Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Lenten Reflection for February 27, 2013

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.
Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. (Romans 1:28-2:1)

Let your steadfast love become my comfort according to your promise to your servant.
Let your mercy come to me, that I may live. (Psalm 119:76-77)

It’s very helpful to have those people around. You know the ones—they’re responsible for doing all the bad things that we hear about. They provide us with the opportunity to objectify evil so that we know it’s out there with those people. That way we can be secure in the knowledge that it’s not in here with us.

But it is.

The apostle Paul was writing to help Jewish and Gentile Christians figure out how to live together, to be one body in Christ. In doing so, he leveled the moral playing field by making everyone culpable in acts of wickedness. Jesus did this too:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

The mind is tethered to the hand. I may not have committed adultery, but I have shared the same mind with the adulterer. I may not have committed murder, but in my anger I have opened the possibility of such an action. We’re not so far apart, those people and me.

I take comfort in remembering that, in Jesus . . . “we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15b-16).

I can’t really think about those people without recognizing that I am kin to them. But the recognition is important. It motivates me to turn to God, who, in the person of Jesus, has entered into the entirety of human existence. In that turning he rightly judges my life and draws me into a life that is new.

Just as he desires to do for those people.

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