Archive for July 2012

Proper 10, Year C   11 comments

Above:  The Good Samaritan’s Inn

Image Source = Library of Congress

Compassion and Scandal

The Sunday Closest to July 13

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 14, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 7:7-14 and Psalm 82

or 

Deuteronomy 20:9-14 and Psalm 25:1-9

then 

Colossians 1:1-14

Luke 10:25-37

The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-confession-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notoriously difficult due to its geography and the reality that robbers used it as site of frequent crimes.  Did only fools travel it alone?  If so, everyone except the inn keeper in the Parable of the Good Samaritan was foolish.  Those who passed by the crime victim probably did so for more than one reason.  Safety was a concern, for sometimes bandits preyed on compassionate responses.  Other reasons for moving along included apathy and a concern for maintaining ritual purity.  But the unlikely hero was a Samaritan–a heretic, a half-breed, and a marginalized person.

The scandal of the Parable of the Good Samaritan has at least two layers.  Even the possibility of a Good Samaritan proved scandalous to many people originally.  Unfortunately, the parable has become hackneyed for many modern Christians, so I propose pondering who our “Samaritans ” are then paraphrasing the story to restore its fully scandalous nature.  The “Samaritan” should always be the most “other ” person one can name.  So, for one hates Gypsies, the Samaritan might be a Gypsy.  For a xenophobe the Samaritan might be an immigrant.  For an ultra-orthodox person the Samaritan might be a the most relatively heretical individual.  For someone with an especially strong political point of view the Samaritan might be a person from the opposite end of the spectrum.  For a homophobe the Samaritan might be a homosexual.  For a homosexual the Samaritan might be a homophobe.  For an Orangeman the Samaritan might be a Roman Catholic.  The more provocative the paraphrase, the more accurate it is.

Another layer of scandal in the parable is the lesson that sometimes respectable religious concerns and practices obstruct active compassion.  I am convinced that most religious people seek to obey the divine will as they understand it.  But too often many of us do not love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  Too often we make excuses for those who exploit the weak and the vulnerable, including widows, orphans, and the poor.  Too often we seek God’s ways and follow other paths.  Too often we therefore sow the seeds not only of the destruction of others but also of ourselves.  Yet, as Deuteronomy 30:9-14 reminds us, the law of God is very near us–inside us, in fact.  Too often we look for this law in the wrong places.

This law is as simple and difficult as following our Lord and Savior’s instruction:

Go, and do the same yourself.

–Luke 10:37b, The New Jerusalem Bible

In 2001 or 2002 I listened one evening to a public radio program about Hanukkah.  My memory of one story from that program is partial, but the summary of that tale remains with me.  In ancient times there was a rabbi who lacked most of what he needed to observe Hanukkah properly.  He was an especially pious yet closed-minded man at the beginning of the story.  At the end, however, he was pious and open-minded, for a succession of especially unlikely outsiders provided all that he needed.  A Greek wrestler even gave the necessary oil.  That tale, a wonderful piece of Jewish wisdom, is consistent with the readings for this Sunday.  The “other” might be a means of grace, and neighborliness crosses a variety of human-created barriers.

Go, and do the same yourself.

Indeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/compassion-and-scandal/

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Devotion for July 13 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

Judges and Galatians, Part II:  Obligations

THURSDAY, JULY 13, 2017

FRIDAY, JULY 13, 2018

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 13:1-25

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

Galatians 2:1-21

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Some Related Posts:

Judges 13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-19/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/week-of-proper-15-thursday-year-1/

Galatians 2:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/week-of-proper-22-wednesday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/proper-6-year-c/

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The call of God on one’s life imposes some obligations and lifts others.  This theme plays out in Judges 13, the account which culminates in the birth of the judge Samson, designated to end the Philistine oppression of the Israelites.  He was supposed to obey rules governing hair and wine.  Yet the lifting of the obligation of male circumcision is a prominent part of Galatians 2.  The mandate to care for the poor remains, however.  Our justification is in Christ, Paul wrote, so “saving justice” does not come from the Law of Moses.  This principle did not apply to Samson for reasons of chronology.

We are not our own; no, we belong to God. Sometimes God’s call on our lives requires us to abandon certain traditions, such as the prohibition against table fellow ship with Gentiles in Galatians 2.  Yet, when one reads the other account of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, one finds some old rules which continue to apply:

…to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from illicit marriages.

–Acts 15:29, The New Jerusalem Bible

But circumcision ceases to be obligatory.

As I have written already, male circumcision is a traditional part of Jewish identity.  Recent (as of 2012) international disputes regarding the practice reinforce this point.  But an outward sign which few people will see is not more important than public acts of compassion, such as caring effectively for the poor in the name of God.  A hokey song whose music and shallow, repetitive words I despise does at least convey a simple truth nevertheless:

They’ll know we are Christians by our love.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/judges-and-galatians-part-ii-obligations/

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Devotion for July 12 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Above:  Gideon’s Fountain

Image in the Public Domain

Image Source = Library of Congress

Judges and Galatians, Part I:  Divine Glory and Human Scandal

WEDNESDAY, JULY 12, 2017

THURSDAY, JULY 12, 2018

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 7:1-23

Psalm 86 (Morning)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening)

Galatians 1:1-24

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The story in Judges 7 is a narrative about a coward (Gideon) leading an army of cowards (water lappers).  So the victory belonged unmistakably to God.

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod daily lectionary of 2006 skips away from Acts for a few days.  The logic is impeccable, for Acts 15 and Galatians 2 contain slightly different accounts of the Council of Jerusalem.  But I get ahead of myself.  All glory goes to God in Galatians 1, for Paul inspires people to glorify God.  Paul had, after all, been a zealous persecutor of Christians.

God works in mysterious ways, including a seemingly unlikely convert and an army or cowards.  The first will be last and the last will be first.  The servant of all is the greatest in the Kingdom of God.  Some prostitutes will enter Heaven ahead of some respected religious figures.  Second sons inherit the privileges of the firstborn.  God works in mysterious ways; dare we embrace the scandal?  Or are we wedded to our hierarchies and ordered senses of how the world should work that we reject such divine and mysterious ways?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/judges-and-galatians-part-i-divine-glory-and-human-scandal/

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Devotion for July 10 and 11 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Gideon’s Fountain

Image in the Public Domain

Image Source = Library of Congress

Judges and Acts, Part III:  Undue Burdens and Obstacles

MONDAY, JULY 10, and TUESDAY, JULY 11, 2017

TUESDAY, JULY 10, and WEDNESDAY, JULY 11, 2018

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 6:1-24 (July 10)

Judges 6:25-40 (July 11)

Psalm 96 (Morning–July 10)

Psalm 116 (Morning–July 11)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening–July 10)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–July 11)

Acts 14:19-15:5 (July 10)

Acts 15:6-21 (July 11)

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The Council of Jerusalem decided not to impose circumcision, an undue burden, upon Gentile Christians.  This was a serious and a difficult issue, for circumcision was (and remains) a major issue of Jewish identity.  It reminded men that they owed their existence to God.  But this ritual stood as an obstacle for many Gentiles, understandably.

Back in the Book of Judges, Gideon thought of God’s call as a burden.  Why else would he have kept testing God by asking for confirmation of the mandate to liberate the Israelites from the Midianite oppression?  Yet, as the story after Judges 6 makes clear, God succeeded because of divine power, not Gideon’s military ability or great determination or true grit.

We who claim to follow God need to distinguish between real burdens and imagined ones.  And we need to remember that God provides the means to succeed and/or to persevere on divine missions.  Paul risked his life for God; he lost it eventually for the same purpose.  Elsewhere in the Bible, prophets experienced scorn and ridicule, even exile.  But may we recall the words of God in Judges 6:16:

I will be with you….

(TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

And may we not impose any undue spiritual burden on anyone or erect obstacles in their path.  Rather, may we remove them.  May we not get in God’s way, even while trying to do the right thing or what we imagine to be the right thing.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/judges-and-acts-part-iii-undue-burdens-and-obstacles/

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Devotion for July 9 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Jordan Valley North of Lake Galilee, Tell-el Kedah, “Hazor”

Image in the Public Domain

Image Source = Library of Congress

Judges and Acts, Part II:  Proper Piety

SUNDAY, JULY 9, 2017

MONDAY, JULY 9, 2018

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 4:1-24

Psalm 13 (Morning)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening)

Acts 14:1-18

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Deliverance comes through women in Judges 4 and Acts 14.

Judges 4 is a violent tale.  Ten thousand soldiers die in just one verse.  The demise of their commander, Sisera, receives more attention to detail; Jael, a woman, drives a pin through his temple with a mallet.  The text concludes by saying that God subdued King Jabin of Canaan, whom whom the Israelites subdued.

Paul and Barnabas preached Jesus, born of a woman, in Acts 14.  They inspired conversions, opposition, and misunderstanding.  They almost died at Iconium for all their trouble.  And a crowd at Lystra mistook them for Zeus and Hermes.  People filtered the message of Paul and Barnabas through the filters of their religious traditions.  Some chose the new, others reacted violently in favor of the old, and a third group almost sacrificed to men they mistook for deities.  Only one group was correct, although all three acted out of a sense of piety.

Proper piety recognizes that God is in control and works through people; they are agents of God and are not gods.  Proper piety acknowledges that sometimes God’s agents are people we might not expect.  And proper piety leads to the admission that one’s knowledge of God is very limited, so there is always more to learn and probably something to unlearn.

Proper piety leads us to wrestle with texts sometimes.  I struggle with the violence in Judges 4, for I note the positive portrayal of it there and the negative description of the near-stoning in Acts 14.  Stoning was a punishment for a variety of offenses, including blasphemy, in the Law of Moses.  So those who sought to kill Paul and Barnabas justified their actions as attempts at lawful execution, not murder.  But when is violence acceptable and when is it needless?  And when is there no moral difference between executing lawfully and committing murder?  I am not a pacifist, for I understand the hard truth that some violence is necessary.  Yet I suspect that very little of it fits this description.  I prefer to express my piety nonviolently, to do so properly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/judges-and-acts-part-ii-proper-piety/

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Devotion for July 7 and 8 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Othneil

Image in the Public Domain

Judges and Acts, Part I:  Identity and Tradition

FRIDAY, JULY 7, and SATURDAY, JULY 8, 2017

SATURDAY, JULY 7, and SUNDAY, JULY 8, 2018

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 2:6-23 (July 7)

Judges 3:7-31 (July 8)

Psalm 110 (Morning–July 7)

Psalm 62 (Morning–July 8)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening–July 7)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening–July 8)

Acts 13:13-41 (July 7)

Acts 13:42-52 (July 8)

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Many of the Israelites had habitually short memories , for they fell back into idolatry.  The prevention of the this was a major reason for repeating the stories of what God had done.  Yet the majority of the people fell into idolatry.  And, according to the Book of Judges, this led to Canaanite oppression of the Israelites. Periodically a judge–a chieftain–arose and delivered the people.  Then the cycle repeated.

Paul, in Acts 13, recounted what God had done.  In so doing he and his missionary companions converted many Jews and Gentiles.  Paul and company also made enemies, so they had to move along.  Those who opposed Paul and his partners probably considered themselves guardians of holy traditions, which their forebears had abandoned long before, in Judges 3.

Traditions can be tricky, for one should neither abandon a healthy tradition lightly nor ossify any tradition.  No, traditions are properly living things.  We human ought to adapt them to new circumstances and distinguish between what has outlived its usefulness and what ought to remain.

Paul challenged a version of Judaism which had adapted to a new reality while not embracing Hellenism.  The precise circumstances which were current when the Law of Moses was new had ceased to exist.  So, scholars asked, how ought Jews to live according to the Law of Moses in changed circumstances?  Paul did not object to adaptation per se; no his innovation was to add atonement and justification via Jesus to the list of God’s mighty acts.

But place yourself, O reader, in the seat of one who opposed Paul’s message.  What did Paul’s theology mean for Jewish identity–one based on remaining distinct–in the Hellenistic context?  In this way Paul’s opponents at Antioch in Pisidia were in tune with the theology of the Book of Judges.

Questions of identity strike at a vulnerable spot for many people, including me.  One can approach these questions positively or negatively, focusing on what and who one is rather than on what and who one is not.

I wonder how I would have responded to Paul and Barnabas had I been an observant Jew at Antioch in Pisidia.  I suspect that I might have sided with my tradition and rejected Paul’s message.  I would have been wrong in such a hypothetical situation.  Where might you, O reader, have stood in this hypothetical situation?  And where might your answer to this question lead you to go spiritually?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/judges-and-acts-part-i-identity-and-tradition/

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Proper 9, Year C   14 comments

Above:  House of Naaman, Damascus, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Humility, Judgment, Mercy, and Enemies

The Sunday Closest to July 6

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 7, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:1-14 and Psalm 30

or 

Isaiah 66:10-14 and Psalm 66:1-8

then 

Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/seeds-of-destruction/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-pentecost/

A Prayer for Our Enemies:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/for-our-enemies/

Prayers for Forgiveness, Mercy, and Trust:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-forgiveness-mercy-and-trust/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/a-prayer-to-embrace-love-empathy-and-compassion-and-to-eschew-hatred-invective-and-willful-ignorance/

A Prayer for Humility:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-humility/

2 Kings 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/seventeenth-day-of-lent/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/proper-1-year-b/

Isaiah 66:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-6-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Galatians 6:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/week-of-proper-23-wednesday-year-2/

Luke 10:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/devotion-for-the-twenty-fifth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/week-of-proper-21-thursday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/week-of-proper-21-friday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/week-of-proper-21-saturday-year-1/

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I propose, O reader, a thought experiment:

Name two countries, A and B, with a recent history of warfare against each other and a current climate of mutual hostility.  Then imagine a general from B in search of a cure visiting a prominent religious figure from A.

The politics of the situation would be sensitive, would they not?    That is a partial summary of the Naaman and Elijah story.

The main intertwining threads I choose to follow today are:

  • humility (in 2 Kings 5, Galatians 6, and Luke 10),
  • judgment and mercy (in all four readings), and
  • enemies (in 2 Kings 5, Isaiah 66, and Luke 10).

Humility is having a realistic estimate of oneself; it recognizes both strengths and weaknesses.  This theme fits the Naaman story well, for he had to overcome his notions of self-importance and national pride, the latter of which informed the former, before God healed him.  In humility and a Christ-based identity we Christians are supposed to carry each other’s burdens and help each other through temptation and error; that is what Galatians 6 says.  And humility is part of curriculum for the disciples in Luke 10.

Judgment is for God.  The theme of judgment overlaps with that of enemies.  And who is an enemy of God?  I suspect that many, if not most, enemies of God think of themselves as disciples and friends of God.  Militant Islamists in western Africa are destroying allegedly un-Islamic buildings–architectural treasures–in the name of Allah.  Neither pluralism nor religious toleration are among the values of these individuals.  These militants think of themselves as faithful to God and of people such as me as not faithful to God.  I think that I am correct, obviously.

(Aside:  I have taught practicing Muslims and found them to be delightful human beings.  None have been militants.  Anyone who thinks that I condemn all Muslims when I criticize militant Islamists fails to grasp my meaning.)

Although judgment resides with God, so does mercy.  So Naaman became a follower.  Divine mercy extended even to enemies of Elisha’s people.  That is easy to say about the politics of antiquity, but what about today?  So I propose another thought experiment:

Name a hostile foreign government.  Can you, O reader, warm up to the idea that God loves agents of that regime?  Would you, in Christ, accept such agents as brothers and sisters in faith?

Mercy can prove difficult.  Often we prefer judgment for others–our enemies–and mercy for ourselves because this arrangement reinforces our egos.  Yet humility before God requires us, among other things, to move past those categories and our concepts of where we stand in relation to God.  That person whom we think of as an enemy might be a friend of God.  And we might not be as right with God as we imagine.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALBERT JOHN LUTHULI, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE FEAST OF J. B. PHILLIPS, BIBLE TRANSLATOR AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/humility-judgment-mercy-and-enemies/

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