Scripture Reflections @ CEC (8/20/20)
The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering and the most comfortable way of dying.
- John Flavel
Scripture & Devotion: Scriptural focus: 1 Timothy 4: 4-8
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
The value of godliness
The other day, a good friend and I were talking about our family histories. Both of us were born in this country, but we come from very different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Her parents, Jews from Eastern Europe, survived the Holocaust as young people, but her grandparents and several relatives died, either in the concentration camps or while in hiding to avoid them. In contrast, my mother’s father and grandparents were Lebanese Christians who immigrated to the U.S. in the very early 1900’s. When Israel officially became a nation in 1948, their families back in the old country were driven from land that had been theirs for many generations. Their story is by no means unique. For that reason, and due to thousands of years of prior contentious history, many non-Jewish people of middle-eastern descent believe that they have every reason to be bitter toward those of the Jewish faith.
So, how is it possible that my friend and I should establish a relationship based on mutual trust and respect; one of us coming from an Arabic heritage and the other from a Jewish one? The short answer is “God.” Here is the more detailed explanation.
When I was growing up, my mother’s extended family were members of a Greek Orthodox church (like the one in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.) But the church was too far to walk to and few of them could drive, so my mother and her sister attended a small United Methodist church a block down the street from their house (which is the church in which I was raised). My father’s brother was an independent fundamentalist Baptist pastor at whose church I spent two weeks every summer attending Daily Vacation Bible School. You can probably guess that these three denominations, although Christian in name, disagreed on many things.
As a child, I remember my mother and my uncle arguing (sometimes vehemently) about whether or not the King James was the only acceptable translation of the Bible, whether grape juice or wine should be used in taking communion, and whether images of saints and ornate religious iconography were appropriate decor for church sanctuaries. But listening to these discussions had a profound impact on me, for they convinced me that God is much larger than our narrow attempts to confine him to any particular denomination.
I specifically remember being horrified as a teenager when a deacon in my uncle’s church taught in a Sunday School lesson that the Holocaust was God’s punishment on the Jews for having rejected Christ. (He failed to take into account that Hitler persecuted millions of non-Jews as well, including Catholics, the disabled, and anyone who opposed Nazi ideas about Aryan supremacy.) I knew that the Old Testament was the story of God’s relationship with Israel (whom he referred to as “my people”). Since Jesus himself was Jewish, I wondered, how could God approve of any attempt to vilify their traditions, their faith, their very existence? Furthermore, I reasoned, if God created all of humankind in all its marvelous variety, how could prejudice be right against any people group?
The aforementioned passage from Timothy makes an important point about the difference between what God has created and the rules established by man as part of religious or social tradition. Although Paul’s words in this passage were originally written in a context that refers to prohibitions against eating certain foods, he makes it clear that “everything God created is good,” and that we are to have nothing to do with “godless myths and old wives’ tales.” The animosity and distrust so in evidence in our country today is a direct result of myths and untruths about racial and ethnic difference being used throughout our history to turn people against each other. How different things would be if we took to heart the idea that, with regard to what (and whom) God has created, nothing (and no one) is to be “rejected”, and everything (and everyone) is to be “received with thanksgiving.” Paul refers to this as an aspect of “godliness” and makes it clear that it is an attitude which we have a responsibility to maintain. Just as with physical training, spiritual training requires constant practice. If we are diligent about this, it has value both for our present life and for “the life to come.”
All training - whether physical or spiritual - seems hard to us. We need your strength, your transforming power in our lives.