Today’s Scriptures: From the Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 118, 145
2 Corinthians 13:1-11
How do we judge who has lived faithfully and is it our position to judge?
Every day life demands us to make decisions. Some are the mundane what to wear, which cereal to have for breakfast type decisions while the ethical how to respond to the angry email or the racist/sexist/off-color joke in the break room provide us the opportunity to demonstrate our faith’s status in our daily lives. We often think making a “faith decision” implies a call to ministry or a missionary field. The Scriptures for today focus on the everyday decisions we make.
Psalms of praise seem to dominate the book. The two praise Psalms today connect the people with specific reasons and directions for praising in the Temple. They detail specific events when the power of God intervened in the lives of his people. Reminding the Israelites of the special history helped to keep the people faithful across generations before any written document of faith was created. When they lived faithfully, God was faithful to them.
The story of Samson (in Judges) has long been used as a story to warn Christians about being influenced by people who do not share common beliefs with them (anyone who is not a Christian). Samson’s story though, goes deeper than poor choice of a girlfriend. While it was a matter of the heart that led to Samson’s fall, the story further illustrates the power of a vow made to God (as we saw last week). He had been so pestered by Delilah, that he used a phrase (tired to death) found in prophetic literature when a prophet would rather die than give the appointed message to the people. The nazirite vow (as presented Biblically) would have come to an end with the first person Samson killed. Cutting the hair was one way of voluntarily leaving the sect (though one could rejoin after regrowing the hair). It was likely Samson (as many others) did not take the specifics of the vow seriously, yet with Samson the vow had a special meaning as it was through that vow that he had the special relationship with God. As a military leader and judge of the people, he had special standing through a blessing from God. While many others could break the vow without consequence, Samson was bound to a higher standard as a person called to live faithfully to God in order to execute his will.
Paul’s experience with the church at Corinth had been one of difficulty since its founding. He made visits and sent letters and messengers with instructions to escape the false teachings and divisions with which the church had long struggled. As Paul closed the final passage of what we now know as 2 Corinthians, he stridently warns them about continuing to operate in ways outside the church teaching. Perhaps the strongest of his admonitions let the church know they could not continue to judge (test) others when there was little proof that they would pass the test themselves. Because Paul sometimes wrote in a legalistic and technical style, the language can be hard to understand; nevertheless, in this passage he makes it clear that God is the Judge and he will stand with anyone living faithfully – no matter what conclusion the world (or the church at Corinth) came to.
The woman who navigated the crowd to touch Jesus’s clothing was one of several stories in which a person received healing based on actions that demonstrated their faith. We often hear about the “power of faith.” Jesus noticed the woman when he felt the power drawn from him. Jesus called out the woman and affirmed that it was her faith that had healed her.
The passages today offer a range of faithful (or unfaithful) actions and the consequences that emerge from them. Samson likely considered his ultimate capitulation to Delilah as something of little or no consequence, yet it led to his death and trouble for the people of Israel. The Corinthian church struggled with faithful living and their role in evaluating what constituted following God. As a result, divisions and strife leading to a damaged witness in the community and the emergent Christian presence throughout the Mediterranean define the church to us today. For the faithful woman, living her faith was a matter of health or illness for her alone, yet she became an example for all future Christians. Regardless what we think of the connection to our faith in the decisions we make, the Bible makes clear that living by faith involves everything we do, not just those decisions we make for church. While it is something we do individually, its impact extends beyond our personal sphere.
Let us daily walk in faith in all parts of our life knowing that God stands with those who do and understanding the consequences for those who do not.