Cornered

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 123; 146, 2 Samuel 18:9-18, Acts 23:12-24, Mark 11:27-12:12


Have you ever heard the phrase “paint yourself into a corner?” It means to unwittingly trap yourself in a no-win situation, like a person who, while painting a floor, ends in a corner where they can neither finish the job nor exit the room without making a mess.

The forty or so Jewish men of Jerusalem who were committed to killing Paul painted themselves into a kind of reputational corner. They publicly took an oath not to eat or drink until they’d killed him. Unfortunately for them (though fortunately for Paul), Paul’s nephew overheard their plot and arranged to have Paul removed to Caesarea before they could act. Scripture doesn’t tell us what the forty-plus men did next, but oaths were serious business so they couldn’t break one lightly. Given the undesirable and unlikely outcome of letting themselves die of hunger and thirst, we might wonder how long it took each of them to break down and take that first bite after realizing they faced the choice of dying or becoming an oath-breaker.

Remember Galileo? The Church convicted him of heresy for promoting the idea that the earth revolved around the sun. They clung to a vision of the cosmos with the earth at the physical center, despite clear evidence to the contrary. The paint on the church floor dried for centuries before they managed to escape the corner of pride and willful ignorance.

When a cherished or comforting belief conflicts with undeniable reality, clinging to that belief doesn’t demonstrate strong faith; it illuminates a fear that God does not dwell in the truth. A round earth and a heliocentric orbit may have once felt like threats to the Christian worldview, but scientists of the church like LeMaitre and Mendel, who advanced the fields of physics and genetics, understood the discovery of new truths – even if they conflict with our current beliefs – leads us to greater understanding of God.

Let us never be so closed-minded that our thoughts and words conspire to trap us into a corner where our instinct to be defensive overrides our willingness to expand our understanding.


Comfort: Wherever the truth leads you, God is there. 

Challenge: Read this article about scientists who were also Christians.

Prayer: Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. (Psalm 86:4)

Discussion: Have you ever been afraid of the truth?

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