Luke 22:20 “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
In a few weeks I’m going to be traveling to Israel, and the trip is making me think more about the messy relationships between all the people who revere that land—that is, Jews, Christians, and Muslims. In the passage above, as Jesus speaks to his disciples at the Last Supper, he talks about a “new covenant.” Christians have latched onto that in a variety of ways, not the least of which is to call the books about Jesus and the early church the new covenant, or—as we more frequently refer to it—the New Testament.
In today’s culture where “new” is good and “old” is out-of-date, we tend to interpret Jesus’ words about a “new covenant” as meaning that the “old covenant” that God made with the Jews through Abraham is now defunct and the “new covenant” for the Christians has replaced it. Paul takes on that question directly in the book of Romans and tries to show that such an interpretation is misguided, but it persists nonetheless.
I don’t think the replacement theory is either accurate or helpful in our relations with others who call on the God of Abraham. Instead of thinking of the “new covenant” as we think of a new computer that replaces the one no longer functioning, I find it more helpful to think of the “new covenant” as a new child in the family—a child with her own personality, needs, and direction—a child that will find God in her own way and not necessarily in the same way as her siblings.
This morning I was poking around in the Qur’an for quite a different reason when I discovered the following passages, which really spoke to me. Since I’m guessing most of you who receive this aren’t very conversant in the Qur’an and may not have a copy to whip out, I’ll give you the passage here. It comes from the second book of the Qur’an (called “The Cow”—I don’t know why) in verses 135-139:
They say: “Become Jews or become Christians, and find the right way.” Say: “No. We follow the way of Abraham the upright, who was not an idolater.” Say: “We believe in God and what has been sent down to us, and what had been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their progeny, and that which was given to Moses and Christ, and to all other prophets by the Lord. We make no distinction among them, and we submit to Him.”
If they come to believe as you did, they will find the right path. If they turn away then they will only oppose; but God will suffice you against them, for God hears all and knows every thing. “We have taken the colouring of God; and whose shade is better than God’s? Him alone we worship.” Say: “Why do you dispute with us about God when He is equally your Lord and our Lord? To us belong our actions, to you yours; and we are true to Him.”
I love that. “We have taken the colouring of God; and whose shade is better than God’s?” What a beautiful image that is! We are called to follow and abide in the covenant that was given to us. But let us be careful about assuming that the covenant that was new with Jesus supersedes any covenant God might have given to others, either before or since. God is the covenant maker. We cannot know all of God’s ways. We are only granted enough to know the way God has for us.
Help us, Lord, to color ourselves with your shade and thus be able to recognize all who bear the same, beautiful hue. Amen.
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