April 26, Wednesday

 The AMI QT Devotionals from April 24-30 are provided by Pastor Shan Gian, who serves as the Fenway site pastor of Symphony Church in Boston.  Shan, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Jenny; and they are the proud parents of their first baby Tyler.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHTS FOR TODAY

“According to the Flesh”

2 Corinthians 5:16-17

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 

Rightly or wrongly, in any news story in the United States, it is incredibly easy for people to point their fingers and claim that race was a major factor. We see this in major issues like elections, laws, and systems of government, as well as in minor issues, such as the skin color of the actors cast in a movie or TV show.  A couple of weeks ago, there was a shocking video of a man being dragged off of an airplane, and it took no time for people to wonder if the fact that the man was Asian had anything to do with it.

Racism in our day is terrible—and it should be a concern for everyone. However, what I’ve noticed is that it’s really easy to point our fingers at someone else and declare, “Racism! You’re a racist!” but it’s much harder to turn that finger around, point at ourselves and confess, “I am racist!” If all of us, people of any color, culture or backgrounds, were to be honest with ourselves, and to reflect on our own thoughts and patterns, I think we would discover the truth that, as apostle Paul would say, we regard people according to the flesh, or as we would say in our culture, “We are racists.”

This is an uncomfortable but unavoidable truth. When we walk down a street and see someone of a certain culture dressed a certain way, we cannot help but make a snap judgment in our minds about what kind of person he or she is. When we look at people around us, we cannot help but think about their potential, based on how they look or how they act. We all are wired to see others “according to the flesh.”

There are many potential solutions that are promoted in our day to recognize and overcome our biases, whether it’s better laws, better education, more exposure to different cultures and people groups, etc. But the only way for any one of us to overcome our own racist tendencies is to become new creations in Christ. We have to be born again in order to see others rightly.  Paul says that we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, meaning that he and others saw Jesus either as a teacher, an instigator, a heretic, or a terrible man who died shamefully on a cross.  But then he says, “…we regard him thus no longer.”  Instead, he and others saw Him as a risen Savior and King.  The only way Paul could overcome his bias and discrimination was that he had to become a new creation.  If we become new creations in Christ, we, then, have the power to regard no one according to the flesh, but see others through God’s eyes.

Prayer: Jesus, I pray that in You I can be and live like a new creation. Forgive me for how I view others according to the flesh, but help me to see people as You see them.  Overcome my bias and discrimination, and may my life be a reflection of Your love. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Leviticus 19


LUNCH BREAK STUDY

Read Luke 18:9-14: He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What did the Pharisee think about the tax collector? Put yourself in the Pharisee’s shoes. What would you think about this tax collector?
  2. How did the tax collector see himself? How did God see the tax collector?
  3. What is the root of regarding others according to the flesh? How can we overcome this way of “regarding” others?

Notes

  1. When the Pharisee saw this tax collector, he automatically judged him as a sinful and unrighteous man. Tax collectors in that time had a reputation of being corrupt men, who betrayed the Jewish people by working for the enemy (Rome), and making this worse, they were thought to be cheating the people of money for their own gain.
  2. The tax collector saw himself as a sinner. He knew his sinful state, and he humbled himself because he knew that he was unworthy to be before a holy God. God saw his humble state with love and justified him.
  3. The root of regarding others according to the flesh is pride and comparison. The Pharisee saw himself as righteous in comparison to this tax collector—not comparing himself to the holy God.  In racism, and other forms of discrimination, the root of it is also pride, seeing oneself as superior over another in terms of race, gender, profession, status, etc.  The only way to overcome this is to view ourselves as the tax collector viewed himself—a wretched sinner in need of mercy from the holy God.

EVENING REFLECTION

Let’s pray for the issues of racism in this country. Pray that reconciliation will happen between different ethnic and cultural groups.  But let us first pray for ourselves that we may live as new creations and that the church will show the world what it means to regard others not according to the flesh but to see others as God sees them.

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