Knowing what we ought to do: Meditation for the 12th Sunday after Trinity
TODAY, we pray God to grant that His people “may know what they ought to do, and may have the grace faithfully to accomplish it” (The Collect for the day).
From the religious experiences of the people of Israel, a case point of Saul and other Pharisees and Zealots, as well as other religious people, it has been clearly demonstrated that people can sincerely seek to obey and serve God and end up doing the exact opposite.
Some may be sincere, but sincerely wrong.
In fact, some, in their zeal, even fight against God thinking that they are fighting for Him.
This is because of their inability or failure to discern the mind or will of God or know what they ought to do.
They meticulously adhere to what they consider the laws of God.
But their obedience is to the letters of their conceived laws of God without grasping the mind of God behind or underlying those laws.
Today, we are being called to avoid such error of religious people and align with God in order to understand His mind.
This is to ensure that what we obey is not the mere letters, but the spirit of the laws, which is the actual Word or commands of God.
According to the Collect for the day, we need the light of the Truth of God to shun the error of legalism and walk in the way of righteousness.
We have been taught that the way to be doing God’s will is by keeping His commandment.
Consequently, we have often memorised, recited and tried not only to keep the Ten Commandments, but also to religiously abide by some other set rules considered as marking Christian spirituality, which any who fails to keep is marked as not spiritual or “born again”.
There are drawn lists of what to wear or not, what to eat or not, what to drink or not, where to go or not, whom to associate with or not, the piety to exhibit or not and the ordinances to observe or not, among others.
The Pharisees excelled in all these, which people do today with regard to the laws and set rules.
But they had a problem, which is also generally the problem of most religious people, namely, “legalism”, which mostly shows in majoring on minors; straining out gnats and swallowing camels; and going to great lengths to observe the letters of the law, while totally missing its spirit.
The Epistle for the day tells us that, “He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is…” (Rom. 8:27).
It is the Holy Spirit Who knows and reveals the mind of God, and so we need Him to know what we ought to do.
He is given to us as our Guide, to lead us in the way we should go and show us what we ought to do (Luke 12:12; 1Cor. 2:6-16).
One of the most important ways to recognise the Holy Spirit’s guidance is by being familiar with God’s Word.
The Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the ultimate source of wisdom about how we should live (2Tim 3:16-17).
The question of what we ought to do, therefore, is actually the question of ascertaining from the Scriptures what is God’s revealed will for us, what are the paths He forbids us to walk, what are the ways that are pleasing in His sight.
The task of the Christian is to regulate his life and conform his conduct, not to the rules/precepts of men, but the precepts of the written Word and the example left us by the Incarnate Word (Jesus Christ).
The question for every decision or plan we make and every action we take, should be, “Is this in harmony with God’s Word?” Is it what the Scriptures enjoin?
Does it square with the rule God has given us to walk by? Is it in accord with the example, which Christ left us to follow?
Ven. Dr Princewill O. Ireoba is the Rector,
Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,
Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.
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