Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 New Testament Challenge – Day 35 (Reflections on John 1-11)

Every year I participate in a special effort called the New Testament Challenge sponsored by a priest of the Orthodox Church in America. He encourages Christians to spend the Christmas Fast, also known as Advent) reading the entire New Testament as a preparation for Christmas. Each year I have done this, it has been blessing to me and I pray this year will be no different. As part of the New Testament Challenge, I endeavor to blog a bit about the reading for that particular day. I may miss a few, but I pray for those who follow this blog (NOW ALSO ON FACEBOOK) it will be a blessing.

Today’s reading bring many thoughts to my mind, but two I wanted to share with you. First,
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. "Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (John  6.66-69)
When the teaching of Jesus Christ become too hard to bear, some believers choose to leave rather than remain within the Church. And what is Christ’s response? He allowed them to depart freely. That’s how much God loves us. If we want to walk away, while He desires us to remain, He allows us to depart. What that means for us today is that Jesus wants us to freely follow Him, without forcing us and without trickery. This was one reason He didn’t reveal Himself with power to the multitudes, as He will when He returns riding on a cloud, so that people would be able to freely accept Him with their own will.

If God doesn’t force people to follow Him, why do we Christians still try to force people to love Him and His Church? Not only is not productive, it also does not express the freedom that God grants. That same freedom, we are not permitted to take away from others.

Another thought came to my mind while I was reading today. When Jesus heals on the Sabbath, while this is technically breaking the Law, Jesus reminds us that the Law is for a purpose – to do the will of God, which is love. The religious elite had no difficulty doing work on the Sabbath if it was something such as circumcision.
Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel. Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." (John 7.21-24)
We each choose every day which “rules” of the Church we think are important to follow, while rejecting others. Then we turn around and speak badly of others who choose, based upon what THEY think, different “rules” of the Church to follow. Who is correct? Maybe both are correct, depending upon the circumstances, or maybe both are incorrect.

Sin is sin, and every time we look at the sin of others and declare THEM sinners, while holding our chin up high, we are no better than the religious elite who rejected the compassionate healing Jesus did on the Sabbath. Shame on us!

Until tomorrow…..Consider where you have acted as one of the religious elite rather than showing compassion on your brothers and sisters.

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