Paul wrote his letter to the Romans at a time when the controversial topics of the day included whether to eat or to abstain from eating certain foods and whether or not a special day should be set aside as holy. Paul’s message in this section of his letter was that what is done in the name of God is trivial compared to having good relationships with others and in our relationship with God. He also urges us not to trivialize or criticize the sincere actions or beliefs of others.
When I was in the fourth grade, in Catholic school, we were preparing for a visit from the bishop. Sister Magdaline told us to make sure our uniforms were clean and pressed, our hair combed, our faces washed, and our shoes shined. The morning of the visit, she carefully inspected each of us. When she came to a boy named Paul (really), she frowned. There were mud stains on his creased pants. He said his mother had washed them twice, but that the stains just wouldn’t come off. (Paul’s family was very poor. Also, his mother was sick, and she had to wash their clothes by hand.) Sister Magdaline sent him home.
I don’t remember the bishop’s visit that day. I do remember the look on Paul’s face as he lowered his head and quickly left the room. How could something as trivial as a stain overshadow the importance of being kind to a child and reinforcing his faith, and that of his classmates, by allowing him to stay for the bishop’s visit?
While this example appears to be about trivializing or criticizing the actions or beliefs of others, it actually shows how easily things that are ultimately trivial can blur our focus on God and on our neighbor.
Is there something trivial (often not apparent) in our lives that blurs our Christian vision? For example, do we allow work (we can all be replaced) to overshadow the importance of having dinner regularly with our family? Do we allow sleep to overshadow the importance of worship and fellowship at church on Sunday morning? Do we let American Idol or Survivor overshadow the importance of, well, anything else?
Dear Lord, we pray for clear vision in our daily lives, that we may respect and love each other as You have taught us. May we remember that, "If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong." (The Message, v. 23). Amen.