I have a hard time with the Epistle reading here, and not because of what it says. My issue is what some people claim that it says. At the time St Peter wrote this, the world known to him was governed by Rome, and it was relatively just. And, there were no persecutions. Is such a pronouncement of advice all-inclusive?
What of unjust situations. Should civil rights demonstrators stayed silent because segregation was the law? For that matter, should the Pilgrims who settled in Massachusetts have instead stayed in England and affirmed their loyalty to the Church of England, since it was England’s only lawful church at the time?
Just laws are just and deserve to be followed. But we don’t need to follow injustice in the name of scripture.
The Epistle reading for today is one which I consider to be one of the most abused and mis-used passages in the entire Bible! Does it mean, for instance, that Rosa Parks was supposed to give up her seat on the bus to a white man? Does it mean that minorities should have quietly obeyed the Jim Crow laws that enforced segregation? Should Jews have quietly gone to concentration camps? I don’t think so!
At the time St Paul wrote this, he was a proud citizen of Rome. Rome had treated him well. He had no way of knowing that rulers such as Nero and Caligula were in the future.
He did have to worry about some folks who thought that with the coming of Christ being so soon to come, they did not have to concern themselves with mundane authorities.
We’re back, and there’s all the more reason to distribute sacraments along with potential controversy! How many people actually get what Jesus was telling us? Paul certainly did!
The legalism of the Old Testament, especially The Law, was a stumbling-block for people. And I’m sure that most of us can think of something we were never attracted to until someone tried to prohibit it! And that’s the reason for the Kingdom of Heaven and the Spirit.
And if we follow the Spirit, the fruits of the Spirit will exclude the fruits of The Law, giving us something far greater!
Again, what seems to be a difficult Gospel verse that you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and the scribes. But, what does it mean? The Pharisees and scribes devoted their lives to following all of the rules. Do we have to out-do them in following nitpicky rules, or is there something greater that they missed?
And with that, Jesus shows us what is at the heart of genuine righteousness.
The Epistle reading for today is one of the most mis-interpreted and mis-used in the entire Bible. It speaks of the importance of obeying secular authorities, such as kings and governors. Or, does it? Does it mean, as some would interpret it, that unjust laws are to be obeyed? Does it mean that people in Nazi occupied territories should have obeyed Hitler? Does it mean that people in the segregated South should have simply obeyed segregationist laws? I would hope not!
It does speak of the importance of fitting in to our communities, and not being people whose obstinacy and obnoxiousness keeps us from being part of society. At the time of the writing, the Christians were trying to become part of the society of the time.