For the next couple weeks, our readings will examine the role of “law” in our lives as followers of Jesus. A big issue for early Jewish Christians was whether or not to follow the Jewish Law, symbolized by circumcision. When Paul says, for neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, he is not advocating anarchy or everyone can do anything they want, but rather stating that, at the end of it all, how we followed the law is not the central issue: the central issue is our relationship with Christ and others.
To say it in another way, “righteousness” is a right relationship with God, shown through right relationships with others. Laws and rules and rituals are to help us to get there, to grow in this ability. But our tendency is to turn these guides or aides to loving relationships into an achievement test or grading system – which can lead us to be self-righteous and judgmental of others. Then the laws and guides have the opposite effect: instead of leading us to loving relationships with God and others, they divide us as we judge and dismiss others.
It is tricky to balance observing rules and laws without making them the be-all and end-all. One way to discern is to ask whether we are growing in compassion and love for others or if we are judgmental and self-righteous. Personally, when I find myself being judgmental, I ask if it is my responsibility to do so. As Director of Candidates for the Salvatorians, I need to be judging candidates. That is a responsibility. But often when I have judgmental thoughts, it is not my responsibility – or even my business!
I invite us to reflect this week on how we relate to rules and laws. Do we use them to help us grow in our love of God shown through love of neighbor? In what ways do I feelself-righteous and judgmental of others? Is there one specific situation in which I can change for the good and HOW can I do that? And let us support each other in prayer.
Church sign of the week:
No person’s life should be judged by their worst moment.