(Part 36)


September 18, 2017

Today’s readings:

1 Timothy 2:1-8

Psalm 28:2-9

Luke 7:1-10

Unity in the body of Christ is crucial for mission. Christians in the body would want to live in peace, to “lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.” (1 Tm 2:2b). One major reason is to enable the body to effectively do mission, especially the work of evangelization, which leads to salvation in Jesus “our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tm 2:4).

One crucial aspect of unity in the body is for its members to be a praying people. Thus Paul encouraged all sorts of prayers. “First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone” (1 Tm 2:1). Prayer is a basic tool for growing in holiness. “It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands” (1 Tm 2:8a). But then Paul adds something else. They should pray “without anger or argument.” (1 Tm 2:8b). The prayer of the body should not be marred by internal dissension.

Unfortunately, for many Christians today, they hold on to anger and ill-feeling, even as they participate in worship services. Parishioners greet others with “peace” though they are not at peace with others. Community members lift up hands in worship even as they harbor resentment and ill-will towards brethren.

Now there will always be difficult relationships, and there will be hurts in relationships. Our part is not to nurse ill feelings and hurts, but to offer these up to God for healing. Our prayer should be: “Hear the sound of my pleading when I cry to you for help when I lift up my hands toward your holy place.” (Ps 28:2). Lifting up holy hands to God must not be accompanied by anger or argument.

OK that is our part. How about those who do the wrong? We lift them up to God as well, and trust in God to do what needs to be done. “Repay them for their deeds, for the evil that they do. For the work of their hands repay them; give them what they deserve.” (Ps 28:4). Indeed the Lord has said that vengeance is His. We pray that we will not be mired in their sin by our own sinful responses. “Do not drag me off with the wicked, with those who do wrong, who speak peace to their neighbors though evil is in their hearts.” (Ps 28:3).

All this means we trust in God, in His justice and mercy. “Blessed be the Lord, who has heard the sound of my pleading. The Lord is my strength and my shield, in whom my heart trusts.” (Ps 28:6-7a). Just like the centurion, we trust in the authority and power of Jesus to heal (Lk 7:7-8).

One more thing. We are to avoid not just anger and argument, but all other works of the flesh that cause disunity and disrupt peace in the body. These are envy, dissension, factions, hatred, rivalry, selfishness, being onion-skinned (tampuhin). Only then can we truly worship with lifted hands that are holy.

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