Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Thought for Wednesday 21 January 2015

“None of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.  If we live, we live to The Lord; and if we die, we die to The Lord … So then each of us shall give account of himself to The Lord.  Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this; not to be a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way … if your brother is grieved because of your food [action], you are no longer walking in love.  Do not destroy with your food [actions] the one for whom Christ [also] died … for the Kingdom of God is not eating or drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 14:7, 12-13, 15, 17

I know there is a lot of skipping around, but I wanted to get to the main point of Paul’s discourse.  A literal reading of this passage, actually the entire chapter, reduces the point to whether or not food is clean or unclean (fit to eat according to the Law of Moses).  Food, of course, is not the point in itself just as St. Paul states pointedly: “The Kingdom of God is not eating or drinking …”

So rather than read the passage in terms of “food”, look instead at one’s [actions].  It is especially important to remember Paul is writing to a particular audience for their own correction.  He is not teaching the Romans (or us) how to straighten out someone else.  He is requiring that we first take a look at our own actions before we concern ourselves with the actions of others.

What stirred me about this passage were news reports yesterday about the persons killed and hurt, the buildings, churches, and homes destroyed by protesters responding to the French parody magazine’s (Charlie Hebdo) intentional “finger in the eye” of Muslims by deliberately (and with malice aforethought!) publishing a caricature of the prophet Muhammad on the cover of its magazine.  We Americans may not have had a problem with it (free speech and all), but Christians from countries around the world lost loved ones, businesses, churches, and homes because someone in France thought it might be a good idea to show terrorists they will not give in.

There are, even in a secular civil society, limits to free speech as it is often expressed, ‘Your rights end at the tip of my nose’.  And even though there is no love lost between the Western World and terrorists who act ostensibly in the name if Islam, unnecessarily provoking anyone to the point that innocent bystanders far removed are harmed is a direct violation of all St. Paul holds up as good.  And remember, St. Paul’s words have no meaning to Islam.  Then again, Paul was not writing to Muslims; he was (and still is) writing to ‘infant’ Christians.

“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify (build up) another.  Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of [your rights] … [for] it is evil for one who [acts] with offense” (Romans 14:19-20).  It is not about laying down for or giving in to radical terrorists nor is it about those who so easily turn to violence.  It is about those who are harmed only because they were caught in the middle.  The magazine was published in France; those who died (there were ten confirmed deaths as of yesterday) as a result of the violence stirred by the publication were in Niger (Africa).  Our actions have far-reaching consequences, whether we intend it or not.

The people of the Church are compelled by the Spirit of The Lord and the Written Word to be agents of peace and faithfulness.  Terrorists (at home and abroad) will do what they will do for any reason or no reason.  This does not mean we have to roll in the feces with them. 

Grace and peace,


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