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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, April 22, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Acts 5:27–32

When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” (NRSV)

Goodness gracious! Proclaiming that you must obey God rather than human authority can be the ultimate “Get out of Jail Free” card. Just think of all the atrocities committed because some group claimed they had to obey God. I’m looking at the people who use God to justify harm to transgender folks, who justify limiting a woman’s right to dominion over her body, who justify denying full participation in the church for all sorts of people like LGBTQIA, divorced, and even women preachers. Look back a little further and we can add war, genocide, and slavery to that abominable list. So I’m skeptical when someone claims they must obey God rather than human authority.

Don’t get it twisted: I do think that God’s authority is far greater than any other. It’s just we humans sometimes struggle to know God’s mind, heart, and will—especially in the midst of our power grabs. It’s why my discipleship is honed in a community. It would be too tempting to let my ego take the reigns and call it God’s will. In community we study the thread of God’s love that’s woven throughout our holy texts. In community we pray for the Holy Spirit to speak through the ones brave enough to ask the tough questions and the ones who refuse to go along with groupthink. In community we struggle and strive to love God and love our neighbors.

It is messy work, and we are an imperfect bunch. Sometimes we get it wrong, need to ask for forgiveness, and then make amends. We commit to doing things differently. I’m pretty sure we are to obey God’s authority on that.

God of the imperfect, remove from us anything that prevents us from loving you and our neighbors. Equip us to claim the authority to love you and each other. Amen.

Written by Andrea Denney, Executive Director of Operational Ministries

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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