Consider the possibilities of a fully benevolent God revealed in Christ as we discussed in worship this past Sunday. A God who, rather than being so angry that someone had to be punished for sin, but who limited the consequences by enacting that punishment on God’s child, instead sends God’s child to enact obedience, even unto death, and credits belief in that faithful one and his way of life as righteousness all while overcoming the power of sin and death through resurrection.
This further illustrates what we learn about God through Christ Jesus: God does not operate through shame. When Peter knelt, overwhelmed, before Jesus because he was a sinner, Jesus responded, “Do not be afraid.” When the woman caught in adultery was thrown in front of him for judgment, Jesus forgave her and defended her from execution. When Zacchaeus climbed the tree to see Jesus, Jesus did not shame the hated, dishonest tax collector. He went to his home and broke bread with him. Jesus did not shame the Samaritan who had quite possibly had five husbands because they had all rejected her. He embraced her.
What if we approached others this way? If our friends have racist views and their lives, like ours, are still shaped, even unwittingly, by systemic racism and the remaining vestiges of white supremacy, what does benevolence look like? If we see people so angry at generations of suffering they act out in violence with rioting and looting, what does benevolence look like? If we disagree on the place of our LGBTQ+ neighbors in the church, what does benevolence look like? If a friend or family member wrongs us is some way, what does benevolence look like?
This is a thought to wrestle deeply with for us. It is true that God calls us to faithfulness for the faithful life is an abundant life. It is also true that our actions have consequences if we stubbornly refuse, like refusing to follow doctor’s orders. If we do not do what the doctor is telling us, we should not be surprised things only get worse. It is also true that we should not be silently complicit to harm being done around us for God stands with especially the suffering poor and oppressed.
This suggests we stop looking for reasons to not listen to the pain of the suffering poor and oppressed. We embrace rather than shame. Yet it also means we embrace those whose harm and injustice we confront, not excusing their/our actions, but remembering their shared humanity as well. Perhaps this is the benevolence of God which is transforming the world.
Grace and peace,
Rev. J.D. Allen