Step #1: lectio / read
Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers,
“Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice,
you cannot be saved.”
Because there arose no little dissension and debate
by Paul and Barnabas with them,
it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others
should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and presbyters
about this question.
They were sent on their journey by the Church,
and passed through Phoenicia and Samaria
telling of the conversion of the Gentiles,
and brought great joy to all the brethren.
When they arrived in Jerusalem,
they were welcomed by the Church,
as well as by the Apostles and the presbyters,
and they reported what God had done with them.
But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers
stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them
and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.”
The Apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter.
Step #2: Meditatio / meditate
We were not made for the law. We were made for love.
The law was made for us. In this passage, we see a contrast between Paul and Barnabas the Pharisees.
When Paul and Barnabas went through Phoenicia and Samaria sharing good news, the people’s hearts were moved and made glad. By what? By the reports of “all the good that God had done in them” and the conversion of the Gentiles. It gave them great joy that the Gentiles had found the Lord.
Yet, Instead of being glad, the Pharisees were fixated on the circumcision law of Moses. They were so absorbed with the law being fulfilled that they could not be glad at the Lord’s goodness and the conversions that had taken place.
There are other examples of this basic idea in the Bible. In Matthew 2:27 we are reminded that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Jesus himself ignored the law several times, usually to prove a deeper point about love and hypocrisy.
Sometimes in our own lives we become fixated on the law. As we grow in our faith it can be easy to become scrupulous, of others and even of ourselves. We may forget the joy and love that we had when we initially found the Lord and get swept so far away in the “right” and “wrong” and “black” and “white” that we forget to see how the Lord is moving midst of everything. We can become pretentious and judgmental, forgetting that we all are imperfect humans greatly in need of mercy. We can demand perfection to the point we are ignoring love and the heart of Jesus' message to us.
It is important to remember as we grow in virtue and holiness and dedication to following the law of the Lord that we were not made with the law in mind. In fact, the law came later! We were made for God. The law was created to give us guidelines, to lead us on our journey and to guide our hearts safely to the Lord. The law and teachings we have been given are so good. But the law does not trump love. It does not trump compassion. It does not trump God. The law itself is not where we will find rest. It is not the cause of our joy. The cause of our joy is the Lord, and we need to remember and be glad as such.
Step #3: oratio / pray
Have there been times where I acted like the Pharisees?
Where am I choosing to let nitpicky scrupulosity override the love of the Lord?
Where in my life can I choose to rejoice and be glad in all that the Lord is doing?
Step #4: contemplatio / contemplate
We were not made for the law. The law was made for us.
We were made for love.
Rejoice and be glad.
For the rest of your day...
Like Paul and Barnabas, think how you can report all the good that God has done around you.
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Today's prayer was prepared by Andrea Scott.