Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 24, 29, 8, 84
Job 38:1, 18-41
How do we respond to those who disagree with us and our beliefs?
The attacks on United States embassies in Africa and the Middle East this week came about from factors both current and historic. One often cited reason behind the conflict between the Christian and Muslim world is intolerance. Both sides recite a litany of attacks on their belief by the other as justification for anger, frustration, and fear. The passages today allow us to focus on things we have in common.
God’s position in creation provides the centerpiece for many of the passages today. The Psalms praise God in his place in the heavens and identify connections between those who praise him. Psalm 24 and 84 concern the people who worship God and follow his directives. Psalm 29 makes reference to heavenly beings praising God, while Psalm 8 reminds us of our place in relationship to God. The Psalms encourage us to worship and follow God’s commands while reminding us of our special standing in creation.
In Job, God begins his response (defense) to the charges Job’s friends have made in their speeches to him. God’s response consists of questions that cover all of creation and God’s active involvement in it. The brief collection of questions in today’s selection gives an idea of the type of questions that methodically proceed through all parts of creation. Such questions as a teaching method come from the north African/Arabian tradition and are a common motif in literature from the region. It forces the listener (remember this comes out of an oral tradition) to reflect on what one has learned about God in creation. Connected to Psalm 8, the questions help us remember our place in creation when compared to the Creator.
The passage from Revelation foretells the (relatively soon) fall of Rome. Babylon served as the generic reference for power. The verses condemn all the leaders for their participation in evil deeds. When the author talks about leaders committing fornication, he includes the religious leaders’ infidelity to the Jewish tradition as a way to buy peace from the conquerors. Instead, he calls on the people of faith to leave the nation rather than join in the larger sin. The author describes a fall that will be twice what the nation did to other countries as it raided them. God offers the people an escape from the plagues that will come in the judgment removing themselves from the sin of the nation.
For a second week Jesus’s teaching from Matthew strikes at the heart of the law. For most of us, the command, “You shall not murder.” is easy to follow. Jesus redefines it as, “You shall not live in anger or insult.” He turns the law from a rare extreme to a common occurrence. Our conduct does not have to be extreme to violate the intent of the law – love your neighbor. We owe each other justice in every situation. We cannot be right with God if we are wrong with one another.
Today’s passages give us no place for intolerance and any such rhetoric or behavior runs contrary to the Bible. There is no verse that allows for vilification of those who believe differently than we do: as Christians, God commands us to share with them. We cannot control the world around us, but we can control us and become the difference that changes the world around us. Directing angry rhetoric toward those who believe differently than we do never succeeds in creating dialogue. Until there is dialogue, no change will take place. The Bible guides us to a united faith in God – not a war of words.
Let us seek what we have in common as we seek to live the command to love one another.