We humans value a wide variety of things today. It is not just possessions, it is things like a good education and unique experiences. It is things we do – or do not do – we can take a sort of ‘pride’ in. Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee praying in the Temple, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers…” [Luke 18 v.11] But what was he doing – instead?
As we read the final chapter of Ezra we saw the huge challenge in decision making the people faced; in returning to the worship and service of the one true God now that the rebuilding of the Temple had been completed; many had to separate from their foreign idol-worshipping wives, not all did. There can be no ‘half measures’ if you are genuine in serving the one true God.
Paul makes a parallel point in today’s 2nd chapter of his letter to the Colossians. He asks, “…. Do you submit to regulations – ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ … according to human precepts and teachings?” [v.20-22] Obviously some were still submitting to “regulations” i.e. rituals they had observed when they were either pagans or practicing an ‘interpretation’ of the Mosaic law. Such is human nature, many thought this made their ‘piety’ more evident – and the Catholic Church has been an ongoing example of this.
In the sight of God – it had the opposite affect! Paul says, “Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” [v.16] All these things, Paul stresses, “have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no valuein stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” [v.23]
True believers who see themselves as parts of the body of Christ, writes Paul, must hold “fast to the Head, from whom the whole body is nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, (and) grows with a growth that is from God.” [v.19] Are you making good progress in “holding fast to the head.”? Are you being “nourished and knit together” with others as you do so? Don’t make the mistake of looking to blame others; all must pull together as fellows in the same ship – looking to Christ as the Captain.