Rule-following can offer us the gift of satisfaction. We convey this message to children from a young age: Learn the rules; act accordingly. Often, following the rules equals happiness and ignoring the rules equals unfavorable consequences. Then as adults, few of us like to learn that the rules in which we’ve always believed have changed. It can feel overwhelming when a leader suggests a change after we’ve done the same thing the same way for such a long period of time. Rules provide us security and presumed assurance of a reward.
Paul’s ministry among the early church constantly engages in a conversation about the rules. Paul fights an uphill battle in trying to give the church at Galatia new instruction. In Paul’s first visit to Galatia, he teaches that circumcision is not necessary for converts to the Christian faith. The teachings of Jesus make everything new. The law of the Torah does not need to be followed in the same way. After this first visit, the church embraces the change. But then, much to Paul’s dismay, some new teachers come to town saying Paul’s interpretation is wrong and circumcision is required. Confusion sets in. The church at Galatia wants to follow the rules. So, how are we to interpret Jesus’ teaching?
In today’s reading, Paul writes about grace to the church at Galatia. Do not stress over knowing the rules and following them, he says. If you want to be circumcised, that’s fine. If you aren’t circumcised, that’s great too. Following Christ is most important. Following Christ means embracing a journey of not knowing what lies ahead but believing in the freedom Christ gives. As Christian people, we are bound only to Christ.
Jesus, giver of all good gifts, help us to lay aside our love of rules and to embrace your gifts of grace. Amen.
The readings from the Hebrew scriptures describe what can happen when our own strength fails us. Naaman is a great military commander from Syria, but he has no power to heal himself. The psalmist, traditionally David, has become too comfortable in his prosperity. Both men must humble themselves before they can experience healing and restoration from God. How often do we let our pride stand in the way of our healing? Paul admonishes his readers to carry themselves with humility and to build up one another. What they do will always come back to them; what we sow, we reap. The story in Luke warns against being proud even of the gifts that God gives us. Our greatest joy is not that we can do things for God but that God already has accepted us.
Read 2 Kings 5:1-14. When have God’s instructions been more involved than you expected? How did you respond?
Read Psalm 30. How can you continue to praise God during the dark, lonely, and hopeless times?
Read Galatians 6:1-16. When has your faith community struggled with members’ lack of humility? How did you resolve the situation so that you could welcome and nurture new Christians?
Read Luke 10:1-11, 16-20. When have you misconstrued God’s accomplishments as your own successes? How did you refocus your life or ministry on serving God?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.