Paul believes that Christ will return before he dies. He urges Christ’s followers to remember “what time it is.” Two thousand years later, we are not so certain that Christ’s return is imminent. Nevertheless, Paul’s reminder calls us to live as if Christ were coming tomorrow. Paul tells us that we are closer to God now than when we first believed. With that comes an urgency to “lay aside the works of darkness” to live as people of the light. Paul believes that living as people of the light requires more than loving our neighbor as ourselves. It requires us to live honorable lives. Note that he defines honorable as living free of reveling, drunkenness, debauchery, quarreling, and jealousy. I find it interesting that he puts quarreling and jealousy on the same level as things we often think of as immoral.
Is this what Paul means by loving ourselves? Do we love ourselves by living free of excesses to work for good in our own lives? “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” We are not to neglect our own needs, but neither are we to obsess over them. They can easily take control of our lives. That is not loving one’s self. When we are self-absorbed, how can we find time to love our neighbor?
A Guided Meditation: Get comfortable and relax. Take several deep breaths, and rest between each of these suggestions: Remember and give thanks for when you first believed. Remember how urgent the moment is. Ask yourself what obsessions you have. Ask for help in regaining control. Ask yourself if you are jealous and quarrelsome. Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen your love for yourself and your neighbor. Come, Lord Jesus, come and make us more holy. Amen.
We move forward in the story of Moses to the climax in Egypt, the tenth plague. God tells the Israelites to prepare for the terrible night to come and establishes the feast of Passover. It is to be an eternal reminder of what God has done for the people. The psalmist praises God for faithfulness and victory, including overthrowing those who would oppress them. Egypt is not mentioned specifically, yet the Passover represents just such a situation. Paul echoes Jesus in summarizing much of the Law in one simple commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus provides practical teaching on handling disagreements. Our first responsibility is to go to the other party privately and then include others only as necessary. Gossip and social media are not the ways to handle our disputes.
Read Exodus 12:1-14. How has the story of Passover shaped your faith?
Read Psalm 149. How has God called you to seek freedom from oppression for yourself or others through praise and through action?
Read Romans 13:8-14. What does it mean to consider love a driving force rather than a warm feeling? How does this understanding change the way you act toward yourself and your neighbors?
Read Matthew 18:15-20. When have you participated in or witnessed true reconciliation? How did you see compassion at work?
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