February 5, 2020
Scripture: Matthew 5:46-48
If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.
Thought for the Day: On this day in 79AD, the city of Pompeii was covered with something like 18-25 feet of volcanic ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted. Imagine you live in that time, and maybe you were on an island close enough to observe but far enough to not be impacted. What do you think of this eruption? No one had a real scientific explanation for a volcanic eruption at that time, and so most people explained it through a religious or theological lens. “Someone must have really ticked off the gods!” In an ancient world view, that theory is not only plausible, but summarizes things quite well. What other explanation was creditable?
People will often say to me, “Theology (the way we think or talk about God) is not that important as long as we believe in Jesus.” I love the sentiment, but how do you explain tragedies? From devastating tornadoes to hurricanes to fires, it is interesting to hear the explanations that folks offer. If the people impacted were not valued by society, then the explanation is to blame them by suggesting it was God’s judgment. Notice, though, how the story changes when “good people” are impacted. In those cases, it is usually defined as the work of the devil. To suggest that God kills innocent people, including children, to make a point is deeply troubling. Equally troubling is when the church encourages or gives voice to those ideas. It reinforces some pretty barbaric perceptions of God, while also fueling the devaluing of certain groups of people.
I’m not suggesting everyone needs a PhD in Theology, but we need to ask ourselves good questions about what we say – especially in times of crisis. Do our words portray the Jesus of the Gospels? Or are we drawing upon a passage that needs to be cautiously interpreted and even more cautiously used in providing meaning for some current event?
The message of Jesus is beautiful and life-giving, while also challenging and confrontational. Followers of this Jesus, prior to making some theological declaration, need to always ask: Does this sound even remotely like something Jesus would say? If the answer is even somewhat uncertain, then maybe caution would be the better choice.
Prayer: I give you thanks, God, for the Good Words of Jesus who spoke of your complete love and then challenged me to do the same. May my words strive to resemble the goodness and kindness he conveyed. Amen.
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