Love God. Love People. Say What? ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael R Beckett, OPI

Our Old Testament Reading today comes from the book of Wisdom, or as some call it, The Wisdom of Solomon.  Now, most scholars agree that King Solomon, did not, in fact, write this book, but say that it was written in honor of him, using things he did write and things he said.   During the Reformation, Martin Luther discarded this book of the Bible, along with others, whilst the more Liturgical churches retained them.   Melito of Sardis in the 2nd century AD, Augustine (c. 397 AD) and Pope Innocent I (405 AD) considered Wisdom of Solomon as part of the Old Testament. Athanasius writes that the Book of Wisdom along with three other deuterocanonical books, while not being part of the Canon, “were appointed by the Fathers to be read”.  In Matthew 12 Jesus quotes from this book.  SO….having said all that, this is today’s reading:

There is no god besides you who have the care of all, that you need show you have not unjustly condemned.  For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.  For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved; and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity.  But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you.  And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope  that you would permit repentance for their sins.   WIS 12:13, 16-19

At the risk of being accused of “cherry picking,” I want to focus on these verses:  For your might is the source of justice, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind;

So let’s think about that.  The author(s) of the Book of Wisdom, in praising God have said that God judges with clemency, he judges with leniency, and has taught us that those who are just must be kind.

Well now…….Three key words:  clemency, leniency, kindness.  Clemency is defined as “mercy.”  Leniency is defined as “quality of being more merciful or tolerant than expected.”   Kindness is defined as “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.”

How many times must it be repeated?  Be merciful.  Be kind.  Show love.  It’s pretty much one of the key recurring factors of Jesus’s ministry.  Love God.  Love people.  Love God.  Love people.

Jesus tells us in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”    How do we show that love?  Again, Jesus tell us, and again, very specifically in Matthew 25:35-45:   For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’   “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’   “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

The least of these….who then, are ‘the least of these’ in today’s society?   Probably those who make many of us uncomfortable.  The homeless?  People who are a different color?  People who are of a different color?  Sexual orientation?  Ethnicity? Who are “the least of these” to you?

Stephen Mattson writes:

Throughout his ministry, Jesus showed that he did, indeed, love everyone, even to the point of dying for their sins, but you know,  he went out of his way to intentionally help specific groups of people — the alienated, mistreated, and those facing injustice.  Throughout his earthly ministry:

Jesus said, “Samaritan lives matter.”

Jesus said, “Children’s lives matter.”

Jesus said, “Gentile lives matter.”

Jesus said, “Jewish lives matter.”

Jesus said, “Women’s lives matter.”

Jesus said, “Lepers’ lives matter.”

Christians must recognize that our society today is filled with numerous groups and communities facing systemic oppression, and we must act. We must be willing to admit and address the complex realities within our world that create such problems,  and avoid the spiritual laziness that tempts us to rely on generic excuses and solutions.

Christians do a disservice to the gospel message by removing the cultural context from Jesus’s ministry and watering down his message to one of religious platitudes. We like to generalize the words of Jesus and transform his life into a one-size-fits-all model that can apply to all of humanity.  He intentionally, purposefully, and passionately addressed very specific causes. He radically addressed the diverse and complicated conflicts of the time and shattered the status quo.  Are we, as Christians, not called to do the same?  By addressing racism, immigration, gender equality, and a litany of other issues, we are following in the steps of Jesus.

Justice.  Mercy.  Kindness.  Love God.  Love people.

Amen.

 

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