17 June 2017
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.
From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here. It is all God’s work. It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation. In other words, God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled.
So we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’
“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No”
Many people (myself included) have somehow over the course of our lives acquired a bad habit of using God’s name to swear. And in swearing, I mean both senses of the word, whether in terms of making a promise or an oath, or cursing an inopportune event that has befallen one. So it is common to hear things like “I swear to God, I didn’t do it!” or “Jesus Christ! Did he just cut in front of me?” One of my favourite bands, Jars of Clay, even has a song that addresses this habit of swearing in God’s name. Entitled “Oh My God”, the song plays on secular society’s habit to use the phrase ‘oh my god’ for all sorts of situations.
In today’s gospel, Jesus makes it clear that swearing of any form, not just using God’s name, is wrong. Indeed, the Lord teaches us that we need to say what we mean, and mean what we say. For to swear would be to promise more than we can deliver, and hence end up making false oaths. Indeed, “no one knows about the day or hour” (MT 24:36). How can we promise anyone anything when we do not even know if the sun will rise tomorrow, much less whether we will be able or willing to fulfil the promises or oaths that we have this tendency to make.
Jesus even goes so far as to say that anything more than ‘yes’ meaning ‘yes’ and ‘no’ meaning ‘no’ is from the Evil One. Indeed, many of the promises and oaths that we make, even under duress (especially under duress), stem from an overconfidence in our own ability to deliver on promises or even determine our own fates. This excessive belief in ourselves can be seen as an elevation of the ‘self’ as an idol. That is why our Lord said that such promises are from the Evil One.
Rather than swearing oaths and making promises we cannot keep, let us be clear (both to others and to ourselves) what we can/should and can/should not do. In doing so, we say ‘yes’ to God in our obedience to Him and trust in His providence, and we say ‘no’ to the devil and all his empty promises.
(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)
Prayer: Lord, keep us grounded in Your love and our humility, so that we may continue to trust and rely on your never-ending providence.
Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for providing us with all that we need, for it is in the fulfilment of these needs that we see the emptiness of our wants.