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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

All or Nothing Faith

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. . . . And Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?" After looking around at them all, He said to him, "Stretch out your hand!" And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus (Luke 6:6-11).

Each time I read this passage, I am bewildered by the Pharisees’ cold-heartedness. Why could it be wrong to heal someone – even on the Sabbath?

Throughout the Old Testament, religious scholars such as the Pharisees and scribes were appointed by God Himself to protect the integrity of Jewish faith. And next to circumcision, obedience to the Sabbath Day commandment was a central requirement to the proper performance of Jewish faith. Little wonder, then, that Jesus angered so many of the Jewish teachers and doctrinal specialists when – according to their understanding of Scripture – he broke the Sabbath by healing people.

As I contemplated this vignette in Luke’s gospel, I focused on that phrase – according to their understanding of Scripture. And then another vignette in St. Luke’s gospel flashed into my memory. In this one (chapter 9), the apostle John said to Jesus, We saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us (verse 49).

It seems the Pharisees and other Doctors of the Law were not alone in the practice of their religion within the strict confines of their understanding of Scripture.

Jesus’ disciples practiced the same kind of – what I call – “all or nothing” faith.

“All or nothing” faith. It’s what I also practiced for decades. Unless people worshiped Christ like I worshiped Him, or interpreted Scripture as I did, or attended the same denominational church as I – their Christian faith was suspect.

I should have paid more attention to the Lord’s response to St. John in that next verse: Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you (Luke 9:50).

All or nothing faith. It’s hard to achieve the kind of unity for which Jesus prayed, when we accept from others nothing less than the “Gospel According to Me” (see St. John 17:20-23).

Perhaps that’s why the Lord Jesus said to the Doctors of the Law: Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24). Or St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome: Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand (Romans 14:4).

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Happy new year!

Julie Surface Johnson said...

How different things would be if we all stopped judging one another and left the judging where it belongs--with God! I'm not sure who originally said this, but a statement I appreciate is this:
"In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, charity. In all things--to the glory of God!
Thanks, Richard, for a thoughtful post.

Richard Maffeo said...

Julie, I do not doubt at all that if the Body of Christ followed that concept (In essentials unity. . . ") our nation and our world would be a much safer place. But, as it is, with the house (Church) divided so badly, Satan has little trouble troubling our world.