Tag Archives: Abraham

Good enough?

Paul faced fury in some quarters for allowing Gentiles full believer status without conversion to Judaism; it provoked persecution and the division of the Christianity from Judaism. But does it matter now? or is it of purely historical and specialist interest? In fact, arguments about the Law are still current and important. It may help to look at what is being said around our reading of Romans 4:13-25. In Romans 3:31, Paul claims to uphold the Law, that is the Old Testament as we know it. As chapter 4 starts, he turns to Abraham, who believed God. Genesis 15 tells us that Abraham, childless, believed God when promised that he would have as many descendants as there were stars in the night sky – and Paul makes the point that this is before the giving of the Law at Sinai, and before the rite of circumcision.

“And he believed the LORD, and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.”

Genesis 15:6

Abraham didn’t win God’s reward by outstanding action, heroism, or moral excellence. It was his trust, and God’s goodness, that brought them together and gave him hope. Unlikely though it may have seemed that an old couple could have a child, he thought the God who said it reliable, and believed. That’s a long time ago, but the relevance to us is in the question: “What brings us into relationship with God? How do we connect, and eventually get to heaven?”

There have been, and still are, a great many answers. Some refuse to believe it is possible – yet the interest in the spiritual continues. Some rely on drugs or mind-altering techniques – but that lacks reality, and permanence (though the damage can be lasting). Some insist that matters of the spirit mean getting away from the material, by changing your view of reality through fasting, meditation, chanting etc . .

The most common alternative to Christianity is the idea that if you are good, you will be rewarded, and if good enough, you will make the grade and “pass”. In many ways, this was the Jewish position. The Law told them what was required, so they studied, set up safeguards against breaking it, and thought themselves separate and superior.

Wrong, says Paul. Good is good, but you will never be good enough for God. No. Christians come to God as never good enough, but trusting – and that trust or faith is the key to finding God. What do they trust in? Not themselves, their effort or goodness, but God. v35 “us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our sanctification.” We trust God, but more specifically, Jesus who died for us and was raised.

What caused a fuss in the first Century was the idea that both Jews and Gentiles reached God in the same way like this. What causes division in the twenty-first Century is that faith, rather than achievement, knowledge or experience is the key. That makes all believers equal – equal in finding God through faith, equal in failure to deserve or earn or require his recognition.

Abraham ?

The letter to Hebrews (today we read Hebrews 11:1-3 and 11:8-16 or all of Hebrews 11:1-16) wants to explain “faith”, and so talks about Abraham. Here is a man of faith. Not faith as a dogmatic, stubborn, closed mind, living in an imaginary world. Abraham sets out on a journey because he trusts God, trusts that God has called him to travel. His faith is that trust – to go forward, take risks, (even to leave what he knows and follow God’s promise). Again, when promised a son by his wife Sarah, he trusts God, and the promise becomes a reality. It is through this faith, this trust, that he becomes such a key part of God’s story and the working out of God’s plan. He is remembered by 3 faiths: Christian, Jewish, Muslim.

Perhaps we need to look closely to see how this works, and might transfer to our lives and experience. It is not about blind obedience – Abraham doesn’t live by rules: do this, don’t do that. No, he lives close enough to God to hear, and when he hears, to have the confidence to obey, and see it work out.

That’s exciting, and a bit scary. But it seems to be where a good deal of Christian life is. Think about when you have needed God’s help, and received it. Think about what God is asking of you and of people around you now. It is not all clearly mapped out, there are risks – of getting it wrong, making mistakes, looking stupid (or worse). But there is also a chance to be a part of what God is doing!

Back to Abraham. He doesn’t see it all happen (we are talking c 1800BC!), but he sees God working, and looks forward, even beyond his lifetime. So, will you look forward and work for the future, or only back? Have you the faith to be on God’s journey, looking for the promises, and the reassurances of being on the right track? The gospel (Luke 12:32-40) paints a picture of some of the blessings given to those who travel that way. But we still have to set out, and keep going.

Faith travels (Proper 14, Pentecost 12)

What is it about Abraham? Hebrews 11:8-16 tells of a man of faith. Not faith as a dogmatic, stubborn closed mind, living in an imaginary world. Abraham sets out on a journey because he trusts God, trusts that God has called him to travel. His faith is that trust – to go forward, take risks, (even to leave what he knows and follow God’s promise). It is through this faith, this trust, that he becomes such a key part of God’s story and the working out of God’s plan. Remembered by 3 faiths: Christian, Jewish, Muslim.

Perhaps we need to look closely to see how it is. Not blind obedience – he doesn’t live by rules: do this, don’t do that. No, he lives close enough to God to hear, and when he hears, to have the confidence to obey, and see it work out.

That’s exciting, and a bit scary. But it seems to be where many Parishes, and individual Christians, are. There is a time to think about where you are and where to go, about what God has taught you and what to do with it, to look at context – the community around you, and the comparison between Church culture and the culture of local people. How well is the sharing of Good News working? How many new Christians have there been in the last few years? It’s not quite 12 months since I left a Parish, and they have been getting used to some of these things.

Back to Abraham. He doesn’t see it all happen (we are talking c 1800BC!), but he sees God working in his life and his lifetime, and looks forward even beyond his time. So, will you look forward and work for the future, or only back? Have you the faith to be on God’s journey, looking for the promises, and the reassurances of being on the right track? This week’s gospel (Luke 12:32-40) paints a picture of some of the blessings given to those who travel that way. But we still have to set out, and keep going.