Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 63; 149, Isaiah 56:1-8, Galatians 5:25-6:10, Mark 9:14-29
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote:
If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another […] Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ […] all must carry their own loads.
Doesn’t sound much like our culture, does it? There are no hit “reality” TV shows about people cooperating to arrive the finale together. Businesses – not content simply to provide quality products which benefit their customers and provide owners and employees with a comfortable living – embrace a model that can see markets only as competitions. Rather than a system to serve the common good of a nation by sharing ideas, politics long has been a power struggle which exploits tribal ideologies to create winners and losers.
If we want to follow Christ, we must defy cultural expectations. That has always been true, but ever since Christianity became the empire instead of the underdog (some seventeen centuries ago), and we turned the Gospel from an invitation into an edict, we’ve been looking for ways to convince ourselves Jesus backs a winner.
What does it mean both to bear one another’s burdens and to carry ou r own loads?
It means putting the welfare of other people ahead of our own. It means balancing a humility of word and deed with a steady call for justice. It means seeking ways to serve rather than to conquer. It means willing to be among the last – those whom Jesus calls first in the Kingdom of Heaven, but what many in our society would call “losers.”
In his humility and self-sacrifice, Christ defied expectations of what the Messiah should be: crucifixion was not for winners. As his followers, our triumphs are achieved not through force and fear, but through love and sacrifice. Our strength comes from open hands, not closed fists. When impose our need for victory onto the message of the Gospel, we rob it of the power to reveal itself. Let’s trust the message to be enough.
Comfort: In Christ, you are strong enough to be vulnerable.
Challenge: Look for ways to be more cooperative, especially with people you consider rivals in some way.
Prayer: Holy and loving God, lead your church to unity. Amen.
Discussion: Are you competitive in ways you don’t need to be?
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