27 October, 2008

Brother's Keepers and the Pursuit of Happiness

In our American, individualistic culture, we do not think of the group or the community very often. We are Americans! We have rights and freedoms! But as Christians, we need to think in terms of community and in terms of covenant obligations. When we enter into covenant with the Church of Christ and declare that we will walk with her in obedience and in faithfulness we saying that we are going to help each other be accountable and responsible for the professions, covenants, and obligations that they have made. All of a sudden, when a brother or sister is in sin or walking in a way contrary to the Word of God- we all have a duty, a holy responsibility to care enough to do something. This was much like in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. When the heinous sin of marrying unbelievers was brought to Ezra's attention, what was his reply? Did he say, to each his own? Did he say that everyone has the right to pursue happiness? No, he was not a self-centered individualist. He was communal. He was covenantal. He saw that he had a responsibility towards his neighbor. He saw that he was his brother's keeper.

Ezra 9:3 As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled.

These verses describe the effect which the news of the infidelity of the Jews had on Ezra… This action showed his distress. A great sin had been committed, a sin which ran contrary to the law of God. Ezra identified himself with this sin, although he and the exiles who had returned with him did not commit it. In a certain sense Ezra accepted his solidarity with his people. He became a mediator for them as Moses did after the golden bull was worshiped at Sinai. In a time like today in which individuality is emphasized people cannot always understand this attitude. For the Israelites… the Lord contracted a covenant with all the people and not only with individuals. All the people were responsible for the acts of every individual or group. -FC Fensham, NICOT.

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