Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stranger than Fiction 2: A Cry for Freedom and Justice

Why bother with the bible?

After all, some biblical fundamentalists seem to use it as their primary tool to put down those who are the wrong gender, wrong color, wrong nationality or wrong sexuality. So why not leave it to them?

Because that narrow-minded approach risks stealing the bible’s real unparalleled message of freedom and justice. It’s a dangerous book, subversive even, driving its readers not to create division, but to escape all systems of oppression, greed and hate.

The bible connects us to our past and points us to our future. It’s really a book of hopes and dreams, of God and humanity. It’s a book that calls to us, and compels us to speak out, not just about what we believe about God, but what we believe about ourselves.

The philosopher Emmanuel Levinas reminds us that at the heart of Scripture, be it the Hebrew texts or the New Testament, lies a call to respond to God with, ‘Here I am.’ It’s Moses before the burning bush, Mary before Gabriel, and Jesus on the cross. It’s every prophet, every ancestor, and every poor forgotten suffering person who encountered the Divine.

The bible teaches us that the story is not in what God can do for us, but what God calls us to do for each other. ‘Here I am’ we must say to each other. ‘Here I am’ we call out to God.

This is truth beyond fact. This is wisdom beyond rules. This is the hope of all futures. If we can commit ourselves to love and care for each other we will have committed ourselves, finally, at long last to our God. The self-emptying of Jesus on the cross is a model of love for all of us.

Give yourselves, God cries. Care for my children. Love my people, all my people, but especially the downtrodden, marginalized, suffering, oppressed, and yes, the enemy. “Do onto others as you would have others do onto you. For this is the Law and the Prophets,” Jesus commands, reminding us of the heart of Scripture.

This theme echoes through the bible from the opening where God hovers above what will be our world and our future, through the call to freedom of Exodus, the cry of the poor in Deuteronomy, the appeal to justice of every prophet and finally on through the story and example of love of Jesus the Christ.

Our sometimes misused and maligned Book throws us a challenge that we dare not refuse. Love each other, no matter the obstacles, no matter the pain. This and only this will lead to God.

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