Saturday, November 10, 2012

The myth of Christian ethics

"The knowledge that the Powers are inescapably bound to the divine ecology permits us to engage in struggles to transform them, whether by reform or revolution. The New Testament view of the Powers gives us a broad continuum of possible emphases, adaptable to every situation.  No prepackaged answers tell us how Chritians should engage the Powers. . . all live in the paradox of being in, but not of, the Domination System.  Spiritual discernment takes the place of fixed rules.  As Jacques Ellul argues, there really is no such thing as a "Christian ethic," only the ethical [creativity] of Christians."

- Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers

Engaging the Powers

"The simultaneity of creation, fall and redemption means that God at one and the same time upholds a given political or economic system (since some such system is required to support full human life), condemns that system insofar as it is destructive of full human actualization, and presses for its transformation into a more humane order.  Conservatives stress the first, revolutionaries the second, reformers the third.  The Christian is expected to hold together all three."

Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers

The Good Samaritan

Recently I was struck by the profundity of Luke 10:25-37, the story of the "Good Samaritan."  And, as is typical with the parables of Jesus, it is much deeper than what is usually discussed.  First it is interesting to note that this is Jesus' response to the question: "what must I do to inherit eternal life."  In short, His answer is "love your neighbor," which was probably as surprising to the "expert in religious law" as it might be to a contemporary "expert."  The man replies, "but who is my neighbor?" 

In the parable, the priest and the Levite both pass up the beaten man, an obvious condemnation of the religious structures of the time, but this is not the main idea from the parable.

Rather, the Samaritan not only met the wounded man's needs (verses 33-34), but went out of his way to both physically and monetarily nurse the man back to health (34-35).  What struck me as profound though was the fact that the Samaritan came back.

Many folks are willing to serve others.  Many more, especially those in an affluent nation like ours, are willing to help financially.  But the last promise that the Samaritan makes is that he will come back.  This is relationship.  That is the toughest promise to make because relationships can get messy.

Since I am a teacher, I develop graphic organizers. . . for a living.  This one came to mind while I was studying this passage:

We can only be a "true neighbor" by incorporating compassion, action AND relationship.  Without one of these key components we fall short of the example set by the Good Samaritan.  Being moved to compassion and then wanting to serve (absent of relationship) can create a sanitary service paradigm where we end up creating cultural, racial and socio-economic barriers.  When we feel as if it is our "Christian duty" to help others (void of compassion and love) and we enter into relationship with those in need we begin to eventually resent the folks we have been called to love.  Lastly, if we have compassion and relationship with the marginalized but no action, we fail to fully meet God's call in Matthew 25 (feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned).

I do not believe that it was a coincidence that Luke follows up this story about the Good Samaritan with one about Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42).

When we can allow the Holy Spirit to transform our interaction with our neighbors to include compassion, action and relationship, only then can we become true neighbors.