Today’s Readings: Psalm 102; Amos 5:1-17; Matthew 22:1-14; Jude 1-16
Some passages of Scripture are warm and fuzzy; others clearly are not. Today’s passage from Jude would be a great example of a passage that is NOT warm and fuzzy.
In reading the author’s words, I can certainly understand what emotions and experiences lie behind them: feelings of betrayal, for instance, bubble just below the surface of the author’s harsh words. Those issues are not what have been at the core of my spiritual life so I decided to re-read the passage a couple of times and see what else was raised for me. When I did that, an issue that I have grappled with for years shot to the surface. Here’s that issue.
Lots of folks will read the passage and focus in on a few verses (verses such as verse 7 that is paraphrased in The Message as reading “This is exactly the same program of these latest infiltrators: dirty sex, rule and rulers thrown out, glory dragged in the mud”) and define the offenders of which Jude is speaking rather narrowly. I’ve heard this passage to denounce LGBT folks, promiscuous folks, those who have terminated a pregnancy, and such. I have never heard folks quote parts of the passage that occur later that address different offenses. “The Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of [God’s] holy ones… to convict all of the ungodly,” the author begins. “These [people] are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage” (Jude 14-16 from The New International Version).
When was the last time you heard a religious extremist stand up at a political rally, for instance, and condemn the grumblers, the faultfinders, the arrogant, or the flatters? I’m guessing the answer to that would be never.
So why is that? Why are some of us so tempted to single out particular groups for condemnation and completely ignore other groups?
My experiences tell me that we tend to single out those who belong to groups of which we don’t belong and look the other way when biblical words describe groups of which we are a part. That’s why it’s so common, for instance, to hear some divorced persons quote scripture that, on the surface, would seem to condemn gay and lesbian people and never once quote scripture that, on the surface, would seem to condemn divorce.
So where are you with all of this? Do you have a relatively consistent way of engaging the materials that inform your spiritual life, or do have you adopted a selective process whereby you use the things that fit you and ignore those things that don’t? Til next time…