URC Daily Devotion 22 July 2023

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God  and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law,  and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,  a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth,  you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?  You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples?  You that boast in the law, do you dishonour God by breaking the law?  For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’

Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.  So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?  Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law.  For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical.  Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.

Churches are full of hypocrites.  

This is a sentiment with which many folk, within and without church congregations, are familiar.  It has been levied by people within the wider community who do not know what to do with a Christian community that on one hand preaches love, mercy and peace yet on the other sometimes presents as judgemental and holier than thou.  From the perspective of church membership we might respond that the community of a congregation is one where all are indeed hypocrites, all hypocrites are welcome, and all are trying with God’s help to amend their lives and ways and to be hypocrites no more.  

Some churches are places where it feels and looks like everyone has got this faith thing sewn up and sorted.  Where people exploring their spirituality and dipping their little toe in this thing called discipleship feel inadequate; where those who have been on this path longer and have walked further seem perfect or scarily act like they have nothing left to learn about God, the world, or themselves.  Where the hypocrisy is perhaps well hidden?  

Paul calls all this out.  “You are sure that you are a guide for the blind and a light for all who walk in the dark… But how can you teach others when you refuse to learn?… You take pride in the Law, but you disobey the Law and bring shame to God.” (Common English Version)

Paul challenges some members of the church in Rome who came to Christ from the perspective of being a part of the Jewish community.  He invites them to consider what it is to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ through the lens of being a part of the people of Israel.  

What makes for an honest follower of Jesus Christ?  How do we live this life with integrity and not hypocrisy?  What does it mean to actively live the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than simply being the people who have custody of it?  

Christ who is among us, 
show us how to live into 
and up to our identity 
as Christian people.  

Help us to claim our faith honestly
and openly.  

Call us anew 
to be your disciples 
to live and work 
to your praise and glory.  Amen.  

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