Shocking?

Have you ever been so shocked by something that you literally could not speak? So appalled you had to rip your clothes? So distraught by what was happening that you couldn’t keep silent? Both Ezra and Paul face situations like that in my readings today. Ezra in chapter 9 discovers that the Jews have married outside their nation breaking a specific and clear command that God had given them

When I heard their story, I mourned for the Jews as if the nation were dead: I ripped my clothes, I ripped hair from my head and chin, and I sat in stunned silence 

Ezra 9:3

Paul, writing to the wayward church in Corinth cannot ignore the sexual sin being practised by a church member. His advice is clear, direct and ultimately merciful, Both Ezra and Paul command the community to put their sin right by expelling the foreign wives and having nothing to do with the one caught up in sexual sin. It might seem harsh to us today, especially the matter of ‘foreign’ wives but our relationships define us. We become like the people we mix with which is a good thing if we influence them for good but not if they influence us for evil.

There was a lovely harmony between my readings today.

Everyone may think his own way of living is right,
    but the Eternal examines our hearts.

Proverbs 21:2

God sees through my actions to my heart knowing if my motives and deeds match up. He can see what things I am influenced by, what changes me for good or bad and He is always ready to keep me in His ways. The way He does that most often is through His Spirit and Word. But He places me in a community of believers who are also guided by Him so that they can help, encourage and correct me by their words and example. It’s something we do for each other when we are walking with God.

This is why Ezra and Paul were so powerfully moved by what they heard. They knew that it was their ‘job’ to say what God said, to stand up for what was right so that the community of believers, the people of faith would not fall into evil ways, into sin.  It’s our’s too; our ‘job’ to live transparent, accountable lives alongside those who are in our church family.

No-one likes to admit to weakness or failing or to have to confess sin. But we have a God who is quick to forgive us, eager to set us right and we have brothers and sisters who love us and whom we love. That ought to make it easy to be honest about things troubling us and to offer to help with the troubles of others. Ought to be… but pride gets very quickly in the way.

Save me from the snare that has been secretly set out for me,
    for You are my protection.

Psalm 31:4

Pride is the biggest snare we fall into. God wants us to live pure, holy lives close to Him. We do that best when we stay close to the community we worship with; living in honesty, not pride, loving each other enough to admit our own weakness and being willing to help the weakness of others. When we live that way then God can change us and the world around us.

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