Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 84; 150, Jeremiah 6:9-15, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Mark 5:1-20
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.
Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth to address a heresy that taught our actions don’t matter because we have been redeemed by Christ. Some extremists claimed those who sinned the most boldly were holier because they were forgiven the most. Modern Christians are unlikely to adopt this twisted logic, but it was appealing in a city where prostitution was not just common but part of religious worship.
Paul went on to condemn fornication as the only sin committed against one’s own body. Christianity has embraced the anti-fornication message, though studies showing Christians are having only slightly less non-married sex than non-Christians raises the question whether we are good at separating the lawful from the beneficial.
We sure seem to like developing sets of rules for being a good Christian. We especially seem to like exploring how far we can bend them before they are technically broken. Yet it is very possible to do what is religiously “legal” and still be doing the wrong thing. This is one of the real challenges of the Christian life: whether we are obeying a rule, breaking it, or operating in an arena without rules, we are responsible for figuring out whether our choices are beneficial, or at least not harmful.
As we grow in faith, we should constantly challenge ourselves to think more and more with the mind of Christ. Paradoxically, this can leave us with more questions than answers – but the questions keep improving. Our concept of sin grows from a checklist of laws to an understanding of what damages our relationship with God. Some things are universally wrong, but what is perfectly harmless for others may be sinful for us, and vice versa. For example, depending on the person, video games can be a benign pastime, or a source of addiction; there’s no rule to determine that line.
We are never done growing closer to God. Don’t let the rules tell you otherwise.
Comfort: Jesus understands your struggles; lean on him.
Challenge: Be honest with yourself about when you’re bending the rules.
Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me my sins, and help me to sin no more. Amen.
Discussion: What are the signs you know you’re about to make a bad decision?
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