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Posted February 18, 2008

Church Moves Out: A Devotional Commentary on the Catholic Epistles

General Editor: Leo Zanchettin
The Word Among Us Press. Ijamsville, MD. 2007. Pp. 184

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

What do you do when your church is rocked by scandal, or when some members of your parish are stirring up strife? Where do you turn when "the way things used to be" seems upended and youíre left wondering how you should live as a Christian now?

While these situations may seem unique to our time, they are the very conditions faced by the second-generation Christians to whom the seven letters in this commentary were addressed. And the advice that the Letters of James, Peter, John, and Jude gave these early Christians is as relevant to us today, as it was to them. In fact, their letters are called the "Catholic epistles" because they deal with "universal" issues that concern the church in every age.

Each letter gives us insights into how the early church dealt with changes as it "moved out" of the comfortable familiarity of its founding years and into the larger world a generation later. As we face our own challenges, there is much that we can learn from their experience.

An Excerpt from the Book:

There will be false teachers among you. (2 Peter 2:1)

What? Is Peter saying that we should expect false teachers? That we should not be surprised to see people promoting contrary doctrines, even denying Jesus? And that these people, drawing followers, will malign the church in the eyes of the world? How can he be so detached?

Peter knew human nature. He had seen a lot in his life, and you get the feeling that nothing surprised him. Of course, people motivated by greed and the desire for power will try to redefine what it means to follow Christ, along with redefining what is acceptable or moral. And of course, some people will be deceived into following their teachings. Their situation in the eyes of God is dire, and he alone can judge them; in the interim, the church will suffer from their influence.

We can all think of examples of such false teachers in our present day, people who change the teaching of the gospel. And we can probably see the effects as well: people ridiculing or discrediting believers or the church itself; and worse, people being exploited, led down a path away from the truth, comfort, and salvation found in Christ.

When you look at it this way, it really can be hard to be as unemotional as Peter seems. So what was his secret? Peter could see the end of the story. He knew that Godís justice would prevail, even if that justice was not fully visible in tghe present moment. Peter knew that the choices made by those leading others astray, assuming they did not repent, would eventually end in destruction. He knew that the gates of hell would never prevail against the church!

We can make the decision to embrace that same hope for the church, even when we see things that make us feel hopeless. Like Peter, our hope can be like a house built on a rock, unshaken despite wind and storm. We know the end of the story, and Jesus will restore his church to share his glory.

Table of Contents:

The Letter of James: live out your faith!

The First Letter of Peter: baptized into a new dignity

The Second Letter of Peter: living in the shadow of the "Day of the Lord"

The First Letter of John: walking in the light of truth

The Second and Third Letters of John: truth, love, and the challenges of life in community