I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Romans 16:17-18
Christianity rests on love and sacrifice. God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son. Christ summarized the Law into love: love God, and love your neighbor. While you’re at it, love your enemies. Love each other as He loves us. Out of that love, Jesus took up the cross for our sake.
To follow Him, we also must embrace self-sacrifice. We must take up our cross. We must love God and our neighbor enough to die to this world – to die to influences that draw us from Christ. Love and sacrifice. That is the crux of it all.
But, this world sells something different. The path of self-interest and fear is far easier to follow – for as long as we cling to this life. This world tells us our worth is measured by how much we acquire. And we fear anyone – and that’s everyone – who might challenge our ability to acquire and keep the treasure of this world.
The twin evils of fear and greed can build walls between us and God, leaving us feeling separated from love and grace. Obviously, we don’t want to let others build these walls between us and Christ. Love them. But have boundaries, and don’t let them drag you from The Way. That’s good advice.
But, sometimes the walls come from within. We employ all manner of smooth talk and flattery to justify satisfying our own appetites rather than follow Christ. We cannot avoid ourselves. But, we can and must control the influences we allow into our lives. It is easy to deceive ourselves, to live naïvely content with what this world offers. Our path, though, is the far more difficult path to glory, of taking up our cross and walking outside the worldly influences that divert us from our walk with Christ.
Almighty God, strengthen us to lovingly guard our lives, to clear the obstacles this world throws into our walk with you, that we may brighten this world, rather than be darkened by it. Amen.