by Kenneth C. Kroohs

Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Kenneth C. Kroohs
Psalm 103:8-13; Romans 14:5-12; Matthew 18:21- 35
September 12, 1999

Question: when I tell you we are about to hear a lesson from Paul, what do you think about? What attitude do you expect? Do you think about a bunch of crazy, anti-women rules that no one follows? Women shouldn't talk in the church, women should wear only certain styles, women should obey their husbands, of course, half the population conveniently forgets that Paul also says that husbands should love their wives, and that may be the more difficult commandment!

That is the image most of us have about Paul. A very doctrinal, dictatorial teacher, and one that is not very much in step with the 20th century!! And yet today we hear what could be considered the true, central thrust of Paul's theology, and it is exactly the opposite approach. The central part of Paul's understanding of what it means to follow Jesus Christ is very different from what we usually think about.

Question: when I say someone is a strong follower of Jesus Christ, what type of person would you picture? A person who prays many hours a day? Or a person who works in the soup kitchen every day? Maybe a person who takes communion at least once a week, never misses church, always knows when to stand and when to kneel, when to cross themselves.

Or, when I say, maybe with a hint of sadness, that someone is a weak Christian, a weak follower of Jesus Christ, what type of person would you picture? The exact opposite? Someone who doesn't pray enough, doesn't know what to do in church? Is that your image of a "weak Christian"?

Like our understanding of Paul, our understanding of "strong" and "weak" is exactly backwards. Paul makes it clear, not just in this passage but also in other passages, that he believes the person who must follow certain rules is the weak person. The must is extremely important. Grasp that concept and you understand Paul. Over and over aga ...

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