Scandalous words

These words will scandalize some readers.

Sometime in the future, I will no doubt discuss the same ideas in a more well-ordered way.  But I think I need to produce some expression now.

Jesus never called upon his followers to “change the world.”  Jesus never confronted injustice, oppression, slavery or “the system.”

He had opportunities to do so.

As to the very concept of justice or injustice, in the New Revised Standard Version, in the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke):

  • The word “injustice” never occurs at all;
  • The word “justice,” in Jesus’ own words, credibly only occurs once, at Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42.  It occurs four more times in the single pericope of The Widow and the Unjust Judge, Luke 18:1-8; however, I have never believed those words came from Jesus.

Either way, justice and injustice per se simply were not very prominent concerns for Jesus, not in word, nor in deed.

He specifically bypassed opportunities to confront “the system” of Roman oppression and “the system” of slavery.  Not only did he fail to speak against either one, at Luke 7, in the healing of the centurion’s servant, he implicitly accepts both institutions.  When the centurion approached Jesus about his ailing servant, from the standards of our time, one would expect Jesus to respond, “Servant?  What servant?  I will not heal him in your house.  Let him go!”  Jesus instead heals the servant from a distance, leaving the master-slave relationship intact.

It gets worse.

First, to contextualize Jesus’ teaching:  any soldier of the Roman forces that were occupying Palestine, had the privilege of pulling up any Jew at any time and forcing the Jew to carry the soldier’s pack for one mile.  This obviously posed an onerous burden on the Jew, who had to walk two miles out of his way — one mile with the pack, and a second mile back to where he started.  Rather than counseling his hearers to not-cooperate with this injustice, Jesus told them to cooperate and more:  “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile,” Matthew 5:41.

Second, for decades I have regarded Joseph, in Genesis, as a role model for presence and centeredness, and for how to deal with the hardships and injustices I meet in my own life.  I told some of his story in a previous post.   I also have taken Joseph as a forerunner, actually a previous incarnation, of Jesus.  For example, Joseph’s experiences of alternating between the highest and the lowest places on the totem pole, may inform Jesus’ many expressions about the emptiness of social rank: “The last shall be first,” and so on.

As regent of Egypt, Joseph — who had, himself, been a slave — had opportunity to eliminate or drastically reform the institution of slavery as it existed in that nation at that time.  He did neither.  On the contrary, he expanded it.  Per Genesis 47:21, he enslaved the nation.

Injustices occur.  Jesus never, in word or deed, directed us to react against them (The sole exception would be the incident with the money-changers in the temple.); nor did he ever promise that it will ever be any other way.

Thus it seems to me that injustice cannot be eliminated, any more than sin can be eliminated; there will be injustice so long as there is sin, and I anticipate no cosmic change that will ever make it any other way.

We have, I suspect, instead the opportunity to create justice, from moment to moment, in our lives, as we respond to untoward events as they occur.  One creates justice for oneself by exercising sufficient love for oneself to get back up after one gets knocked down.

To assert life in the face of death is a sort of resurrection.

Related:  Life in the outer darkness



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