On that first Easter temple guards were sent to watch over the sealed tomb. But the stone rolled away in an earthquake, revealing the tomb was empty. The guards ran to the priests to report the empty tomb, and the priests bribed the guards to lie about what they saw.
Religious corruption has an ancient lineage. Even Easter carries the shadow of corruption.
In this week’s sermon scripture, Romans 2 – 3, Paul complains about religious corruption. But he also sees genuine faith and godliness all around him. What he sees challenges his traditional ideas about religion, however. Deep devotion to God isn’t limited alone to law-abiding Jews. Paul sees it in the lives of non-Jews, too.
Paul writes that the line that separates the good Jew and the good Gentile is very thin, and largely irrelevant. Both seek to please the Lord.
But there is also a thin line that separates the devout from the corrupt. Those who are faithful to their churches can easily slide into corruption when church becomes more important than God. Their church becomes, for them, their God — and they’ll do anything to defend it.
We’ll explore religious corruption and its remedy in this Sunday’s sermon.
In the meantime, as Philippians 4 reminds us, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” So, let’s think on the Christ-like behavior we see among our members, neighbors and those in the news: sewing face masks, saying prayers, making phone calls of encouragement, giving generously, organizing to help front-line workers with meals and childcare.
Whether of our church or not, whether of our faith or not, Paul would say, “There we see people who desire to please the Lord.”