Thursday, April 17, 2008

Biblical Exhortations for Unity

I wrote about race relations in some earlier posts. Below are some biblical exhortations about not being prejudiced, not showing favoritism, and not even saying something disparaging about someone else.

Jesus’ Example-Samaritans

In the parable of Jesus that has come to be called The Good Samaritan,” the Samaritan was the hero of the story. Samaritans were despised by the Jews, but Jesus broke through those man-made barriers of hatred and bigotry. He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well, breaking all kinds of taboos. He healed a Samaritan man from leprosy, and it was only the Samaritan that came back and thanked Jesus. And of course the Good Samaritan makes the religious Jews who passed by the injured man look pretty bad in comparison.

No wonder Jesus was controversial! Moreover, Jesus broke down other walls of separation common in that society, with respect to women, Romans, Gentiles, the poor, tax collectors, prostitutes. Jesus demonstrated that we are all equal before God, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28 (NRSV):

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Other Biblical Exhortations

The Apostle James tells us to watch what we say about other people in James 3:9-10, because we are all created in God’s likeness (NRSV):

With [the tongue] we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.

Also in James we read about practicing favoritism (in James 2:8-9, NRSV):

You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

Also there are many exhortations in the Old Testament about caring for minorities and not oppressing people such as widows, orphans, aliens, the poor, and laborers.

Let me give you two. The first one is from Malachi 3:5-7a (CEV):

The Lord All-Powerful said: “I’m now on my way to judge you. And I will quickly condemn all who practice witchcraft or cheat in marriage or tell lies in court or rob workers of their pay or mistreat widows and orphans or steal the property of foreigners or refuse to respect me.
“Descendants of Jacob, I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I never change. That’s why you haven’t been wiped out, even though you have ignored and disobeyed my laws ever since the time of your ancestors. But if you return to me, I will return to you.”

Another one is from Exodus 22:21-23 (NRSV):

You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry.

Aliens were the minorities in the land of Israel, probably the only minority, and God reminded the Israelites that they had been an oppressed minority at one time themselves. The widows and orphans were the most vulnerable in that society, so again God is saying that we should care for the most vulnerable in our society, such as children, the unborn, the poor, the disabled, the elderly, etc.

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