Saturday, January 31, 2015

Matthew 17:25-27: Freedom and Conformity in Christ

“...But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the people they have conquered?”
“They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replied.
“Well, then,” Jesus said, “the citizens are free! However, we don’t want to offend them...”
-- Matthew 17:25-27 (NLT)

We are made free by the salvific atonement of Christ on Calvary and our faith in Jesus as our Redeemer. He conquered the world for us and saved us from our sins, death, and the enemy.  But even though we are free by His grace, we should avoid setting a bad example and offending others.  We can do this, moreover, by conforming in ways that are inoffensive to God and others.
This can apply to traditions of the church. Although we are liberated by our faith in Jesus and his sacrifice and resurrection, we should avoid offending others by feeling we are entitled to skip out on unnecessary traditions. How might this look in ordinary practice? When we know the church obligates us to follow a rule or precept, we should approach it not in the sense that the rule or precept will deliver us from sin, for Christ already did that on Calvary, but we should conform for the sake of the community and to not offend others.  Conformity, when approached in faith, can also lead our hearts to love more deeply.  For in humble conformity, we can put on Christ in our hearts, knowing that what we do in conformity we do for others and not ourselves.  And what we do for others, we do for the love of Christ.
Jesus tells Peter to pay the tax and not offend. We should, following the example of Christ and in the context of our conscience, conform and not offend.  Conformity, however, should not be at the risk of opposing an informed conscience and certainly should not be offensive to God.  We remember what happened to the Israelites that conformed to the idolatrous cultures around them even though God forbade it.