Monday, March 12, 2012

"I have no command of the Lord"

Monday, March 12, 2012 -- Week of 3 Lent
Gregory the Great of Rome, 604

Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 954)
Psalms 80 (morning)        77, [79] (evening)
Genesis 44:18-34
1 Corinthians 7:25-31
Mark 5:21-43 

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

"I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy."  (1 Corinthians 7:25)

Paul distinguishes the level of authority that he will claim for his convictions.  Some things he is certain have been divinely revealed to him.  His interpretation of his vision of Jesus on the Damascus road is something he will speak of with the kind of authority that Jesus and the prophets used, equivalent to "Thus says the Lord."  He knew in that experience that he had been liberated from his self-justification project.  He was certain that Jesus had freed him from trying to earn his place before God.  He was convinced that he had been declared blessed, justified, saved, okay, and that the divine declaration was a sheer gift.  He no longer had to perform to be accepted.  He was accepted by God -- grace:  pure gift, no strings attached.

Whenever anyone tried to compromise Paul's certainty about all of that, Paul reacted unequivocally.  Would you propose to enforce some law as a prerequisite for acceptance?  No!  Would you require circumcision as a sign of one's belonging and obedience?  Never!  Paul spoke with zealous passion about these things.  Yet even over these certainties, Paul could bend compassionately in his willingness to live in community.  If his neighbor's scruples were troubled by dietary anxieties over the meat from the public market, meat sacrificed to idols, even though Paul knew their fears and insecurities were groundless, out of kindness Paul would refrain from exercising his freedom when dining with them.  Loving regard for the other trumps doctrinal certainties.

But Paul does not regard everything that he believes equally.  He knows that God revealed to him directly the gift of acceptance.  He will let no one compromise or diminish that truth from God.  Yet that still leaves a host of things that good people may disagree about.  Even though many of those disagreements concern important things.

Paul is pretty sure that Christ will return soon and establish a new age where old relationships and structures will be transcended.  Paul structures his whole life around that conviction.  But that is not something that has been revealed to him in the same way as his justification by faith.

So when he offers his advice to those who are making long-term decisions in what Paul interprets to be a short-term circumstance, Paul is glad to advise them.  He thinks he's right.  But he's willing to say, this is my opinion, I might be wrong.  I think I'm trustworthy, so I hope you'll take my advice.  But only God knows for sure.

As it turned out, Paul was wrong.  Jesus did not return.  The time that he thought would be short was not.  He was sure that "the present form of this world is passing away," but that didn't happen in quite the way he had thought it would.

Yet, below that place where good people could disagree -- is the end near or might it be far away -- there was a deeper shared truth and trust in God.  Whether short or long, we are God's beloved -- accepted by God's grace as a sheer gift.  There's something about that conviction that gives us a radical freedom.  A freedom to be generous to those with whom we disagree.  A freedom to be wrong and not obsess about it.  A freedom to give your opinion and not be too attached to it.  A freedom to watch someone do something you believe is wrong, and remain loving friends with them in community.

I write stuff nearly every weekday morning.  I've got lots of opinions, beliefs and convictions.  I almost always think I'm right about these things, or I wouldn't write them.  But for most of what I write, "I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy."  But I may be wrong, you know.


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About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location -- --  Click for Divine Hours

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I write to confess my "certainty" about a current public issue. Just turned off the morning NPR Diane Rehm program. The topic was women's reproductive health care. My own conviction is that women must have the right to make decisions about her body and her reproduction. Men have that right, don't they? But, I also know that we are so polorized daily by political problems that we find being civil in our discourse to be really difficult.

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, women can walk to the local baby killing facility and get all the "reproductive" healthcare (or deathcare for that matter) that my good money can buy.

At 2:46 PM, Anonymous STC Technologies said...

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