Faith is a fierce freeing force in life. The stories of the Bible point to a radical movement of liberation, self-discovery, mutual empowerment and life-changing peace – created by God’s word, facilitated by the sacrificial love of Christ Jesus, and which rises up from the seed sown and nourished by the Spirit of God. Jesus says that faith moves mountains. It brought the Israelites out of slavery. Faith moved Rahab to risk everything. It inspired Joshua to dare to dream. It brought Hannah to a tear-filled seemingly-drunk prayer for a child that was heard and acted upon. It gave courage to Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego in the flames. It gave Esther the courage to risk everything to save her people. Peter left his fishing nets for it. Mary Magdalene gave away everything she had because of it. The bleeding woman found a new family. By faith the herdsman possessed by a legion brought a legion to discover the man that delivered him. All because of a faith that was experienced and paid forward through concrete acts of wondrous love.
Cain, the emblematic jealous sibling couldn’t fathom sharing his glory – or anything – with his brother. He loved himself by killing his brother so that he could have everything. The author if 1st John reminds us of what separates Cain from Jesus, love from hate, life from death. Yet all too often we transform faith in Christ from loving actions to a feeling of superiority because we uphold the correct beliefs or state faith in the most appropriate way. Word do matter, but if they’re not accompanied, or embodied in action then they’re merely a clanging symbol making noise but changing nothing. 1 John remind us that love is not a commandment, rather the commandment is to love.
In our time of division, mistrust, and protest we are quick to name what we hate, that with which we disagree, those who betray love; yet we struggle to love those from whom we differ, those who are hard to love, those who require too much of us. Jesus defines love as giving your life for another. It’s not just a word, or a credo, it’s what he did. How do we love faced with poverty, a teacher’s strike, political polarization, racial exclusion, fear of being left behind?
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation
- What shimmers in your attention in this reading?
- What have you been taught or heard that it means to obey God? How has that given you life?; or distracted you from life? Or maybe both? How does submission to Christ shape and transform us?; How has it shaped you?
- How where and when are you more attracted to the example of Cain, to refusing compassion, shutting your heart off to those in need?
- What invitation to act, speak or be do you hear in today’s scripture?
Download the textual study guide we use as a tool for our class discussion at @CAPCOakland HERE.