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Monday, August 10, 2015

Today’s Reading | Philippians 3:4b–14

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (NRSV)

“The Bible says they’re sinners.”

People send me these things online—essays, screeds really, about how one class of people or another violate God’s law, and how awful they are, and how good Christians shouldn’t have to accommodate these sinners and their sin when they go out in the world. Because hey, righteous people don’t have anything to do with sinners. Righteous people promote righteousness, and calling out sinners promotes righteousness, doesn’t it? Pointing out immorality is a sign of morality, right?

And really, isn’t it an act of love, pointing out their sin? Because if we point it out, they’ll stop it and repent and be saved, so really, it’s how we show our love. We’re a people apart from the world, so we should point out the evils of the world.

I mean, God’s law is God’s law, isn’t it?

And then, here is Paul—not above the odd display of self-righteousness himself—saying, “Hey, you think you’re good and righteous and moral and blameless? I was better at that than you are. But none of that matters anymore. It’s garbage. Righteousness comes from following Christ, and that is what matters, more than anything.”

The world is full of people who are happy to slap on the “Christian” nametag, yet who don’t seem to know the difference between self-righteousness and righteousness, between moralizing and morality. They are more than willing to judge, more than willing to point out the speck in another’s eye. And in doing so, they contravene the teachings of Christ: Don’t judge others, look to your own sins, let the blameless one cast the first stone. Love your neighbor as they are, not as what you can make them into.

When we get all superior about our neighbors, when we assume a position of greater righteousness and judge, that is the antithesis of love. The thing we are called to press on toward, “the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus,” is to truly love one another, as equals.

Lord, remind us that the petty excuses for righteousness we try to force on others are nothing more than pride and arrogance. Help us to stay humble and to remember that all are equally loved in your eyes. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator for Fine Arts

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