Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 89:1-18; 147:1-11, Zephaniah 2:1-15, Revelation 16:1-11, Luke 13:10-17
A woman, who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit, came to Jesus in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Of course he healed her, and of course – as with all his Sabbath healings – the leaders of the synagogue were angry with him. They also scolded the woman for not coming on one of the six other days of the week when such activity was permissible. Jesus replied:
You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?
His opponents were shamed, and the crowd rejoiced.
Jesus nailed the hypocrisy. Enforcing laws against things you find sinful is easy when you aren’t affected by them. None of the synagogue leaders suffered a similar affliction, so it didn’t impact them a bit if she had to wait, but they would unlawfully untie a knot for a thirsty beast.
Still today many Christians demand civic laws against sins which don’t impact them. Unsurprisingly, they are less supportive of legislation enforcing Christ’s instructions like inviting the poor into our homes, giving away our second coats to those who have none, and doing good to those who wrong us. We want the government to prohibit gay marriage and abortion (though not all Christians agree on these issues) because we are a “Christian nation” … but when it comes to our money, the government has no business dictating the conscience of individuals. Now excuse me while I untie my ox.
If we need laws to behave, we are not faithful – we are fearful. When we prioritize rules over relationships, we have forgotten that at the end of each legalistic leash is a human being. If our witness for Christ is unpersuasive, the problem lies not in our government, or in our corrupted society, but in us. Let us live as Christ instructed, and the Gospel really will seem like good news.
Comfort: Faith exists regardless of circumstance.
Challenge: When watching or reading the news, be aware of people promoting a civic Christianity at the expense of Christ.
Prayer: Lord of the Gospel, perfect my witness to Christ until it shines like a beacon on a hill. Amen.
Discussion: What is a healthy level of overlap between our faith lives and civic lives?
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