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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Spelling It Out

By Dorette Saunders

In today's pop culture, nothing is left to the imagination; everything is spelled out: violence, sex, inappropriate behaviors. As a child, I grew up in a culture where things were not always spelled out, yet instinctively children knew where the boundaries were. Parents who engaged in adult conversation would often give young eavesdroppers "the eye," followed by a jerk of the head in a particular direction offsite. Sometimes, the foolhardy would feign ignorance of the interpretative message of "the eye" and stay put, only to be told in no uncertain terms to "move on."

Like recalcitrant children, we, too, sometimes look for excuses to wiggle out of being obedient to God. We bide our time in disobedience, waiting for God's commands to be spelled out. In Deuteronomy 30:9-14, Moses tells the people of Israel exactly what God expects of them, and he reminds them of their responsibility to be obedient. Forestalling any excuses, Moses tells them: "You know God's laws, and it isn't impossible to obey them. His commands aren't in heaven, ...No, these commands are nearby and you know them by heart. All you have to do is obey!" (Deuteronomy 30:11-12a; 14, CEV)

Moses had to spell it out. The Old Testament is replete with instances of Israel's continued disobedience, their repentance, and God's forgiveness. It is not enough to know God's Word -- what counts is our obedience to God's Word and our efforts at applying it to our lives.

In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus spells it out for a wily expert in the Law of Moses who feigns ignorance and asks Jesus concerning the requirements for gaining eternal life. In his repartee with Jesus, the man eventually answers his own questions, indicating that one should love God and one's neighbors (Luke 10:27). Jesus commends the man for his answer and says, "If you do this, you will have eternal life" (Luke 10:28b, CEV). In an effort to show off his knowledge, the man ignores Jesus' response to "do," and challenges Jesus further on the concept of who is a neighbor. It is here that Jesus introduces the parable of the Good Samaritan.

At the end of his narrative, Jesus asks this expert in Mosaic teachings which of the people in the story acted in a neighborly fashion to the man who was beaten up by robbers (Luke 10:36). Again, the man responds correctly, to which Jesus responds, "Go and do the same!" (Luke 10:37b, CEV)

There is no wiggle room for disobedience. The Word of God clearly spells out that we need to be "doers of the word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22, KJV). It is only by actively doing the will of God that we will become obedient and "live a life that honors the Lord" (Colossians 1:10a, CEV).

This Reflection is drawn from the Bible Resource Center's e-Bulletin Series - an online ministry of the American Bible Society. The Bible Resource Center is also home to an extensive collection of Essential Bible Study Tools

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