"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
.Resistance movements have once more returned to vogue in our world, and for some very good reasons. Peaceful uprisings which give voice to the voiceless, the marginalized and the victimized are an important part of our history as Americans, and especially as Christians. Resistance is the mark of a progressive society that seeks to place controls on the creeping influence of the powerful, by causing us to see the plight of those without access to power. Resistance was a hallmark of our nation's founding, standing up to "taxation without representation". Resistance to power was the energy behind the abolitionist movement, and the civil rights and women's rights movements of the 20th century. This year we also remember the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, one of the most effective and historic resistance movements, certainly in the church, if not the world at large. But resistance movements are not simply a modern historical phenomenon.
I like reading the epistle of James. It's not that I don't appreciate St. Paul's theology and critical formation of the early church. Quite the contrary in fact. But in contrast to the ponderous tone of Paul's teachings, James offers a simpler, often more practical approach to living the Christian Life. Here is an example of his holy directness. "Resist the devil", James urges, "and he will flee from you". It sounds so easy, doesn't it! But if it were easy, then James would not have demanded it of this audience in the early church. And if it were easy, resisting the devil would not be the point of departure in the earliest of our faith stories - Adam and Eve, and their failure to resist those powerful, devilish temptations, and the history of failure to resist that continues throughout history.
It sounds so easy. but we make it all so complicated. James poses a simple formula for resisting - "Submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil" In our complex world where everything is so deeply nuanced, this just seems way too "binary" to be a meaningful admonition. The story of Adam and Eve gives us some insight into who nuances can often be used, not to discern the right way to act in a given situation, but also to justify our own self-interests at the expense of a larger good or a larger truth. The devil also uses nuance and context to lead us down a path to destruction. James gives us the unvarnished version of making us aware of this danger. "Submit yourself to God", It is the only way the devil can be resisted.
As you continue to walk through Lent, I urge you and pray for you dear friend that you participate in at least one resistance movement. Who knows, maybe other holy resistances will follow!
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.