“‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You pay tithes of mint, dill, and cumin, but you have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.'” (Matt. 23;23)
What is it about us that upon receiving the mercy of God, we Christians want to right the world? And in doing so, we retreat back to the law to do the work. But wasn’t it the law that led us to mercy to begin with?
(I suppose as long as we realize what we’re doing…)
More than once, Jesus reprimanded the teachers of the law about righting the world. Referring to the accounting of spices given in tithes, he said don’t give up balancing the books. But, there are weightier matters—he named three: justice, mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23). Of course tithing is a matter of justice—they were good at managing that, and to a fault (i.e. hypocrisy). But mercy and faithfulness, not so much.
“You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former,” Jesus told them.
Notice that mercy and acknowledgment of God take precedent over justice. Not the other way around.
Then were these law-keepers to “practice” the mercy of the God? And was God the one tasked to make the world right?
This would take some faith.
‘But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ (Matt. 9:13)
“I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Cor. 12: 8, 9)
According to Freud, the driving principles of mankind are in two words, pain and pleasure. And religion means prohibition.
But I say our single most important need is to be right. And our single most powerful drive is justice. Justice will trump anything. And true religion means liberty. “Be fruitful and multiply,” God said.
But too much of the church preaches Freudian principles looking for silver linings and praying for things to go well or get better, rather than “Your will be done.”
“Your will…” seems so fatalistic. And thorns aren’t from God – they’re bad, right?
Listening this morning to the reaction of another mass shooting, a pastor prayed for protection by the blood of Christ. The “blood of Christ” I’ve heard used has always been to placate an angry god, not give life to the dead. So the church continually needs to assure herself of God’s mercy.
They say the man with the gun was “deranged” Sure he was! He was looking for satisfaction of the flesh like the rest of us. Do we (the church) not have anything else to offer?
Pleasure is a fleeting thing. And thorns are only bad when God’s grace isn’t sufficient.
In the above quote from 2 Corinthians, a tormented Paul wasn’t talking to himself. And while he might not have heard a voice, the words rang as clear as a bell as he rested in the arms of his Lord.