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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Today’s Reading | Romans 15:1–13   

We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”; and again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”; and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”; and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (NRSV)

Reflection
“Americans enjoy explaining almost every act of their lives on the principle of self-interest properly understood,” writes Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America. “It gives them pleasure to point out how an enlightened self-love continually leads them to help one another and disposes them freely to give part of their time and wealth for the good of the state.”

In the United States—particularly as part of a Presbyterian tradition that celebrates freedom of conscience—we have long held that freedom can and should lead to good for ourselves and for our communities. On the other hand, there are those who (out of a desire to maintain the goodness of our traditions) ask us to examine whether our traditional faith that our individual exercise of freedom will actually lead to positive outcomes for our communities (e.g., http://bit.ly/2aDRcLQ).

As we enter into a season when critical decisions—about power and place in society, about social and environmental justice, about our financial and national priorities—will be made through the exercise of our freedom to vote, I think it is right for us to once again wonder, “Is it necessarily good that my freedom to act should be guided by my self-interest?”

De Tocquevillehimself admitted, “If the doctrine of self-interest properly understood ever came to dominate all thought about morality, no doubt extraordinary virtues would be rarer.” Yet are we followers-of-Jesus not called to “extraordinary virtue?” Paul calls all of us to “put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. . . . For Christ did not please himself.”

As we make important decisions in the days ahead, about electing leaders and defining policies, I pray that we might use our freedom directed by “the God of hope” who “[fills us] with all joy and peace in faith so that [we] overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Prayer
Holy Christ, whose love and grace grants me every power and freedom I enjoy, help me trust you as I use them, that I might not be anxious about my own benefit, but instead do all I can to lift your people to a fuller experience of knowing your justice and goodness. Amen.

Written by Hardy H. Kim, Associate Pastor for Evangelism


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