Friday, March 4, 2011

Remember You Were a Slave in Egypt

I'm probably starting to sound like a broken record on this, but one thing that continues to stand out to me as I read through the Torah is that Israelite identity does not revolve around a central idea but a central act.  Why should the Israelites remit all debts, free their slaves, and send those slaves off with livestock and goods every seven years?  Why should the Israelites dedicate the firstborn of their flocks to the Lord every year?  Why should they remember to keep the Passover as well as the other yearly festivals?  The answer to each question is always the same:

"Remember that you were a slave in Egypt..."

Everything the Israelites practiced, their ethics and morality, their belief and knowledge of God and of themselves, it all revolved around God's act of delivering them from Egypt.

In Churches of Christ, when a person wants to become a Christian they are baptized.  Part of the ritual surrounding baptism is asking the individual before the congregation, "Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?"  In large part, this tradition stems from a legalistic attempt to make sure "confession" has happened, because the Bible states that one cannot be saved without confessing Christ.  That definition of "confession" is problematic on many levels, but let me just state one problem.  True commitment to a relationship doesn't begin with a statement of belief.  It begins with inter-act-ion.  Relationship begins with one party stepping into another party's life.  I've read books about Ghandi.  I think he's a fascinating and great man, but I'm not committed to him, and me saying, "I believe he existed," doesn't mean diddly-squat.

How much would the life of the Church change if part of entering into a relationship with other Christians began with a story of how the individual has met Jesus or what Christ has done for the individual?  What is the act, the individual's deliverance from Egypt, that has brought him or her to a place where he or she is saying, "This is who I now am."?  That, in my opinion, would be a true confession.  That type of confession really gets to the heart of what it means for Jesus to deliver us.

Stopping point: Deuteronomy 16

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