God's Word: Live It!

Words and Women

Yesterday, we read that Jesus continues to parse the Beatitudes focusing on two very important issues: 1)the power of language and 2) treatment of women. Jesus is clearly saying we can’t justify harsh language and that kind of speech has ghastly divine consequences.  No, we’re not talking about taking the Lord’s name in vain. We’re talking about hurtful, mean, abusive, harsh language used to intentionally hurt feelings, steal someone’s spirit or kill their sense of self. There are the obvious, like racial epithets, using anatomy to describe women, or taunting. But we also discussed the national climate of mean spiritedness, name calling and lack of civil discourse. As social and political beings we can get caught up in this verbal mayhem. Jesus calls us to step out of the fray and find ways to manage it with civility, peacemaking and conciliation. He says the further we are from a sense of common humanity, the further we are from God. The further we are from God, the bleaker our lives become. Finally, using language to nullify another’s humanity is simply not an option for disciples. Words can kill. Abusive language is not “of God.” Period.

As for women Jesus teaches us that demeaning women with language and lust, and gender inequality is not acceptable.  He appeals directly to men to see women as human beings, not chattel or objects of lust. In our society women are used as sex objects to appeal to our voracious appetite for consumerism. Jesus challenges us to change our way of looking at women, seeing and uplifting their humanity, not their sexuality. He emphasizes women’s equality, dignity and humanity. I could give a list of suggestions, but I fear they would be easily discounted moralisms. Perhaps it is better to remember that this is not a small matter. For Jesus it is at the heart of human community and the way he understands discipleship. If that doesn’t gain our attention, we’re lost souls.

Blessed are they...

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount isn’t a sermon but a private tutorial for the disciples on who they would be ministering to and who in particular were the blessed among them. We get to hover above the scene, listening to Jesus teaching the disciples to be subversives.  He is encouraging them to pay attention to people who are easy to ignore, hated, different, people without power or hope, and people who bother us with their insistence on justice. These men left their fishing boats and now they were going to live itinerant lives bringing healing and hope and blessings to lepers, widows, orphans, immigrants, tax collectors, prostitutes and the homeless. This is a very different discipleship than ministering to our friends at church who need help.

It means doing things that make us uncomfortable, anxious, uncertain. It means listening for Jesus to call us into corners of daily life we’d rather stay out of. It means being honest with ourselves and cleansing ourselves of judgement and prejudice. It means breaking down the walls of our self-righteousness. With Christ’s love, this is possible but not comfortable, not second nature and never easy. It might look like this:

  • Telling our friend who drinks too much that he or she drinks too much.
  • Accepting the fact that our child is not ever going to meet our expectations.
  • Refusing to overlook our friend’s racist comments.
  • Inviting someone to church more than once, then offering to pick them up and bring them.
  • Not judging the Styrofoam cup and cardboard sign people on the off ramps but rather, give them something, or pray for them while we’re sitting there trying not to make eye contact. Imagining they are angels who’s message to us is how blessed we are.
  • Going to an A.A. meeting.
  • Wishing we could speak Spanish rather than being annoyed by those who do.

Blessed are they who open their minds, for they shall see God.

Pastor Johnson

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