Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 104; 149, Isaiah (42:18-25) 43:1-13, Ephesians 3:14-21, Mark 2:23-3:6
Ideology is a sneaky devil. When we are born into one, we usually don’t even think of it as an ideology, but simply as the way things are – or should be. For example, capitalism is the dominant economic ideology of the western world. We talk about it as though it is an actual entity, but in truth it is a collective agreement to adhere to a set of principles. No one still living was party to the original “agreement,” but centuries later we all (for the most part) continue to operate under its rules. As with any ideology, there has been a subtle but consistent shift of how we think about it: those who adopted the principles did so to serve society; today we consider them part of our identity, and often behave as though society exists to serve them.
In many Gospel stories, Jesus rejected cultural ideology in order to serve humanity. The Pharisees started conspiring to destroy him after he plucked grain and healed a man on the Sabbath, in violation of Hebrew ideology. His admonition that “the Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath” did not move them, but Jesus knew that their ideology had become idolatry: they placed the letter of the scripture above the intent of God.
What ideologies have we turned into idolatries? The Pharisees were certain of their rigid interpretation of scripture. Should we be as sure of our own? Have we ever defended or attacked an idea simply because the “other side” criticizes or promotes it? The worst examples may be when we let political, religious, and economic ideologies blend into an unexamined hodgepodge that corrupts faith into an excuse to neglect and abuse our fellow humans.
When we are most sure of our ideologies, we are least able to consider them wisely, so they are the most dangerous. Wisdom tells us mercy trumps idolatrous laws. By example Christ teaches us to examine them and use them to serve, not to blindly bend to them. God trusts us to think. Let’s trust God enough to do so.
Comfort: It’s perfectly acceptable to question what you’ve been taught to believe.
Challenge: Ask questions.
Prayer: God of truth and mercy, I will serve the law of love and the gospel is peace. Amen.
Discussion: Some people assume questioning something will lead to rejecting it. How do you feel about that?
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