Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 96; 148, 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Ephesians 2:1-10, Matthew 7:22-27

In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov, brothers Ivan and Aloysha engage in long and compelling arguments about the nature of God, faith, and the problem of evil. At one point Ivan asks his brother if, to create a utopia where humanity was eternally happy and at peace, he could justify torturing a blameless infant to death.

Of course Aloysha says no. In the context of the novel his answer has many meanings, but let us consider it in light of Christ’s parable in Matthew about the man who built his house on a foundation of stone, versus the man who built his house on a foundation of sand. Naturally the house built on sand crumbled, while the one on the stone foundation endured. The strong foundation results from following Christ’s teachings, the weak foundation from ignoring them.

Foundations matter. The ends do not always justify the means. When we build lives, families, churches, and communities our intentions mean nothing if our methods are corrupt. Houses built on sand and stone may appear equally grand for a short while, but eventually the underpinnings will be revealed. If we have sacrificed the least among us to build monuments, no matter how grand, they magnify not the Lord but our weakness.

Also in Matthew Christ said:

[M]any will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

History is full of innocents sacrificed in the name of religion. Many monuments but not a single utopia has sprung from their “unavenged tears” (to quote Dostoevsky). But the one innocent who sacrificed himself willingly ushered in the Kingdom of Heaven. That is our model for a foundation of stone: a willingness to sacrifice ourselves to serve the kingdom. According to psalmists and prophets, God measures us not by how many we have persecuted on His behalf but by the holy sacrifice we have made of our own lives.

Comfort: Christ was the sacrifice that assures us the Kingdom.

Challenge: If what you desire requires someone else to make a sacrifice you do not have to make, you are very likely desiring the wrong thing.

Prayer: God of strength, teach me to build on the firm foundation of Christ, that my efforts may be lasting testaments to your glory. Amen.

Discussion: What clubs, associations, teams, or other groups do you belong to? Have you ever let them persuade you to accept a questionable means to justify a desirable end?

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