Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 27; 147:12-20, Exodus 7:25-8:19, 2 Corinthians 3:7-18, Mark 10:17-31
In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul tells the people the law under Moses (which he calls the “ministry of death”) was chiseled in stone, while the ministry of the Spirit is written on their hearts. He also distinguishes them as the ministry of condemnation and the ministry of justification. For people who were used to having all of God’s requirements written down in an agreed-upon format, this was an understandably difficult transition.
The New Testament wasn’t compiled until well after Paul’s death. When he preached about Christ, Paul wasn’t beholden to specific texts, a situation with both challenges and advantages. He had to constantly meditate on what the will of Christ might be, since he was the first person bringing this message to most of the people he encountered. On the other hand, not being bound by chapter and verse, he was free to speak the language of the heart, which created opportunities for mercy often unthinkable under the restrictions of pure law.
The New Testament is a collection of testimony and letters of advice and encouragement, not a basis for hard and fast laws, no matter how much some might like it to be. So how do we know what to do? The challenge of the ministry of justification is that we can’t actually read what is written on anyone else’s heart. Because it’s our nature to prefer defined expectations, we tend to assume it matches what is written on our own, and build our expectations for them on that basis. If we begin to judge people for not meeting our own self-imposed limits and rules, we are back to the ministry of condemnation, and the living words written on our hearts harden like stone tablets.
Our job is to understand what God has written on our own hearts, and live accordingly. Paul’s ministry of justification assumes the law is on our hearts, and encourages us to assume the same of others. Christ invites and trusts us to fulfill the law of love, and encourages us to allow others the freedom to do the same.
Comfort: The ministry of death has passed. Christ offers us new life.
Challenge: We are responsible for discerning, through our relationship with Christ, what is right and what is wrong.
Prayers: Merciful God, thank you for the ministry of life made possible through Jesus Christ. I pray for the wisdom and discernment to follow your will, not my own. Spare me from judgment as I spare my neighbor. Amen.
Discussion: What hard and fast rules do you cling to that may be more yours than God’s?
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