantiation; predestination vs. election; the list goes on and on. Christianity might be easier if we all thought alike, but we don’t – and aren’t required to!
Schisms are less common today – as we have already been divided along some pretty fine lines – but we still struggle with problems caused by an insistence on right thinking. When we don’t like the way another church thinks, we can be quick to dismiss the good it may do. We may withhold support from worthwhile projects because we don’t like a church’s liberal or conservative stance. This temptation is understandable, but who really pays the price for our stand, no matter how principled we believe it to be? Even when differences in thought result in persecution and enmity, we must remember we are called to love our enemies. We all naturally believe our own thinking is right, but none of us is as right as Christ.
Comfort: Grace doesn’t depend on being right.
Challenge: Consider what types of thinking keep you from loving.
Prayer: God of sky and waters, wash away divisions among your people. Amen.
Discussion: What creeds or doctrines have you questioned or challenged?
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