Scripture Reading: Galatians 4:4-7
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
Laws when properly used provide shortcuts for how we are to conduct ourselves, protect ourselves and each other, and create order out of potential chaos. The Hebrew Bible contains three types of laws: rules of etiquette, civil law, and religious law. I do not think we have much trouble with veering to our own interpretations of etiquette today. After all, times change, resulting in the need to change the way we interact in good company. We who have always lived in a society that practices the separation of church and state, probably have more difficulty parsing out what is civil law, meant to assure the Common Good, and what is religious laws, meant to assure our personal and communal relationship with God.
As people of faith, the command to love God and love one another serves as an overriding covenant for our way of acting and being. At times that has put people in the awkward place of going to jail as they broke the civil law while fulfilling their covenant with God. Notably, Paul was arrested more than once. In the Birmingham jail as guidance in loving as Jesus loved. Civil law was eventually modified to bring civil law into synch with the will of the majority of the people with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The passage of this law was impacted to some degree by people of faith doing justice.
Conflict arises when people of faith extract differing interpretation of God’s rules and attempt to enforce them through civil law. Our country is very divided today as we seek the Common Good through these differing views. In fact, in recent years the Civil Rights Act was modified to lessen its impact.
Christ was sent to redeem those under the law what does Paul mean by that? How do we reconcile our divisions and find the Common Good for all people? We are each called to seek God’s will for our lives including the justice we are called to do. Celebrating the birth of Jesus again and beginning a new year is a great time to put away our defensiveness and evaluate our attitudes and positions anew. What indeed would Jesus do?
Prayer: Lord, it is so hard to see our ways objectively. Be our mirror so we can individually and collectively love the way you would have us love and do your justice. Forgive us when we substitute our justice for yours. Amen.