The idea of religion being used against people is not a new concept. In Isaiah 36 and 37, Sennacherib of Assyria sends his field commander to the walls of Jerusalem to deliver a message to the people. The purpose of the message was to get the people of Jerusalem to stop putting their confidence in their king, Hezekiah, and make a bargain with Assyria, turning themselves over to them.
Do we really want to hear truth? Or do we only want to hear the part of truth that fits our narrative? Or do we not want to hear truth at all and just hear what makes us feel good?
I don’t know if you have ever built anything out of bricks, but maybe you have built a house out of blocks and Legos. Each Lego has a place. Depending on the height and width of the structure, sometimes a Lego 3-long is needed, sometimes a Lego 6-long is needed, but all of them are needed. One Lego does not make the structure of the Lego house.
And do you know what we get to do, as living stones? We are not only a singular block in the building of the Temple, as the Temple we get to do Temple things. What are those Temple things? Sacrifice. Pray. Praise God. Read and recite Scripture. Teach Scripture.
I believe many of us are feeling like our worlds are falling in on us. That there is nothing we can do to make the world better, and therefore many feel like there are two choices: hole up inside or live freely. Isaiah 22 portrays a similar diametric view.
Both letters concentrate on not becoming Law followers, instead breaking free from the constraints of the Law and finding freedom in following Christ. Both have very similar language about not following special days or months or seasons. In both letters, the Jewish Christians were insisting that the Gentile Christians follow special days, months, seasons, and years. In many ways, the way that the Gentile Christians had once worshiped the pagan gods is now the way they are being encouraged to worship God.
2020 has not been the year any of us wanted it to be. I am sure many of you have seen the memes and heard the jokes each time something new happens like, “Who had super-volcano for their July 2020 bingo card?” or the calendar meme where each month of 2020 had a different “disaster”: “January: Nuclear War; February: Australian Bushfires; March: Coronavirus” and so forth.
For many, this brings despair with each new event. The first day of the month was often exciting for people: if you hadn’t succeed on your diet the month before, it’s a new month to begin again; it’s a time of reflection and planning; and often it provides a new “theme,” like all of September is about school, October is about harvest, November is about Thanksgiving, and December is about Christmas. But this year, each new month has created dread and begs the question, “Whats going to happen this month?”
But instead of looking at this from the perspectives of rights and whether we should or should not gather for church in person, what if we focused on a third option? What if instead we fasted from “church” and instead, be the church?
What if we came back to the heart of church? And stopped bringing worthless offerings and had meaningless assemblies? What if we fasted from “church” to be the Church?
Do you ever sit around, speaking about God with your friends? Asking questions like Job asked or making statements like Eliphaz the Temanite made? I know I have. The difference is that God never “spoke out of the storm” (Job 38:1). At least, not audibly.
Christianity provides us with quite a lot of liberty. When we compare Christianity to Judaism and Islam (the two other Abrahamic religions) as well as to Eastern religions, we find Christianity is really a religion about freedom. The others provide a lot of “dos” and “don’ts.” Romans 14 could be defined as a treatise on the liberty of following Christ.
As I have mentioned, Romans is a very theological book. But one thing we can learn from Paul is that theology is pointless without application. Paul could have ended his epistle to the Romans after chapter 11, this is where his treatise on justification and who salvation is for ends, but Paul knew better. Inspired by the Holy Spirit Paul continues, telling us what we are to do with the information.