Monday, June 27, 2016

How Piety and Religiosity are Barriers to Discipleship

Matthew 8:5-13 (NRSV): Our Faith as a Path to Christ
When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour.

It is not our religious pedigree or devout piety that matters. What matters is our faith in Christ as our Savior. The Gentile centurion is held up as a shining model of faith. This model is in stark contrast with the pious religiosity of the Jewish Pharisees and scribes who claim entitlement to God through the Old Covenant law and traditions. Jesus teaches differently, however: “‘Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.’” Through Jesus’ love for us and our faith in him, he heals us, taking on the infirmity and disease of our sins (Isaiah 53:4).

Striving to live a holy life, loving God above all things, and loving our neighbor as ourselves does not entitle us to anything nor is it something we can self-generate. It is our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord, Redeemer, and Savior that transmits our renewal in him. And through this gift of faith, we reap the burning desire to live a life of self-giving love, imitating the compassion, care, and light of Christ.
May the peace and love of Christ be with you all.