We argue and, sadly, even war about who is right and who is not just wrong, but evil, or destructive of life as we perceive it.
We condemn, we demean, we paint with broad brush those whom we see as opposed to our way of thinking.
In our readings today, we are cautioned about such a stance. “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory, rather regard others as more important than yourselves,” the writer of Philippians says.
And this is bolstered by the Gospel reading from Matthew where Jesus points out that those who actually do God’s will rather than mouth obedience, will enter the Kingdom ahead of the breast-beating but other-acting believers.
We do well to ask ourselves in which category we stand.
We do in fact live in a time of great social upheaval. Our Muslim and Arab brothers and sisters around the globe are redefining their place in the world and how they wish their governments to operate. At home, our ethnic and sexual tapestry is changing before our eyes.
In all this, we have differing positions as to what is right and what in fact is God’s will. Some of us think that we know, and we are prepared to act accordingly. Others of us, while not nearly so sure, at least believe that God’s will cannot include denial of rights, or actual harm to any of creation to further our perceptions.
Jesus seems to indicate that we should be most careful when we tend toward condemning those who we traditionally think of as “wrong” and sinful. They in fact, may be much closer to the Kingdom than we think.
If we think about it, we must apply such reasoning to all people today who are engaged in judgment about and against others. That includes those who of us who define ourselves as “progressive”. I certainly am not suggesting that we may be the one’s who are wrong, for I truly do not believe that to be the case, but we could be. And that should temper our rhetoric such that we disagree with a modicum of respect and Christian love.
For, if we are right in our thinking about issues involving religion, ethnic origin, and sexual orientation, we can speak those truths as we see them, without resorting to hateful and mean-spirited speech. First and foremost because when we do, we cannot convince anyone of anything, all that comes forth is the hatred, a hatred that burns up the message it attempts to carry.
But most of all, we lose whatever “right” we had to be at the head of the line. We place ourselves deliberately back with those whom we would argue are behind the prostitutes and tax collectors that Jesus spoke of.
We must speak with love and patience to those who still cannot see what we see. For in the end, it is more important to do the will of God than to enforce the will of God as we believe it to be. Since we must be ever mindful that “God’s ways are not our ways,” we can take no other stance.
** reference Phil. 2: 1-5 and Mt 21: 28-32
- “The tax collectors and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you” (worryisuseless.wordpress.com)