My emotions are so overwrought tonight I don’t know if I’ll be able to write anything coherent. But I can’t keep going around the same circles in my head and if I read any more news I might explode or have an aneurysm. So here we go:
Jesus always, and I mean always, takes the side of the oppressed and the persecuted. Always.
That is what the Gospels say.
In fact, the suffering human being is Jesus. That is what Jesus says in the Gospels.
“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.”
“Just as you did it for the least of these, you did it for me.”
When you fed that hungry person, you fed Jesus. Symbolically, metaphysically, literally, I don’t know, but you fed Jesus himself. That’s what Jesus says.
When you did not feed that hungry person, you did not feed Jesus. “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat.” He says nothing about whether you saw him or lived in the same country or had the same color skin or agreed politically. That doesn’t come up.
I believe this about Scripture: we have to understand the context of what is written and then apply it to our own context.
So, the context of Matthew 25?
Jesus is telling his disciples the last things he wants them to hear and remember. In chapter 26, they share the Passover meal (we often call it “The Last Supper” or “The Lord’s Supper”), and then Jesus prays in Gethsemane, is betrayed, and arrested.
In immediate context, Jesus says “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him…”
When we interpret Scripture, we discern between passages directed to a specific context and from which we glean general principles, and those that have transcendent or universal truth, meaning they apply, basically as stated, to all times and places.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Transcendent. All times, all places.
“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” 2 Timothy 4:13 Specific context, not to be applied universally.
“No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” I Timothy 5:23 You tell me.
Thus, when Jesus says, “all the nations will be gathered before him,” we conclude, with confidence, we apply it universally.
Now, Jesus gives a range of examples in this passage. I was hungry, thirsty, a stranger (which, in biblical context, means I was a person from another country now living in your country), naked, sick, in prison.
Question: does Jesus mean rape victims? Is he strictly limiting this teaching to these six categories? How loosely or strictly is he defining his words? Lots of people go hungry every day. Does he mean the ones who are starving to death? Only those? The child on your block who is malnourished? The alcoholic who begs for change, who has not eaten in a day and a night but might take your quarter and use it on more booze?
Here’s what I think about these questions: read the Gospels and tell me Jesus’ intent. What is his heart? How does he treat the woman caught in adultery? The woman bleeding for twelve years? Peter, after Peter said, “I swear to God I have never heard of this man Jesus!” What does Jesus tell us the father of the prodigal son does, says, is?
This isn’t a test, much less a test with tricky, loaded questions.
YES, rape victims. Yes, children who have enough to eat and drink but who receive no attention or love from parents or teachers or anyone else. Yes, for the love of God, suicidal teenagers. YES, transgender kids. Yes, middle-aged, successful-appearing alcoholics, and yes, porn addicts and gambling addicts and… Yes.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
So come back now to how Jesus always sides with the oppressed and the persecuted. Who is Jesus? What is his heart? Would Jesus side with the bully or the victim of bullying?
What a stupid question.
Yes, I know.
Now tell me what we do about refugees. Tell me what we do about victims of rape and domestic violence who seek asylum in the US. Tell me, on what do we base that decision?
Tonight, I am watching the news blow up. Tonight, in Nicaragua, innocent people are being attacked by the police. But worse, they are no longer waiting for cover of darkness. Now they are attacking in broad daylight. It’s not really safe to talk about it, but neither is it safe for my neighbors for me to keep silent. I can’t do anything to stop the riot police from attacking innocent children–my friend Andres said his brother was smashed in the face with a gun and two of his teeth were broken but he was not protesting, he was just at work. All I can do right now is pray and ask you to pray. Are you praying? Do I side with the bully or the young man getting his face bashed with a rifle butt? Which side is Jesus on?
The United States, as I understand it, just changed the law so that women who have been raped or brutalized by gangs in their countries, whose lives are in danger, will not be granted asylum in the US. Yes, we condemn those gang members as “animals” and decry their violence, but we will not offer protection to their victims? No?
“I was raped and I came to you for safety and you…”
Finish that sentence.