Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 43; 149, Genesis 41:1-13, 1 Corinthians 4:1-7, Mark 2:23-3:6
When Jesus picked and ate a handful of grain on the Sabbath, the pharisees accused him of violating the law. He replied: “The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath” and reminded them a starving King David once ate the bread in the temple. This is only one of many time Jesus taught them God’s foremost priority is the people, not the law. Picking a handful of grain for the moment’s enjoyment is qualitatively different than working a day in the field, but the Pharisees made no such distinction between the letter and spirit of the law.
On the other hand, as Jesus tried to put the law into perspective, he at no time dismissed it wholesale. He never claimed the Sabbath was made for humankind… to ignore. We are eager to hear the message we are not slaves to the law. Are we just as eager to receive Christ’s words about our responsibilities to justice and mercy? American culture is all about establishing rights, but how would we react to any proposed Bill of Responsibilities? Freedom is only one side of the coin. Jesus clearly has expectations we are to use our freedom to make the right choices: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned. Instead of a simple checklist, we have an obligation to love our neighbor. Freedom can be a wild creature; fortunately God gave each of us a brain we can use to rein in our freedom toward his service.
Like the Sabbath or the law, Jesus’ teachings were tools given to humankind. We depend on them to do our job as Christians. As with any good tools, we must learn to use them properly. To master them, not only do we have to read the manual, we have to apply them in the real world, and gain experience to know how they handle in action. A plumber isn’t a slave to his wrenches, but he isn’t much of a plumber without them.
Freedom from the law is a gift, but it is a gift we must use responsibly.
Comfort: You don’t need to win God’s love through good deeds.
Challenge: Review the past week. If you find you have squandered your freedom, make a commitment to using it more responsibly next week.
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for freeing me from sin and fear. Use my time and talents toward your great purpose, that may love for my neighbor may be even the palest reflection of your great love for humankind. Amen.
Discussion: How do you use your freedom? What sense of responsibility do you have toward your neighbor?
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