Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I want to focus on the Epistle for today. But first I want to ask you, What is the source violence in the name of God? In the history of human race there has been a lot of violence in the name of God and it is there is still here today. For example, we hear of many attacks on Christians and others in the Middle East by Muslim warriors. For example, this past week, a newspaper published the account of a young kidnapped by ISIS. She was raped and said that before the rape, the man prayed to his God and after the rape, prayed to his God again. How can it be that a man rapes a woman or kills another man with a prayer on his lips?
First, let's recognize that God created us with a space for Him in our hearts. Therefore, there is an impulse in the human soul to seek something bigger than ourselves, something to give purpose to life beyond that of being born, living for a while and then dying. As creatures of God, we have the desire for God. However, because of our sinful nature, because we are born without the knowledge of Him and with a will against the will of God, this desire is contaminated by our selfishness, our pride. We have a model of pride in the Gospel for today (Luke 18:9-14).
"And he told also to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others, this parable: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed thus, God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector; I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess. "
Jesus told this parable to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. The example was the Pharisee. The Pharisees were a party of Jews. They had, to a point, good beliefs. In some ways, the Pharisees were like evangelicals today. From their perspective, they had a high view of the authority of Scripture. When the books of the Old Testament spoke of miracles, the Pharisees believed in miracles. Not all Jews believed in this way. The Sadducees did not believe in miracles, nor angels, nor the resurrection of the body. The Sadducees believed only in the temple rites and traditions of their ancestors. But the Pharisees believed in miracles, angels and the resurrection.
Pharisees also implemented the Law of God in their daily lives. They put much importance on living according to the will of God. Ordinary people respected and admired the Pharisees as religious men.
On the other hand, the publicans were Jews who collected taxes for the Romans, a foreign empire. Often they deceived both the Jews and the Romans by collecting more taxes than the Romans demand and pocketing the difference. To their compatriots they were traitors and thieves to the Romans.
But the Lord said, "The publican, standing afar off, would not lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled; and he who humbles himself will be exalted. "
The Pharisee spoke much of his own works and did not really thank God. He glorified himself and despised the publican. On the contrary, the publican confessed his sins and asked God's forgiveness and received it. We are also sinners justified by faith in Christ and not by works.
In this parable, the Lord there was no violence. But let's look at the confession of St. Paul in the epistle. In the first place, Paul speaks of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time."
There were many witnesses of the resurrection, but Paul speaks particularly of the apostles, whom Christ sent to preach the good news of his resurrection. The risen Christ appeared to all the apostles, also to Paul. Because in the context of this letter, Paul defended his position as an apostle against those who doubted him.
But Paul said, "For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. I But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace has not been in vain for me; for I labored more than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. "
The apostolic office does not depend on the person of man. Paul was an apostle and in himself was not worthy of the office. Why not? "I persecuted the church of God." Paul sought to kill Christians. As a young man named Saul, he was present when Stephen, the first martyr, was stoned for his confession of faith. The Jews gave their clothes to Saul to guard during the murder of Stephen. Later Paul was on his way to Damascus to kill Christians when the Lord appeared to him and said, "Why do you persecute me?"
Paul became an apostle. But before that, Paul was a persecutor of the church. Elsewhere, Paul speaks of himself as a man who had been advanced in Judaism beyond his years, with authority and respect. He was a religious man and zealous for the traditions of his forefathers. He was a Pharisee, of the same pattern as the one in the parable. His faith was in his own works and he despised Christians who said, "We are justified by faith, not by works."
The murder of Christians began in his mind, in thoughts that despised others. The root of murder is when we believe in our own righteousness and think others are worthless in the eyes of God. Also sexual immorality begins in our thoughts, when we see a beautiful woman or handsome man in the street and we are not careful with our thoughts.
So many people look to be justified in the eyes of God, but by their own works, not by the blood of Christ. In truth, there are only two religions in the world: the religion of faith in Jesus Christ and the religion of justification by works. The second is the religion of the majority, even some people who identify themselves as Christians. Because of human pride, that religion is the source of many conflicts, because of those that believe that they are more just or more spiritual than others.
But those who recognize their sins and ask God's forgiveness for Christ's sake will receive it, even as the tax collector and Paul received it. We have the same opportunity to repent in humility and live in peace now and forever. This peace that passes all understanding be with you. Amen.
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