7 Pentecost, July 16
“Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If it is to be this way, why do I live?’ So she went and inquired of the Lord. And the Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.’ When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out all red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob” (Gen. 24:21-25).
Jacob, having taken his brother by the heel, would in adulthood intensify the conflict by stealing his brother’s birthright. Jacob represents the whole house of Israel, receiving in time the name Israel because, in the dark of night and the opaque mist of dreams, “you have striven with God and humans, and have prevailed” (Gen. 32:28).
In a sense, faith is conflict, an inner struggle. It is peace as well, but not without challenge and turbulence, and so a person of deep faith may still identify with the Gerasene demoniac who said to Jesus, “My name is Legion; for we are many” (Mark 5:9). The peace of Christ sits alongside unresolved tensions, conflicting obligations, and moral demands beyond one’s ability.
To get on with faith and life and to endure struggles, we need guidance. In short, we need the Word, the one through whom all this was made, and made to be intelligible, coherent, and purposeful. We need something akin to law, judgments, commandments, and decrees to establish life-giving structure in our lives. Laws may, of course, expose guilt, afflict conscience, incur punishment, and lead from one small, inexorable death to another until the ravages of time extinguish one’s life altogether. There is a “law of sin and of death” (Rom. 8:2).
Law must not, however, be rejected because “the law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). The Spirit of Christ gives law entirely for our good. “Your word [judgment, laws, commandments, decrees] [are] a lantern to my feet and a light upon my path” (Ps. 119:105). The inward light of Christ, felt most often as the pangs of conscience and a proleptic intuition of what is right, gives direction. Moreover, the Spirit of life in Christ “gives life to our mortal bodies” and so disposes us to use the world and use it prudently. Ultimately, we must work out our salvation, that is, put in the effort to know what is right, understand how to fulfill it, and see it through to the end (the Collect).
It is well known that Christianity preaches forgiveness of sins and new life in Christ. Too little attention is given to an all-important question: What am I to do? Jesus answers this question by planting a seed in our hearts that contains the potential of all we are called to be and do. For a time, evil may steal it; persecution may wither it; the cares of the world and the lure of riches may choke it. Still, it is there, containing a law of love, a fructuous faith touching every detail of life.
Amid persecution and confusion, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ will guide you, generally and in detail.
Look It Up: Isaiah 55:10-13
Think About It: “My word shall accomplish that which I purpose.”