30 April 2016Romans 16:3-27
"I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offences, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded." (vv. 17-18)
Psalm: Psalm 83
In this final part of the letter to the Romans, the author Paul
warns that some people who are part of the early Christian
community are causing "dissensions and offences".
Those who cause dissensions are acting, maybe unconsciously, out of self-interest. Such self-interest always distorts the world around it with hidden pressures.
Flattery draws people out of innocence and closeness with their brothers and sisters, and tempts them with worldly visions of importance, of being loved more, of being 'special'.
But we can only be special by putting ourselves above others, and immediately then the rifts begin in the community.
Once the flatterer has fed someone's ego in this way, they also have power over them. The person flattered craves more, and will do the will of the flatterer to get it.
Pressures abound in the world as well as in our dealings with people. Advertising, the constant portrayal of a desirable life in the Sunday supplements and in TV programmes says: aspire to stand out from the crowd, be one of the special ones.
We can resist this by giving up on self interest and our desire to be loved by the world and becoming resistant to such pressures.
Or, as Paul says, especially when faith is a tender shoot, we can protect ourselves by avoiding people or situations where we are likely to come across these pressures. As we pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Lead us not into temptation".
- How practical is it to stay away from that which confuses and deceives us?
- How do we 'love our neighbour' if we avoid them? Or is this impossible?