Today’s Readings: Psalm 104; Ezra 9:1-15; Matthew 14:22-36; Revelation 17:1-14
If you were like me, growing up you probably had many a conversation with your parents/guardians about who your friends were. The adults in your life went to great lengths to monitor whether or not you were hanging around with the right kind of people. They paid attention to those you hung out with because your parents/guardians knew that the people you spent time with often play a huge role in determining the choices you make in life.
Today, we hear a variation on that them as Ezra spent time chastising the Israelites for hanging out with/marrying whom he considered to be the wrong kind of people (i.e. the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites). He did so because he feared folks from other backgrounds would draw the Israelites from their own faith.
On one hand I can understand Ezra’s fear that “the other” would threaten the spiritual well being of the Israelites by exposing them to different ways of being. On another hand, I think Ezra was using “the other” as a convenient scapegoat to blame for the Israelites’ own choices. Those individuals who have a mature and deep faith are generally not threatened by the presence of “the other”. I wish Ezra would have spent some of the time and energy he devoted to railing about “the other” calling the Israelites to redouble their commitment to their own faith.
Perhaps there is an area of your own life that you are wrestling with: an area where you might be tempted to succumb to Ezra’s approach and point toward “the other” as the root of your problem (who or whatever form “the other” might take for you). If that’s the case, resist the urge to scapegoat the other and instead focus on your own life. You might be surprised at the spiritual growth such a shift in perspective might spur. Til next time…