Today’s Bible readings can be found at this link: Genesis 38:12-30 and Mark 7:1-23.

Mark 7:8  “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

Christ’s teaching influences my whole life, but some parts of the Gospels directly relate to what I do as a Presbyterian minister. Much of the criticism that Jesus had for the religious clerics of His time still applies today and I confess to struggling with denominational practices and New Testament tenets. I inwardly flinch when I read about Jesus rebuking the Pharisees and Sadducees because I see myself doing similar things like them. This, in turn, causes me to question whether or not I am guilty of holding on to human traditions, rather than keeping God’s commands.

Years ago, I can remember discussing this with a Roman Catholic friend who was training to become a priest. The conversation took place in Valladolid, Spain and we were talking about our denominational differences and what was personally important about our religious traditions. At the end of the discussion, my friend said to me words I will never forget, which still influence me today: “No matter what our differences are, John,” he said, “I am a Christian first and a Roman Catholic second.”

Can you imagine what kind of a positive and effective influence we would have on the world if church people everywhere became Christians first and their denominational choice second? A lot of the religious wounds on Earth would be healed and we could begin to fix our broken world. For me, this means that the challenge I face is to be a better Christian than a Presbyterian, and to continually become a better disciple of Christ than a pastor. And in the end, is that not what Christ expects of me, as well as all of us who follow His ways?

Point to ponder:

Do people see me as a Christian or something else?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we all want to be Christians at home, in church, in school, in our workplaces, and wherever else we go. Help us to grow closer to You in such a way that our faith will be honestly and positively displayed to those around us. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

Today’s image is one of John’s latest Easter drawings called ‘Resurrection.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click here.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.