Archive for category Justice
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the goats on his right and the sheep on his left.
Then the King will say to the goats, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me with holy words, I was thirsty and you took away my strong drink. I was a stranger and you set high standards for friendship, I needed clothes and you shamed me in my nakedness then gave me your castoffs, I was sick and you told me to pray for healing, I was in prison and you said it was what I deserved.’
The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whenever you admonished the least of these brothers of mine, you made my job easier.’
Then he will say to the sheep, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you only gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing but drink, I was a stranger and you only invited me in, I needed clothes and you took me shopping, I was sick and in prison and all you did was visit with me.’
‘I tell you the truth, whenever you spent your worldly efforts on one of the least of these you pushed them even farther away from salvation.’
Then the weak and soft sheep will go away to eternal punishment, but the strong and righteous goats to eternal life.
I feel like shouting “Huzzah!” for the Navy SEALs and their superb marksmanship on the Arabian Sea earlier this week. But should I? As a Christian, shouldn’t I feel just a little bit guilty about that? Well, I don’t. Not in the least.
I am proud of the SEALs who took the shots, the officers who commanded them, the military that trained them and a country that still encourages a professional warrior ethos. No pray and spray, no collateral damage, no ‘acceptable’ civilian losses – just deadly accuracy as the result disciplined training and meticulous precision. I appreciate what these men did in much the same way I appreciate the workings of a well made mechanical watch or the engine of a high performance automobile or the culmination of a perfectly prepared meal. Craftsmanship and artistry, but in this case combined with the fortitude and courage to risk deadly force in order to protect the defenseless.
Does comparing the workings of a watch with the workings of a sniper team sound a bit callous? Perhaps it is, but I think there is something more noble (yes, noble) in killing these pirates than in just killing time. These were bad men; thieves, kidnappers and murderers who deliberately targeted innocent people in order to line their pockets (or fund their ’cause’ – it matters little to the victims). Who could possibly stand up for them? As Super Chicken used to say, they knew the job was dangerous when they took it. Thank God that our leaders understand that the continued presence of people like these require the services of the professional warrior. Thank God that there are people willing to take on that mantle.
Three well placed US government issued bullets, three dead pirates and one rescued sea captain. “Huzzah!”
Did Jesus think that his primary purpose was to stand in our place and receive the punishment from God that we deserved? Did he believe that God considered mankind to be essentially his own enemy? Did he think that God was such an inflexible judge that mankind’s universal and eternal damnation was the only way to balance the cosmic books?
If so then why does the Gospel of Matthew have Jesus say this:
‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
* what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5: 38-48)‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,
Can God only love those who love him, as so many Christians claim? In other words; is God no better than the tax-collectors? It doesn’t really make sense, does it? That Jesus would advocate a behavior that God the father will not even practice himself; demanding instead either hellish retribution or the murder of a divine scapegoat. Though God might demand an eye for an eye (his rightful pound of flesh) when we choose not to seek this but instead forgive our enemies then we are in some way more like God? Curious.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Genesis One: God makes the universe and everything in it. He creates life. He creates humans and he makes them in his own ‘image’, both man and woman. He gives humankind all of nature for their enjoyment and their sustenance. Although the chronology may be a bit confusing, the basics of this account can be made to square with what we know of nature, as long as you don’t read it too literally.
Genesis Two (the rest of the story?) is a bit fuzzier on the universe-making details but it does gives us more info on the first humans. Here we have God creating just one human, a man named Adam and instead of placing all of nature at his disposal he sets him up as the caretaker for a garden called Eden. Genesis doesn’t give us any of God’s policies and guidelines except for one; Adam is to never eat the fruit from one particular plant - the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
God soon figures that Adam will become bored (especially if he is immortal, as some think) and that he needs a companion – or as the NIV say; a “helper”. So God runs all the animals by Adam (who names them all in the process) but none of them seem to fit the bill. So God tries something completely different. He knocks out Adam and removes one his ribs, which he then turns into the first woman. She’s also the world’s first Gal Friday, as it is her job to ‘help’ the world’s only man do whatever manly things he does. At this time, she doesn’t even have a name for herself.
But good help is hard to find and soon the woman is picking up bad ideas from the local crime boss, Satan. Using her beguiling feminine ways, she gets Adam to join her in a little snack, courtesy of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. So God’s original deal is now off and life for the two of them will suck forever. At this time Adam finally names the woman, just like he did with the other animals. He calls her Eve , which means something like “mother of all the living” ( perhaps implying that kids and paradise are incompatible concepts?).
Now, though Genesis never actually says this, many people believe that what Adam and Eve did in the Garden queered things not just for them but everyone else that came after, including all of nature and the entire universe. So even though it is NEVER stated explicitly, one could get out of this story that Eve (who owed her own existence not just to God but also to Adam) couldn’t stay focused on her job and so ended up being a huge hindrance to Adam. And everyone else, including you and me. Turns out she was not much of a helper at all.
No doubt the cultural views of the men who wrote the scriptures had some bearing on how they presented their stories of God. It is obvious that this particular telling of the Creation story, along with a very rigid reading of it, has adversely influenced the relationship between men and women over the centuries. Amazingly, it still does so today.
There are many great moments interspersed throughout American history. Just about all of us have been born since the advent of radio and television and are fortunate to have witnessed some of these events (almost) first hand. Today’s electronic media coverage is so thorough and so pervasive, though, that some of the world’s most important moments risk becoming commonplace. But certain events are so singular – so unique -that they can only be described as momentous. These historical moments stand out above all the others and are said to come only once in a lifetime.
There will never be another VE or VJ day (at least I hope not) but there will be other days commemorating peace, just as there were before World War II. Though joyous, they marked the end to years of terrible suffering and the loss of millions of lives. Those who listened to the peace treaty being signed on the USS Missouri could not help but remember just a few years earlier the shock of Pearl Harbor.
Everyone remembers the horror of the Kennedy assassination yet he was not the first U.S. President to have been murdered (though hopefully he will be the last). Like millions of others, I will never be able to forget the sight of those planes crashing into the twin skyscrapers. Historical moments like these are all wreathed in sadness and sorrow.
There are a few once in a lifetime events, though, that foster feelings of national pride and well being. I remember, as a boy, staring transfixed at our scratchy old black and white television, watching Neil Armstrong stepping off of Apollo 11′s lunar module, leaving the first human footprint in the moon’s dust. Although there were six manned lunar landings in all, it was the first one that is burned into my memory.
I should not have been surprised at how powerful today’s inauguration was. Being privileged to witness the swearing-in of America’s first African -American President turned out to be very moving. There may be other black men and women elected to our nation’s highest office but their inaugurations will never have the same impact as this first one. This is truly a watershed event, especially when we consider the turbulent history our nation has had in regards to racism and intolerance. It can be said that the institution of slavery had more of an impact on our nation’s history than any other. This institution, abolished almost 150 years ago, still taints our society and stains our reputation among other nations. In this significant regard, Obama’s presidency transcends politics. Great presidents have always been more than just leaders but also national icons. Today, President Obama is an icon for national healing and reconciliation.
No matter what your political persuasion, you should be able to appreciate the magnificence of what has occurred today. Without meaning to detract from Obama the man (or Obama the politician) the most significant aspect of his presidency has nothing to do with his politics or even his personal character. Just as the opinions and philosophies of Neil Armstrong are not relevant to the historicity of his achievement, neither should they detract or overshadow what Obama has accomplished today.
Parents and teachers: I sure hope you had your children sitting in front of the television set today. There will never be another moment quite like this one.
The following prayer was composed and recited by Dr. Martin Luther King over 50 years ago. I think it is especially meaningful on the eve of this historic inauguration; of the first black man to the presidency of the United States. The long night of the past certainly has been very long for a great many Americans, but a great bright hope has finally been realized. One particular passage stands out to me, and I have highlighted it. Embodied within this prayer is the notion that prayer itself is not enough, that God also calls us to action. At times the goal may seem impossible, just as a black president must have seemed impossible to many in 1956. But King and other civil rights leaders decided to take the long view of things, the view that God most certainly must have. They not only prayed for justice, they worked hard for it.
We come to today, grateful that thou hast kept us through the long night of the past and ushered us into the challenge of the present and the bright hope of the future.
We are mindful, O God, that man cannot save himself, for man is not the measure of things and humanity is not God.
Bound by our chains of sin and finiteness, we know we need a Savior.
Help us never to let anybody or any condition pull us so low as to cause us to hate.
Give us strength to love our enemies and to do good to those who despitefully use us and persecute us.
We thank thee for thy Church, founded up on they Word, that challenges us to do more than sing and prayer, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon thee.
Then, finally, help us to realize that man was created to shine like the stars. And live on through all eternity.
Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace, help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day when all God’s children, Black, White, Red, and Yellow will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the kingdom of our Lord and of God, we pray.
According to UNICEF, 26,500-30,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.