Mercy trumps judgment

February 23, 2017 § Leave a comment

Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Far be it from you! Shall not the Judge of the earth do what is just?

Listening to the latest NPR politics podcast about the White House press conference, I, for the first time in my life, begin feeling pity for the sad and whiny man Trump who sounds like he just needs some love because the big kids won’t let him play with them. And I know, it sounds so condescending, but really, who amongst us mortals don’t struggle with that? Insecurity? A deep desire to be accepted and celebrated? But I digress.

What dawns on me as I keep listening and my heart swells up with a profound compulsion to start praying for this man’s transformation is intercession, an act of speaking to and negotiating with God on behalf of those who cannot, in the well-known Genesis story of Abraham. He essentially asks God how He can destroy a small number of good people, even if just five, along with a giant ass city full of terrible greed and human rights violation. The truth is, if I were God, I would gladly destroy the sorry group of cruel, money-driven, patriarchal, sexist and xenophobic (hmmm sound familiar?) people in a heartbeat. Why? Because I’m just! There are suffering children crying out to me, and it’s not my nature to let sin continue killing my creation. And for those of us who feel the wrath of God–seething in the secret place with a prophetic spirit and an image of His cup of vengeance overflowing–that resonates. We pray for the coming of the Day of the Lord, that dreadful day, when He will hold us accountable for the blood of our brothers and sisters. I wonder if this isn’t how God feels most of the time; when He consults Abraham on what He means to do, He’s ready to rain down sulfur on cities for our collective sin against humanity.

Fascinating that Abraham does something we have not cared to do so far. He does what Jesus does in a sense: pleading, on behalf of people, the vast majority of us who least deserve it. But I bet Abraham isn’t thinking about the loss of righteous lives by our religious standard. I bet he’s thinking about his nephew Lot, his family. And today, as I listen to the cries from our President wanting to be liked by the media, his supporters, GOP establishment, I too am thinking about my nephew Ezra, born today. I’m thinking about colleagues who need some kind of hope that they won’t be deported. I’m thinking about “the five” who will be swept away by the hellfire that Amos and Ezekiel must have called for at the sight of current U.S. economic activities. What happens to the good people when justice arrives? How will I respond to the burning swords of God drawn to bring chaos and dismantling and to doom atone for our wrongdoings? Would I pray for the repentance and forgiveness and mercy on these despicable habitants of cities? All for the sake of those who’ll suffer even more, however many?

I know there’s a difference between calling for an end to unjust systems and condemning a whole of people groups and nations for their sins. But conviction hits strangely today. I ask the Lord to relent from exacting His retribution from this administration, not because He’s OK with all its unrighteousness, but precisely because His mercy trumps judgment. May the Judge of the earth turn from His fierce anger for the sake of the five.

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What gospel are we reading?

February 10, 2017 § Leave a comment

Coming from an evangelical yet left-leaning in ideology (kind of) Christian campus fellowship, I’ve heard many teachings and led group studies on the book of Mark that some may label social gospel.

One such story is of a demon-possessed man and Jesus’ interaction in Mark 5:1-20.

The ultimate “in front of the text” question that really bothers me about this story is the quickness and almost a self-congratulatory way we point out the townspeople’s offense. Jesus heals the demoniac at the expense of their livelihood, about two thousand pigs drowned in the sea, highlighting a choice he presents the people–rejoicing at the restoration of an oppressed man in their midst, or despairing the drastic loss of economic gains. Ultimately, the people choose to place their pigs above freedom for a real person, a terrible sin we’re eager to recognize alongside Mark. This is contrary to the will of God, we point fingers at these greedy people.

But I am agitated because it’s not ever that easy when we have to make such choices. No one wants to speak of the way we are doing exactly the same in today’s context. Why aren’t we just as outraged about the silence on DAPL by our Christian leaders when the situation may be interpreted as our pigs? We’re placing “American jobs” above Native sovereignty, yet there’s no repentance there.

What is the point of Bible study if it remains a nice moral story without transformation? What kind of gospel are we reading?

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