Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31
“…the justice/righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ for all who believe. Romans 3:22
This devotion is being written ten days before the US election and is intended to be posted the day before the election, November 2. However, because it will serve as a backup, it is possible that it could be posted before then. In any case the message applies whenever it appears.
The background texts for this devotion are two of the texts for Reformation Sunday and my thinking here is heavily shaped by some excellent commentaries by David Lose (here) and Jane Lancaster Patterson (here). I suspect that what I say below, because it its intended to be succinct, will leave some of you wanting more background for what I have to say, so I invite you to take time to read the entire commentaries of Lose and Patterson.
We who celebrate the Reformation on the last Sunday in October often lift up the theme of freedom that Jesus speaks of in John 8:31. However, as Lose notes and many others would agree, our freedom is not “‘… freedom as the ability “to do whatever [the hell] I want’”…(that leads to) “the vain pursuit of actualization through self-assertion and self-gratification.” Rather, as Christians, our freedom is
“to find our true nature, call, and purpose – our telos – realized in and through – and only in and through – relationship with others.”
Now we come to Jane Lancaster Patterson’s commentary. What I find particularly helpful in Patterson’s commentary is that she notes that in Romans Paul addresses the division between Jewish and Gentile Christians in the house churches in Rome. At the same time, she sees Paul’s thesis or “practical counsel” in the letter being captured in Romans 15:7, “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
This then fits very nicely with how Patterson interprets in Romans 3:22 the Greek word dikaiosyne that “gives English translators fits, because they have to choose between righteousness (right relationship with God) and justice (right relationship with one’s neighbor). The Greek language expresses the two as a single reality, a fact that grounds Paul’s argument in Romans 3. There is no true relationship with God if there is no true relationship with one’s neighbor.”
So, I come to the conclusion that the freedom we have in Christ is that we are created to be in relationships with each other and to love one another as God in Jesus loves us!!! In other words, we are created to love our neighbors as difficult as that sometimes is!
Where does that leave us the day (or days) before a very contentious and divided US election and in the midst of a horrific pandemic where hundreds to thousands of our citizens are dying every day?
On the day after the election (or whenever the winner is determined), some of us will be very elated (and perhaps relieved) and some of us will be very sad (and perhaps despondent). But we are loved—all of us—by God and because we are loved by God, we get to find ways to love one another as God loves us. Love your neighbors (whoever they voted for) as yourself. I invite you to ponder ways you will be doing that.
Also, as the pandemic rages on, we need to continue taking care of each other. And that includes our neighbors with whom we can do so only at distance. Love your neighbors as yourself. I invite you to continue finding old and new ways to care for each other/your neighbors wearing masks, keep physical distance, washing your hands often, and gathering (if at all) in VERY small groups.
God of the Universe, hold us in your hands, and when we are divided, contentious, and show great dislike for one another, show us that you love ALL of us. Help us to find ways to come together (love each other) in the goodness you created in each one of us. Continue to care for us during this pandemic. Thank you for all who are caring for us when we become ill and who are working on ways to bring this pandemic to an end. In the meantime, help all of us to do what we need to do to take care of each other. Amen.