Matthew 22:34-46 “Back to Basics” for Sunday, October 23, 2005

Whenever I am lost in an intellectual tangle and wondering what I really believe, I always come back to this great commandment from Jesus, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your mind.”

This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your
neighbor as yourself.” I don’t need any great exegetical theories, I don’t have to understand the hermeneutics of
Heidegger or ponder the great teleological talents of Tillich to make sense of this. As an editor, I prefer how Luke
presents this passage, since he follows with the parable of the Good Samaritan. This way we are even left
without a great intellectual debate about “Who is my neighbor?” Everyone who suffers beside the road to Jericho is our neighbor.

So why do we get this very straight-forward passage so wrong? If Christians can’t stand for our
suffering neighbor, what do we stand for? I urge you to read two articles I’m going to link here.

In the article “Torture in the Name of Jesus” Clay Evans of the Boulder
Daily Camera writes,

“Many Americans stand with President Bush on virtually
everything simply because he is a self-declared Christian, a once wayward man
miraculously turned prayerful. ‘The Lord has just blessed him,”
televangelist Pat Robertson once gushed about Bush, summing up the apparent
beliefs of millions.’… It doesn’t make any difference what he does, good or
bad, God picks him up because he’s a man of prayer and God’s blessing him. Wow.
Must be nice. And you certainly wouldn’t want to criticize God’s anointed
leader on Earth, would you?”

Bush continues to threaten veto of a John McCain sponsored bill which
affirms that the US military will not use torture, which was passed by a 90-9 vote in the US
Senate. Evans observes,

The only person tortured in the
Gospels is Jesus himself, and it wasn’t pretty. Ask “Goremaster” Mel
Gibson.
  When the president (and his faithful lieutenants, including Colorado U.S.
Sen. Wayne Allard, one of the nine loyal lapdogs who voted against the McCain
amendment) suggests that torture is a necessary response to the threat of
terrorism, I wonder if he remembers what Jesus told a disciple at Gethsemane:
‘Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the
sword.’ Anyone who argues that Jesus
would advocate torture is torturing the scriptures for immoral ends. As
incredulous people are now asking, Who Would Jesus Torture?”

In a second article related to this scripture passage Molly Ivins
gives some great insight to the current pension problems that threaten to
undermine our security in old age. Ivins reminds me that “love your neighbor” must inform public policy. After some very insightful explanations into how large corporations are getting away from their responsibilities to workers she writes,

“The biggest byproduct of these changes is fear. Fear may be a more
dangerous emotion than anger. It turns life into an “every man for himself
scramble” without unity, community, caring or sharing.

In fact, every one of us comes into this world naked and helpless, and most
leave it in the same condition — and we are dependent on one another every single
day in between. The “stand on your own feet and take care of
yourself” attitude the right wing keeps pushing is not only cruel, but
stupid, too.”

 

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