Something to ponder . . .

“Reading the signs of the times requires a church capable of standing against the legitimating stories of the day.

American Christians often think that if we had been confronted with someone like Hitler we would have been able to recognize that he was evil. Yet in many ways, the church in Germany was a church more theologically articulate than the American church has ever been; still the German church failed to know how to adequately challenge the rise of Hitler.

It failed because Christians in Germany assumed that they were German Christians just as American Christians assume that they are American Christians. Churches that are nationally identified will seldom be able to faithfully read the signs of the time.

Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees and Sadducees for their inability to read the signs of the times, that is, to recognize all that has been and all that is still to be must now be read under the sign of Jonah, remains a challenge for us.

Jesus has previously criticized the Pharisees for their failure to do what they profess. Indeed Jesus will soon recommend to the crowd that they should do what those who “sit on Moses’ seat” teach, but “do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach” (Matt. 23:2–3). Jesus demands, as we have seen from his Sermon on the Mount, lives of integrity. To see the truth, to recognize the signs of the kingdom, requires that we be rightly formed by the virtues acquired by following Jesus. To know the truth requires the acquisition of the habits of truthfulness. Knowledge and virtue are inseparable.

Jesus’s refusal to give the Pharisees and Sadducees a sign has profound implications for how Christians understand truth.

We believe that the truth of the gospel cannot be separated from the kind of lives required for the recognition of that truth. Because we are aware of the inadequacy of our faithfulness to Christ, we are tempted to separate the truth of what we believe from the way we live. But Jesus refuses to allow us to abstract our knowing from our living. The gospel is not information; it is a way of life.”

Stanley Hauerwas, Theological Commentary on Matthew

About carolyncustisjames
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