One of the more interesting things that is occurring in this event called COVID-19 and its physical distancing are the conversations that are going along with it. There are plenty of political and health conversations (neither necessarily with all the facts or research, and this comes from all corners). There are economic conversations. There are logistical conversations. There are, amazingly, religious conversations.
For some of us, we are watching religious conversations regarding topics that some people had been thinking about (for example, communion online) for a time, to an immediate need. There are those that were dismissive (at best) of having any sort of community online (and dismissing those who had it as shallow) who now are doing their best to understand what it means to actually do it.
Then, there are those who need to be theologically “correct” who have decided to do nothing. Taking a prophet’s words out of context, they kicked their sheep out to the wolves because they couldn’t feed them the “right” grass. Yes, that is more than a bit snarky.
However, this a different form of the conversation Jesus continually had and that Paul was having.
In Jesus’ story of the beggar Lazarus (not to be confused with the Lazarus who was brought back to life), Abraham points out to the rich man that the prophets and the laws were already there. He and his brothers either didn’t see them, ignored them (either of these two would fit in the context of Jesus’ story), or believe that they were rich thus they were righteous (a common belief then and now).
How does this apply? Well, the so-called righteous living was not be lived through the filter of the Law or the prophets. In other words, they confused results, riches, and power with being followers of God.
Paul, on the other hand, knew that he was dealing with the “blind”. He did an odd thing. He circumcised Timothy. As this was all part of the context of delivering the message from the Apostles about what Gentiles needed to do to be “right”, we understand that Paul did not impose this upon Timothy because Timothy needed it to be done to be righteous. Paul did it so that there would be one less barrier between Timothy (and Paul) and the Jews.
Paul’s mission was to share the Gospel. He understood that there would be barriers (mental, emotional, logical, theological) between him and others. He would do his best (without violating the Way of Jesus) to identify with them enough to remove barriers and build relationships.
Often, even usually, people want others to remove their barriers. However, the love of Jesus Christ should be goading us to remove our barriers so that the message of the Gospel is receivable by others. Whether it is online, in person, through music, through television, or some other medium we need to remove our barriers.
It is not their responsibility to move closer to us. It is our responsibility to move closer to them. How do we know this? God came down as a baby. The infinite became the finite. We could not remove the barriers between ourselves and God. Only God could.
※ Prayer ※
God, help us to set aside our ways for your ways. Help us set aside our desires for your desires. Help us to reach people with the Gospel who neither know nor believe they need it. Amen.
※ Questions ※
1) What is one thing that keeps you from “agreeing” or “getting along” with people from another political party? Why does that one thing matter to you? Why might that one thing matter to them differently?
2) One of Jesus’ lessons is that our religiosity can inhibit others from having a relationship with God. What might one religious thing of yours might that be?
3) Why is it so important to understand that we have the responsibility to approach others? What might that mean for our daily lives?