The first passage in my second Selected Scripture series comes from the First Letter of Peter:
14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear,[b] and do not be intimidated, 15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence.[c] Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.
(1 Peter 3:14-17)
I think this is an valuable passage because suffering is a part of life. We can never entirely escape it, no matter how hard we try. Given this fact, it is better for us as Christians to choose to live our lives in such a way that our suffering, when it does come about, results from doing good instead of doing evil. In this way it has purpose and meaning and value.
The second passage comes from the Book of Sirach:
18 The one who sins against his marriage bed
says to himself, “Who can see me?
Darkness surrounds me, the walls hide me,
and no one sees me. Why should I worry?
The Most High will not remember sins.”
19 His fear is confined to human eyes
and he does not realize that the eyes of the Lord
are ten thousand times brighter than the sun;
they look upon every aspect of human behavior
and see into hidden corners.
20 Before the universe was created, it was known to him,
and so it is since its completion.
21 This man will be punished in the streets of the city,
and where he least suspects it, he will be seized.
22 So it is with a woman who leaves her husband
and presents him with an heir by another man.
23 For first of all, she has disobeyed the law of the Most High;
second, she has committed an offense against her husband;
and third, through her fornication she has committed adultery
and brought forth children by another man.
24 She herself will be brought before the assembly,
and her punishment will extend to her children.
25 Her children will not take root,
and her branches will not bear fruit.
26 She will leave behind an accursed memory
and her disgrace will never be blotted out.
There are a few things I found important in this passage. To begin with, a husband’s adultery, while seemingly less odious (based on other parts of scripture), will not escape punishment. God sees all, and any thought of escaping justice is folly. Second off, we can see that a wife who commits adultery and cuckolds her husband is actually wronging three different figures. The first, and most important, is God. Then her husband. And then finally her children, who must suffer the worldly consequences of her sins. This is think is a template for understanding all sins within marriage: they wrong God, our spouse and our children.
The last passage is from the Gospel according to Mark:
He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary[a] and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense[b] at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.
What intrigued me here is the part in bold, which seems to indicate that the ability of Jesus to work miracles was dependent on the faith of the one who would benefit from it. This was a bit odd to me at first, because it almost seemed like a limitation on Jesus’ power. As I think on it, I suspect there is actually something very deep going on here. Possibly several somethings. Perhaps a statement that when we lament the lack of God’s presence in our lives, it is because our faith is lacking. Once we regenerate our faith in God, then we will be able to witness his miracles at work. Or maybe Mark is trying to teach us that God works through us and our faith, although that seems very much like the first point. This I think is worthy of further prayer and reflection.