2015 Lent 4

Auschwitz-hope_after_terror

Deuteronomy 7:17-26

In the news these days is a seeming recent rise in anti-Semitism in Europe (and elsewhere).  Jews are mugged on the streets of Paris.  Daring journalists don yarmulkes and record for posterity the subtle and not-so-subtle hostilities directed at them.  Benjamin Netanyahu beseeches his forlorn people to return to the promised land.  Jewish people continue to live in quiet fear today–as they have for many centuries.  How sad!

Where do these hostilities come from?  Why has history been so cruel to this people?

One possible answer is that the haters are arrogant.  From today’s passage, God’s chosen people are told not to fear, that God is protecting them, and that God will wipe out the hostile enemies that surround them on all sides, little by little.  Maybe the haters have come to know this message to the Jews and, as if to disprove it, to demonstrate that this message is in fact wrong, they oppress the Jews.  Maybe.

Or maybe it’s envy. They ask, How come the Jews get to be God’s people and we don’t?  Maybe.

Still, whether arrogance, envy, or some other vice, such prejudice cannot ever be justified.

“But what if they excluded me first?” a hater asks.  “I’m just doing to them what they’ve done to me first.  An eye for an eye, as the Jews themselves have said!”

Really?  That’s your rationale for gross bigotry?

Even if this were the case, that the Jews somehow hurt you first and now it’s payback time–which I don’t believe–such is not the message of Jesus (who was a Jew, let us not forget!).  He commands us to love God, to love our neighbors, and even to love our enemies.

His is a message of tolerance.  And true tolerance must make room even for the intolerant person.

But that is the way God, the God of the Jews, works.  God is so tolerant that he makes room for the intolerant.  God makes room for you.  God makes room for me.  And thus we have no reason to fear.

No fear, for God is love.  This is the message to the Jews of old.  And this is the message for us today.

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