Archive for the ‘2 Corinthians 6’ Tag

Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 5, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above:  Christ and His Apostles, 1890

Image in the Public Domain

Doing the Right Thing

MONDAY-WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8-10, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, you are the source of life and the ground of our being.

By the power of your Spirit bring healing to this wounded world,

and raise us to the new life of your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 15:25-31; 22:1-19 (Monday)

Hosea 8:11-14; 10:1-2 (Tuesday)

Hosea 14:1-9 (Wednesday)

Psalm 40:1-8 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:2 (Monday)

Hebrews 13:1-16 (Tuesday)

Matthew 12:1-8 (Wednesday)

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Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,

who does not turn to the proud that follow a lie.

–Psalm 40:4, Common Worship (2000)

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Turning is of the essence.

The Kingdom of Israel was prosperous and militarily strong under King Jeroboam II. Yet all was far from well. Idolatry and economic exploitation were commonplace and the alliance with Assyria was dangerous. God, through the prophet Hosea, called the populaton to repent—to change their minds, to turn around. They did not do this, of course, and fearful consequences came to pass. Yet there was also the assurance of forgiveness.

Other assigned radings also concern unwise associations and those perceived to be thus. The lesson from Leviticus 15 demonstrates the antipathy of the Law of Moses toward female biology—in the context of ritual impurity. There were many causes of ritual impurity in that law code. Touching a corpse, coming into contact with a bodily emissions, et cetera, rendered one impure and therefore unfit to fulfill various holy functions. Not doing certain acts just so also resulted in ritual impurity, something contagious. As Jewish Bible scholar Richard Elliott Friedman wrote regarding Leviticus 15:23:

…This tells us something about the nature of impurity. It spreads throughout a person or object. And it is not any kind of creature, like bacteria. It is a pervasive condition.

Commentary on the Torah (2001), page 365

The fear of bad influences present in Hosea and Leviticus exists also in the New Testament readings. Indeed, we ought to care deeply about the nature of our peer groups and our intimate partners, for they do influence us. But we should never forget that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, scandalized respectable people by associationg with marginalized and disreputable people. The sick need a doctor, he said. If we who call ourselves Christians mean what our label indicates, how many respectable people will we offend and scandalize?

We ought also to avoid using piety (such as keeping the Sabbath in Matthew 12:1-8) as an excuse for missing the point. Human needs mater. Sometimes they prove incompatible with a form of piety which only those of a certain socio-economic status can afford to keep. And we should never use piety as an excuse not to commit a good deed, as one character in the Parable of the Good Samaritan did. If the man lying by the side of the raod had been dead, the priest would have become ritually impure by touching him. Then the cleric would have been unfit to conduct certain rites. Human needs matter more, or at least they should.

May we repent of using any excuse for not doing the right thing. May our active love for each other spread like a contagion—a good one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF U.S. PRESBYTERIANISM

THE FEAST OF EDWARD HENRY BICKERSTETH, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF EXETER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS/IEUAN GWYLLT, FOUNDER OF WELSH SINGING FESTIVALS

THE FEAST OF NGAKUKU, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/doing-the-right-thing/

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Devotion for August 28 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Oxen

Above:  Yoked Oxen, 1860-1900

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Kings and 2 Corinthians, Part V: Proper Companions

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 28, 2019

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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:

1 Kings 11:1-26

Psalm 65 (Morning)

Psalms 125 and 91 (Evening)

2 Corinthians 6:1-18

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Do not harness yourselves in an uneven team with unbelievers; how can uprightness and law-breaking  be partners, or what can light and darkness have in common?

–2 Corinthians 6:14, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Solomon loved many foreign women in addition to Pharaoh’s daughter–Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Phoenician, and Hittite women, from the nations of which the LORD had said to the Israelites, “None of you shall join them and none of them shall join you, lest they turn your heart away to follow their gods.”  Such Solomon clung to and loved.  He had seven hundred royal wives and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned his heart away.

–1 Kings 11:1-3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Those who study 2 Corinthians closely and honestly–critically, in the highest sense of that word–know that its arrangement is odd; someone or some people cut and pasted at least two epistles and perhaps former parts of 1 Corinthians.  Indeed, 2 Corinthians 6:11-18 is a fine example of this practice, given what precedes and succeeds it.  In fact, those verses fit neatly with 1 Corinthians 7.  A plea for open hearts precedes and follows 2 Corinthians 6:11-18, so this passage seems especially out-of-place.  This matter of cutting and pasting is a worthy matter of academic study of 2 Corinthians.  But this is a devotional blog, not one focused on academic analysis.  I mention this academic matter to indicate that I know of it and accept objective reality.  Now I move along to my main point.

As I plan these devotions, I read the assigned texts and ask one question:

What theme unites these lections?

The answer today is foolish partnerships.  Solomon’s kingdom, in one part of the narrative, of 1 Kings, began to crumble because of his faithlessness, which flowed partially from the influences of pagan, foreign women.  (May we not ignore Solomon’s weaknesses.)  The Hebrew Bible spoke elsewhere of foreign women in favorable terms.  Ruth, for example, adopted the Hebrew religion and became an ancestor of David, Solomon, and Jesus.  But Solomon’s women retained their ways and influenced him negatively.  That was one type of uneven partnership mentioned in 2 Corinthians 6.

Now I will state something obvious:  We human beings influence each other.  We are role models.  We will be role models.  But will we be good or bad ones?  Children influence each other in school.  Coworkers influence each other in offices, et cetera.  Sociologists know that there are some things people are more likely to do in a group context than alone.  The pressure to conform can be very strong, especially at certain ages and upon people with certain personality types.  Many of those who choose to resist these pressures risk bullying by insensitive conformists.

And, in the realm of romance (in which I have limited experience), people certainly influence each other.  One of the key ingredients of a healthy relationship is shared values.  I have paid close attention to relationship advice for long-term married people; they make that point.

We humans are social creatures; may we choose our companions well, so far as we have the power to decide.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/1-kings-and-2-corinthians-part-v-proper-companions/

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Proper 7, Year B   22 comments

 A Box

God Does Not Fit Into Any Theological Box

The Sunday Closest to June 22

The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

JUNE 24, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel,

Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.

And the Philistine said,

Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.

When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.]

David said to Saul,

Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.

Saul said to David,

You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.

But David said to Saul,

Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.

David said,

The LORD, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.

So Saul said to David,

Go, and may the LORD be with you!

Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul,

I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.

So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David,

Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?

And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David,

Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.

But David said to the Philistine,

You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s and he will give you into our hand.

When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

Psalm 9:9-20 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

9  The LORD will be a refuge for the oppressed,

a refuge in time of trouble.

10  Those who know your Name will put their trust in you,

for you never forsake those who seek you, O LORD.

11  Sing praise to the LORD who dwells in Zion;

proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.

12  The Avenger of blood will remember them;

he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13  Have pity on me, O LORD;

see the misery I suffer from those who hate me,

O you who lift me up from the gate of death;

14  So that I may tell of all your praises

and rejoice in your salvation

in the gates of the city of Zion.

15  The ungodly have fallen into the pit they dug,

and in the snare they set is their own foot caught.

16  The LORD is known by his acts of justice;

the wicked are trapped in the works of their own hands.

17  The wicked shall be given over to the grave,

and also all the people that forget God.

18  For the needy shall not always be forgotten,

and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever.

19  Rise up, O LORD, let not the ungodly have the upper hand;

let them be judged before you.

20  Put fear upon them, O LORD;

let the ungodly know they are but mortal.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand.  Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?”  And David answered,

I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.

When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.  Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house.  Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.  Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.  David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army.  And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved.

The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day.  Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul threw the spear, for he thought,

I will pin David to the wall.

But David eluded him twice.

Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul.  So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army.  David had success in all his undertakings; for the LORD was with him.  When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him.  But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.

Psalm 133 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Oh, how good and pleasant it is,

when brethren live together in unity!

2 It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

3 Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

5 For there the LORD has ordained the blessing;

life for evermore.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #3

Job 38:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:

Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Gird up your loins like a man,

I will answer you, and you shall declare to me.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements–surely you know!

Or who stretched out the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk,

or who laid its cornerstone

when the morning stars sang together

and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

Or who shut in the sea with doors

when it burst out from the womb?–

when I made the clouds its garment,

and thick darkness its swaddling band,

and prescribed bounds for it,

and set bars and doors,

and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther,

and here shall your proud waves be stopped?”

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

2  Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

3  He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

23  Some went down to the sea in ships

and plied their trade in deep waters;

24  They beheld the works of the LORD

and his wonders in the deep.

25  Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose,

which tossed high the waves of the sea.

26  They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths;

their hearts melted because of their peril.

27  They reeled and staggered like drunkards

and were at their wits’ end.

28  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

29  He stilled the storm to a whisper

and quieted the waves of the sea.

30  Then were they glad because of the calm,

and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.

31  Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy

and the wonders he does for his children.

32  Let them exalt him in the congregation of the people

and praise him in the council of the elders.

SECOND READING

2 Corinthians 6:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

As we work together with Christ, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,

At an acceptable time I have listened to you,

and on a day of salvation I have helped you.

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see– we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return– I speak as to children– open wide your hearts also.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 4:35-41 (New Revised Standard Version):

When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples,

Let us go across to the other side.

And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him,

Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea,

Peace! Be still!

Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them,

Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?

And they were filled with great awe and said to one another,

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving­kindness; 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:

Proper 7, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/proper-7-year-a/

I have chosen to focus on the reading from Job, not that I have ignored other lessons.

David, Goliath, Jonathan, and Saul:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/week-of-2-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/week-of-2-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

Mark 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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False certainty is not helpful.

The Book of Job consists of poetry combined with some prose.  It is a work of literature and a fictional story containing deep theological truth.  In this old epic, Job, a wealthy and righteous man, suffers greatly not because of any sin he had committed but because God permitted it.  For much of the book Job argued with three alleged friends–Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar–who insisted, among other things, that Job’s suffering must have resulted from some sin or sins he had committed.

Thus the Book of Job refuted a popular idea in ancient theology.  Yes, sometimes we suffer the negative consequences of our actions, but this fact does not account for all our suffering.  In face, we cannot account for the causation of some suffering.  Uncertainty can be unnerving, so we might prefer the simple formula “sins lead to suffering.”

Job made his final verbal defense in Chapters 29-31.  Then, in the book as it exists today, Elihu, an arrogant young man began to speak.  He was proud of himself, what he thought he knew, and how well he said it.  He filled six chapters before departing the book’s narrative as suddenly as he entered it.

Elihu’s speeches stick out in the Book of Job because they were not part of the original text.  The book contains authorial and editorial layers.  It seems that God’s speech, beginning in Chapter 28, originally followed Job’s concluding statement in Chapters 29-31 immediately.

The summary of much of God’s speech in Chapters 38 and 39 is “I’m God and you’re not.”  The text tells us that God is speaking to Job.  Yet something strikes me as interesting and crucial to grasping the book and its message.  God’s audience could just as well be Elihu or Eliphaz or Bildad or Zophar, given the content.  Job and these men had all spoken as if they knew far more than they did.  Elihu and the alleged friends thought that they how God ran the world and Job thought that he know how God should run the world.

Job needed to admit that he knew little about God.  He needed to accept ambiguity in his theology.  And he did.  The lesson he learned was that relationship to the living God, who is beyond complete human comprehension, is the goal for which to strive.  We hold expectations of God, how God acts, or how God should behave, but sometimes (perhaps even often) our reality and our expectations do not match.

Unanswered questions make some people uncomfortable.  The failure of easy and inadequate yet neat theological formulas unnerves many of us.  Yet may we embrace the ambiguity of the unanswered question and the broken formula.  May we accept the uncertainty of “I don’t know.”

Often catastrophic events set the stage for people questioning the existence or justice of God.  “If there is a God, why did X happen?” people ask.  Or, “If God is just, why did X happen?”  X might be a massive storm or earthquake, the Holocaust, a war, or other terrible event.  Often the complaint regards something God did not do, something God permitted or allegedly permitted to happen.

Here a message from the Book of Job becomes helpful.  The most basic certainties are that God exists and that God does not fit into our theological boxes.  “I don’t know” is something a spiritually honest person will say often.  We can know much, but not nearly everything.  If we accept this fact, we continue on the path of wisdom.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/god-does-not-fit-into-any-theological-box/

Week of Proper 6: Monday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  Code of Hammurabi

A Different and Better Way Living in Love

JUNE 17, 2019

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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2 Corinthians 6:1-10 (An American Translation):

(I have reformatted the text for clarity.)

As God’s fellow-worker, I appeal to you, too, not to accept the favor of God then waste it.  For he says,

I have listened to you at a welcome time,

And helped you on a day of deliverance!

Now the welcome time has come!

This is the day of deliverance!  I put no obstacles in anyone’s path, so that no fault may be found with my work.  On the contrary, as a servant of God, I try in every way to commend myself in them, through my great endurance in

  • troubles,
  • difficulties,
  • hardships,
  • beatings,
  • imprisonments,
  • riots,
  • labors,
  • sleepless nights,
  • and hunger,

through

  • my purity of life,
  • my knowledge,
  • my patience,
  • my kindness,
  • my holiness of spirit,
  • my genuine love,
  • the truth of my teaching,
  • and the power of God;

with the weapons of uprightness for the right hand and the left,

in honor or dishonor,

in praise or blame;

  • considered an imposter, when I am true,
  • obscure, when I am well known,
  • at the point of death, yet here I am alive,
  • punished, but not dead yet,
  • pained, when I always glad,
  • poor, when I make many others rich,
  • penniless, when I really own everything.

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

2 With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

3 The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

4 He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

5 Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

6 Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

7 With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

8 Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

9 Let the rivers clap their hands,

and the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

Matthew 5:38-42 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,] “You have heard that they were told, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I tell you not to resist injury, but if anyone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other to him too; and if anyone wants to sue for your shirt, let him have your coat too.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him.  If anyone begs from you, give to him, and when anyone wants to borrow money from you, do not turn away.”

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The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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And if people will fight, and they strike a pregnant woman, and her children go out, and there will not be an injury, he shall be penalized according to what the woman’s husband will impose on him, and he will give it by the judges.  And if there will be an injury, then you shall give a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a hurt for a hurt.

And if a man will strike his slave’s eye or his maid’s eye and destroy it, he shall let him go, liberated, for his eye.  And if he will knock out his slave’s tooth or his maid’s tooth, he shall let him go liberated for his tooth.

–Exodus 21:22-27, Translated by Richard Elliott Friedman

(Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text, HarperCollins, 2001)

A common oversimplification of the presentation of God in the Hebrew Bible is that God is harsh there yet merciful in the New Testament.  Actually reading the Bible carefully should correct this understanding, although one cannot be sure of this at all times.  In fact, the God of the Hebrew Bible can be quite merciful and God can seem harsh in the New Testament.  Judgment and mercy coexist in both Testaments.

Consider the “an eye for an eye” rule, for example.  It is a variation on an older law code, the Code of Hammurabi.  Hammurabi was an 18th Century B.C.E. Mesopotamian king.     The following laws come from that code:

(196)  If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.

(197)  If he break another man’s bone, his bone shall be broken.

(198)  If he put out the eye of a freed man, or break the bone of a freed man, he shall pay one gold mina.

(199)  If he put out the eye of a man’s slave, or break the bone of a man’s slave, he shall pay one-half of its value.

(200)  If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out.

(201)  If he knock out the teeth of a freed man, he shall pay one-third of a gold mina.

(202)  If any one strike the body of a man higher in rank than he, he shall receive sixty blows with an ox-whip in public.

(203)  If a free-born man strike the body of another free-born man or equal rank, he shall pay one gold mina.

(204)  If a freed man strike the body of another freed man, he shall pay ten shekels in money.

(205)  If the slave of a freed man strike the body of a freed man, his ear shall be cut off.

(206)  If during a quarrel one man strike another and wound him, then he shall swear, “I did not injure him wittingly,” and pay the physicians.

(207)  If the man die of his wound, he shall swear similarly, and if he (the deceased) was a free-born man, he shall pay half a mina in money.

(208)  If he was a freed man, he shall pay one-third of a mina.

(209)  If a man strike a free-born woman so that she lose her unborn child, he shall pay ten shekels for her loss.

(210)  If the woman die, his daughter shall be put to death.

(211)  If a woman of the free class lose her child by a blow, he shall pay five shekels in money.

(212)  If this woman die, he shall pay half a mina.

(213)  If he strike the maid-servant of a man, and she lose her child, he shall pay two shekels in money.

(214)  If this maid-servant die, he shall pay one-third of a mina.

(The full English translation is here:  http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/MESO/CODE.HTM.)

Relative to the subsequent Law of Moses, the Code of Hammurabi was harsher and made distinctions in the favor the the powerful, wealthy, and male.  An injured servant was still a servant under the Code of Hammurabi, for example, but was free under the provisions of the Law of Moses.  The function of the “eye for an eye” provision in the Law of Moses was to restrict vengeance.  And, in practical reality, people settled on financial penalties for physical injuries anyway.

But Jesus taught with his words and his deeds that we ought not to seek retaliation.  “An eye for an eye and a tooth for the tooth” leaves the world blind and toothless.”  I have heard this sentence in various media, including an episode of Babylon 5.  How can we reconcile and forgive each other if we are plotting revenge?

I think of the examples of those who have practiced nonviolence as a strategy of social change.  Mohandas K. Gandhi said that those who beat people who refuse to strike back begin to question themselves after a few blows.  What kind of person continues striking someone who refuses to resist?  How long can one justify to oneself committing such violence?  If the other person would just hit back, the internal dialogue would be different.  I recall also the nonviolent tactics of United States civil rights activists in the 1960s.  Not to strike back required great moral courage and denied the perpetrators of violence any semblance of moral justification for their heinous actions.

Revenge on Germany after World War I helped pave the road to the rise of the Nazi Party to power and the subsequent World War II.  After World War II, the United States helped rebuild Germany and Japan, which have become allies.  We need to remember this simple lesson more often than we do when considering foreign policy.  The monsters we fight are often those we have created via our anger and retribution.

If anyone had reasons to be angry, it was Paul of Tarsus.  Consider what he suffered for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Reread the passage from 2 Corinthians.  Paul is far from resentful.  He does, in fact, demonstrate “genuine love.”  And, as he writes, we ought not accept then waste the favor of God.  He did not, as history tells us.

Psalm 98 tells us that God has won and shown his victory.  Paul writes that the day of deliverance and divine favor has come.  We ought not seek retribution on such a glorious day.  This is a difficult lesson, for the desire to avenge oneself or another person is natural.  I know this desire.  But there is a better way, and it is called love.  Let us leave such judgment to God, who is wiser than we can ever hope to be, and, in grace, seek to build a beloved community of humans, for the benefit of all and the glory of God.

The note for Matthew 5:39-42 in The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) contains the following:

A saint of the desert once found his hut being looted of its paltry possessions, and he knelt in the corner praying for the bandits.  When they left, the monk realized that they had not taken his walking stick.  This monk pursued them for many days until he was able to give them the stick as well.  Seeing his humility, the bandits returned everything to him and were converted to Jesus Christ.

The point is this:  Only good defeats evil and brings our enemies.  If we resist evil with evil, we compromise ourselves morally and become our own enemy.  By grace, may we live according to love.  May we not play God, who alone has the right to make certain judgments.

Amen.

KRT