In the Lectionary

Sunday, December 1, 2013: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

In the social media I often read about a Christian community that has excluded an innocent person or demonized a marginalized group. The writer then juxtaposes this with a pithy saying from Jesus about loving all persons. And there you have it—we Christians are exposed as two-faced and heartless, insensitive to anything but our own proclamations of righteousness.

If you’re like me and many others in the progressive, socially aware, justice-minded, post-Christendom community, the criticisms based on these caricatures seem easy to brush off (they’re straw figures begging to be knocked down). After all, it’s not true that we judge people as they’re coming through the door; instead we do everything we can to honor their experience and perspective. We work for inclusion of all persons, and create programs to help provide disadvantaged and isolated people with the means of connection and dignity. We don’t hit everyone over the head with the gospel; we honor other faiths and perspectives. Most of all, we do our best to avoid implying that those who do not share our beliefs or practices are cut off from God’s grace.

Our polite and careful articulations of faith help us avoid offending those who might be looking for a reason to reject a relationship with Jesus Christ. But does our Christianity have anything that’s truly compelling about it? Imagine how Paul’s words stirred the hearts of believers in Rome as they wondered if they could remain true to their faith in an empire that was so hostile to their faith and to them. Would a message about accommodating the powers around them have served them as well as the bold exhortation that lifted up contrasting images: life in an oppressive empire and life in God’s new day?