Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.

Hebrews 13: 9

For people in the early days of the church, the topic of food, the way that it was handled and prepared, and even the manner in which it was eaten was important. If they came from a Jewish background, as many in the church did, then they had always lived under the guidance and the compulsion of the Law of Moses. If they came to Christ after living as a part of the gentile world, they had not been handling foods and selecting them based upon those standards and principles, and this was a mark of differentiation and thus one of division between the Jews and the gentiles. Yet, at the center of following Christ is unity in the Spirit, and thus, unity in the way that life is lived and the conduct of our days. Things that divide or that separate Christ’s people from each other are to be considered carefully and with great suspicion.

The use of foods as an example of this sort of thing was truly pertinent to the days at hand when Hebrews was written. Today there might be other issues and concerns that strike more closely to the heart of unity or rather that enter into heart of the division or separation of people who follow Christ. I am not speaking about core and foundational teachings such as the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the existence of heaven and hell, or Jesus’ death and resurrection. Still, there are many issues that we can and do allow to disrupt the fellowship of people of faith in Christ. These teachings or ways of thinking are diverse in that they can force people to seek out divergent paths in our journeys as Christians, and they are strange in that when they are made important or even central to a specific group of people they divide us in ways that are unnatural to God and that are outside of God’s desire and intent to bring all of His people together in the unity of the Spirit and in the expression and proclamation of Christ in our world.

In all of life, we need grace. This is the Godly quality that is poured over each of us as we seek to enter into a relationship with God through Christ. We are granted a form of grace that brings about acceptance when we deserve rejection, that embraces us in love as we have earned animosity and separation, that proclaims us righteous despite the sinful nature of much that we think, say, and do. This is the grace that was made perfect and complete by Jesus on His cross of torture and pain and that was given full birth with Christ’s resurrection and victorious rule over all of creation. Now, it is this same grace that provides us with the wisdom, understanding, and love that is required for us to enter into relationships with other followers of Christ without regard for the issues and the concerns that might otherwise keep us distant and separated from each other. Christ’s grace gives His people the strength that we need in order to live outside of the worldly constraints that build barriers between people as grace becomes a gift that we can grant to one another in the name of the one who gave it to us, Jesus Christ.  

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth through Jesus Christ.

John 1: 17

 

God has always provided guidance to His people. He provided us with His moral code of conduct, His Law, at a very early stage of humanity’s existence. Even before the giving of its formal version to Moses, God set out His desires for our behavior and thought for people to follow. The Lord did not want us to lack for understanding of who He was and of how He desired that we would live. When it comes to things that matter, God is not ambiguous. He speaks with authority and out of His love for His creation.

 

However, the law was not the answer. We are not good at following rules, and people have always been prone to questioning and to challenging their intent and their content. Something far greater than the law was needed. As humanity had frequently tried seeking our guidance and giving our allegiance to other forms of god without achieving true mastery over living well, this new thing had to come directly from God, A moral code had also proven to be futile; so, something much greater was required in order for people to be able to overcome the spiritual and moral death that we were condemned to experience from birth.

 

In order to fully and truly reestablish relationship with people, God had promised Himself as the answer to our sinful state of separation. God gave to us His Son, Jesus, as this final response and solution to our need for the both moral and ethical direction and for the grace to overcome our state of rebellion. Christ pours out God’s grace upon us. He also leads us into living in the center of the eternal truth that is God’s character. In and through Christ we know God. We are immersed in His love, mercy, peace, and truth in a way that is impossible to gain without the presence of Christ in our lives. The law was true but was incomplete. Christ brings the grace of God to us so that God’s love is totally mixed with His truth in a manner that brings God’s people into an unceasingly redemptive relationship with our Creator.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Like 24: 44

 

Jesus was standing there in that room in Jerusalem, and the reality of what had happened so recently was becoming very powerful for the band of intimate followers that included the disciples and others close to them and to Jesus. Although Jesus had been killed, murdered by the hands of the Romans at the instigation of the Jewish temple leaders, here He was. Jesus was in the room with them, and He had been with them several other times after the day of crucifixion. He even eats with them. The Christ is undeniably real and completely present in this world.

 

Jesus affirms for them the fact that the entirety of His life including His death, resurrection, and presence at that moment is both a part and the completion of the whole of the bible narrative. Everything written in what Jesus refers to as the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, what we know as the Old Testament, is about God’s relationship to people and to the rest of Creation; and all of God’s Word points to His self-sacrificing response to and resolution for the separation that our willful sin has caused to come between ourselves and God. In Jesus, the Christ, God has come into our midst and into our lives.

 

Now relationship with God in this life and beyond it into all of time is based upon an individual and a personal decision of faith that each person needs to make. Christ is present. He is not far away or hidden away as if shrouded in mystery or secret rite and ritual. The Savior is here in the room with us. He joins us in the heights and the depths of living out our days. He brings us our food and He feeds us on God’s word of life. His words of truth echo in the room around us, and they resonate in our hearts and minds. God is with us, and His presence is Jesus Christ. The fulfillment of God’s desire is found in our acceptance of relationship with Him, and the fulfillment of our new life in Christ is gained as we proclaim this eternal truth to the entire world.