Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Thought for Wednesday 17 August 2016

“Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.  Do not claim to be wiser that you are.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  Romans 12:16-18 NRSV

One of the most prominent themes of the whole of the Bible is a strong sense of community and every member’s role within that community. The First Testament speaks to Israel as a whole (and to Judah during the time of the divided kingdom).  The New Testament speaks to the whole Church, the entire congregation as a whole, believers of all shapes and sizes and colors and even creeds.  Even those epistles addressed to some individuals (Timothy, Titus, and Philemon) speak of what makes for a stronger community woven together in Christ, the Living Word.

It must be noted within this context, then, that St. Paul is expressing the wholeness of the Body when he reminds individuals not to be “haughty” (full of themselves as if they are above any others) but to “associate with the lowly”.  This is not about dropping a few coins into the Salvation Army buckets come Christmas time, for this can be done without actually “associating” with those who will be helped.  In this it must be said, then, that thinking in terms of the community as a whole, no matter how well off we believe ourselves to be as individuals, the community as a whole can only be as strong as the weakest among us. 

St. Paul also wrote to the Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ” (6:2).   This simply means individual faith must not be considered so “personal” as to be rendered completely “private”; for the “law of Christ” requires that we look after one another, bear one another’s burdens, share in one another’s joys, and weep one another’s tears.

As the saying goes, the chain is only as strong as the weakest link.  We have much to gain together and much to lose whenever we withdraw unto ourselves with no concern or thought toward those who struggle emotionally, spiritually, or financially.  The Lord’s commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” is much more than an ultimatum to ‘do it or else’.  It is rather the reality of what is needed when we face disaster or other challenges that threaten the well-being of the whole community, such as what our neighbors in southern Louisiana are facing.

Let us look to our neighbor, but not only the one “next door”.  Look instead to the one on the other side of town.  That, my friends, is the state of the community.  When we come to The Lord’s terms in this, I believe we will find strength we have yet to fully experience; and the “joy unspeakable” will be ours!

The Lord is great, is He not?


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