It always amazes me how relevant the Bible is even though its stories take place so long ago. Today’s reading especially hits home to me, particularly the version in The Message Bible.
A little history here may help. This is Paul’s letter to the Romans. In the early days of the new church, Paul had to convince the new Christians that were Jewish and the new Christians that were not Jewish to get along. Using Jesus’ teachings of love for all, he had to erase centuries of in-bred teachings that these two groups were never to commune together. One of the areas where these two groups differed dramatically is in what they ate. The Jews had many rules and laws over what they ate and when they ate it. The non-Jews thought this was down right weird.
The words used by Paul are just as true today. “Forget about deciding what’s right for each other.” I find myself so often being the judge for others. I don’t mean to. But, time and time again, I’m with a group of folks and the talk turns to how others are behaving, or what was wrong with someone else’s kids, or did I see or hear what happened to so-and-so. I innocently go with the flow of the conversation. But it’s not so innocent, is it?
As Paul explains to the Romans, Jesus says that “everything as it is in itself is holy.” We are the ones who contaminate it by how we treat it or talk about it. Wow. It’s hard for me to realize that I could have such a damaging effect on something or someone. But, if you have ever been the object of someone else’s “contamination”, you know the hurt that it can bring. And even if just one comment in itself isn’t damaging, when you look at all those comments over time they have the effect of constant running water over stones.
Paul is full of instructions on what positive behaviors we need to incorporate into our lives – “Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ.” “Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others.” “God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy.”
So, I hope you will join me in reading and thinking about Paul’s words. Then, let’s all do our best to incorporate these lessons into our own daily lives.