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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Genesis 2:19–21                 

For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. (NRSV)

As Americans, we pride ourselves on being a nation of laws. But what if a law, duly enacted by our chosen representatives and signed by governors or presidents, is unjust? What if it is immoral? And who decides? Throughout our history, Americans have committed acts of civil disobedience in defiance of laws they believed to be against their consciences and against their God. The prominent essayist Henry David Thoreau went to jail for refusal to pay his taxes because they supported the unjust war against Mexico. Conscientious objectors have gone to jail for refusing to fight in what they have also believed to be unjust wars. In the 1960s, young African Americans challenged southern segregation laws by sitting at whites-only lunch counters and were jailed. Civil Rights leaders and activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Medger Evers, Mrs. Viola Liuzo, Reverend Bruce Klunder, James Reeb, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a number of others paid with their lives for defying the segregation laws of Mississippi and Alabama. Even today, churches in our city and all over the country, acting upon the convictions of Christian faith, are violating American immigration laws by granting sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.

Yet Paul seems to be saying that in Christ he became dead to the law, insensible to it to it in the same way that physical death makes a person insensible to all surrounding forces. Speaking metaphorically, he states that by dying with Christ, the spirit of Christ now lives within him, and all that matters is that he now live by faith. Is he saying that standing up to wrong and unjust laws doesn’t matter—that such laws do not matter? I don’t think so. Rather, I believe that he is saying that when we believe in Christ and our ultimate salvation by grace, we will have the courage to act upon our Christian convictions, no matter what the price may be.

Gracious, just, and righteous God, help us to face the challenges of our times with courage and faith in our ultimate redemption. Open our hearts that Christ may live within each of us. Amen.

Written by Claudia Boatright, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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