Matthew 18: 15-20 (NIV)
“If your brother or sistersins,go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The two final sentences of our devotional Bible reading for today, excerpted from Chapter 2 of Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, remind us that as Christians we are ordained “to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” What is not predetermined, and what must come of our own free will, is what we choose to do together as a community of faith to carry out those good works … even though we are saved by God’s grace, whether or not we act.
Today we are challenged to discern what those good works are that are expected of us, and then to carry them out, to act. In times of immense danger and conflict that discernment may not be hard to do. It may come down to a ‘do or die’ decision. Then there’s those times when we are shaken from our relatively comfortable and affluent lives by events that awaken us to the reality of life for those far less fortunate among us. At such times we cannot avoid sensing the suffering and injustice that still define their lives. These are such times. The good news is that we are each part of a faith community in which He is with us as we seek to do good works to undo bad deeds experienced by others.
In community we can help each other better discern opportunities to do good works. And then, when equipped with that discovery, we can act together to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable among us.
Heavenly Father we confess that far too often we have allowed the abundant blessings you have given us to distract from doing your work to heal the hurting around us. We reaffirm to you our commitment to use our minds together to discern the good works you in all your divine wisdom have ordained for us to do. And then, willingly out of love and confident in our faith, to act together in community, to see that ‘your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’