No Middle Ground

“Do not be deceived” (Gal. 6:7a).

The lessons for today present compelling images of God’s comfort and blessing, not only for the faithful, but also for those outside the Chosen People. Naaman the leper is healed from his leprosy by the power of the God of Israel. Naaman is a pagan, and the commander of the king of Aram whose relationship with Israel is one of, at best, guarded suspicion, and usually enmity. Naaman’s wife is served by a young Israelite slave who had been captured (i.e., kidnapped) in a raid; the king of Israel sees the letter from the king of Israel sees the letter from the king of Aram only as an occasion for picking a fight. Underneath the politics, however, is a genuine testimony (by the slave girl) to the power of God, evidently given out of genuine affection for Naaman, and a setup for the power of God to be manifested to the pagan, which thereby changes his life.

In the lesson from Isaiah is the eye-popping image of “all who love” Jerusalem nursed and satisfied by “her consoling breasts.” Presumably “all who love” Jerusalem refers to Gentiles as well as Jews. This interpretation is especially likely when the lesson is considered in the wider context of the last chapters of Isaiah.

The epistle is from the last section of Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia. He writes not just of “not life” in Jesus, but is unrestrained in his description of this life as one of “new creation.” He contrasts this with the doctrinal limitations and errors of those Christian believers who aver that Gentile converts must be circumcised to enjoy the reality of salvation – thereby undercutting the ability of Jesus to save by faith. Paul is so determined that this message come through decisively that he takes the pen from his scribe and inserts, “See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!” He wants the readers of this letter to make no mistake about the urgency and significance of his message. If they miss that message they risk “sowing to their own flesh” under a deception of the meanings of salvation that even “mocks God.”

In the gospel, Jesus similarly draws a sharp line between those who listen to the gospel (“listen” implies “accept and follow”) and those who reject it. The difference is sharp; even the dust of the town of those who reject is not permitted into the kingdom of the redeemed; “peace” is a powerful reality that affects the hearers, and the preaching even tumbles Satan from heaven.

Look It Up

Reflect on Paul’s intriguing exhortations in the lesson from Galatians, in which he teaches the faithful in one place to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” but very quickly adds that “each will have to bear his own load” (Gal. 6:2, 5).

Think About It

We know that we live in a world of grays rather than clear blacks and whites, yet the lessons for today allow for no middle ground. How can we apply today’s scriptural teaching without compromise to the complexities of life?


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