The things in this world that people look for to find joy are very different from what the Gospel tells us. I think it is most clearly pointed out in the scripture reading above. If we look into the political world, the financial world, the business world, or the world of education, it becomes very obvious that the world's ways puts stumbling blocks into the way of others to slow them down and gain the advantage and leave them to eat dust as we pass by them on the road of life. But, what is it that brings us true joy as disciples of Christ? I think Paul says it best in Romans when he gives us a pep talk and encourages us to seek righteousness, and in doing so, find peace and joy. How do you seek righteousness you may ask?
Well first, you must check your attitude you carry in life. If our spirit is competitive, then we will
never approach it. If we carry a spirit of bitterness, then we will never approach it. While this scripture uses food as an example, it's not about food at all. It is something totally different that gets in our way as we seek righteousness in this world.
There are those that say you can only obtain righteousness through the classical spiritual disciplines like prayer, worship, meditation, fasting, and studying. And, while is I strongly encourage Christians to live out those disciplines in their lives, I don't believe that you can find righteousness exclusively through these disciplines. They may help you on your path, but they are of little use to you if the spirit behind it has a "Holier Than Thou" attitude. "Self Righteousness" is one of the greatest errors in our search, and is totally opposite of what we are taught as disciples of Christ. It's like taking the pharisees approach to it, and shouting your piety from the roof tops. or making sure that everyone knows when you are fasting, or praying. By doing this, we become self righteous and fall further away from righteousness.
What I think will help our journey toward righteousness is to look truthfully at our own lives and remove all the things that would keep us from finding the righteousness that God desires for us. What is it that causes, as the scripture says, "A weaker brother or sister to stumble"? What is it that turns people of the world away and causes them to be skeptical about the Christian Faith, and want nothing to do with the church or the people that follow Jesus? How about a negative spirit, a judgmental attitude, a legalistic approach to faith, or pointing fingers at the weakness or frailties of others? All of these do nothing to bring people into the faith and can turn people so far away that we will never be able to share the love of Christ with them.
I sit here and tell you that we cannot shame people to faith, we must love them to faith. We must get close to them in their frail and sin scarred condition and show them how much Jesus Christ loves them. It is Christ's desire to have a loving relationship with us. It is also His desire that we would lead others to share his love. There is not a better example of the love we are supposed to share than the love Jesus shares. He has never said to one person that they must live a sinless and blameless life before He healed them. He never once passed judgement on someone for their position in life. Instead, he met people were they stood and shared His love unconditionally, and that drew them to Him.
It is that kind of love that we should show the world, and we should do it so that our weaker brothers and sisters won't stumble, but that they should walk safely into the arms of a waiting and loving Savior. You want to know true joy? Seek righteousness. Where does that righteousness come from? It comes from a loving response to Jesus Christ. We cannot do it on our own, we can only get it as a gift from God, and a willing spirit that is the image of and likeness of Christ......Amen