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Showing posts from October, 2007

How Not to Be Very Bad

Luke 18:9-14
As followers of Jesus it's okay to feel good about ourselves. In fact, that's an essential part of being true to Jesus' teaching. We're not called to beat ourselves up all the time, like the Christians and Muslims who - in various times and places - have gone around striking themselves with whips to punish themselves for their sinfulness. Jesus wants us to be repentant, but repentance is not about wallowing in guilt. It's about learning to love ourselves and about receiving the strength to change.
However, it's definitely not okay to feel good about ourselves if that leads us to look down on other people. Being a follower of Jesus isn't about being better than anyone else. It's doubtful that Jesus saw anything wrong with being a Pharisee as such. His teaching has a lot in common with the teaching of the Pharisees. Like Jesus' own followers, the Pharisees were happy to draw on the best ideas about God and goodness, wherever they come fr…

Fighting the Good Fight

2 Timothy 4.6-8, 16-18This passage purports to be Paul's farewell message to his protégé and successor Timothy. Like the three hundred brave soldiers from Sparta who defended Greece against a huge invading Persian army at Thermopylae, Paul senses that he is going to have to sacrifice his life for the cause. Whereas the Spartan soldiers died in the cause of Greek nationhood, to buy more time for the City of Athens to get ready to take up the fight, Paul is going to die in God's service, and for the sake of the Gospel. And just as the death of the Spartans and their king Leonidas was not really a defeat, but the beginning of the end for the Persian invaders, so Paul knows too that his death will not be the end of the struggle to bring Christianity to a disbelieving world. Generations of people since have been inspired by the Spartans' last stand, and similarly Timothy will be inspired by Paul's example. For, like the Spartan royal guard he has fought the good fight. Like…

Reflecting on Next Week's Bible Passages

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
Jeremiah is writing to people who find themselves living as exiles in an alien land. They are not to give up hope. They are to assume that there is still a future both for them and for their faith. And they are no to try to attack or sabotage the society in which they now live, even though its values and culture are alien to them. Instead, they are to work for its welfare, because if it is a flourishing and successful society they will flourish and be successful too.

Many theologians and religious leaders have understood this to mean that Christians, and Jewish people, should not get involved in politics or in trying to challenge or change the society around them. Instead, they have concentrated on trying to build up and encourage the faithful. At best, they have seen the Church - or their faith community - as leaven in the lump, influencing what happens around them quietly and in almost imperceptible ways. At worst, they have left the rest of society to its own devic…