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Friday, September 11, 2015

Today’s Reading | Exodus 23:1–9

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit. When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back. When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free. You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (NRSV)      

Maintaining our sound and sober judgment, in periods of heightened emotion and divisive conflict, is not an easy task. Yet if our scripture reading is to be believed, it is part of what God asks of God’s people. We’re not supposed to go along with the crowd in ways that pervert justice—we shouldn’t just agree with the statements or opinions of others, no matter the pressure to do so.

Even harder for many progressive mainline Christians: we’re supposed to maintain our independent perspective even when those who are asking us to bend the truth, to take a side, are the poor and marginalized. I have to admit that this feels like it’s against our call to be on the side of the oppressed of the earth—the ones with whom Jesus claimed solidarity during his ministry.

Yet I think something we must remember is this: the reading today comes from an extended grouping of guidelines for communal living, given to God’s people during their preparation for a new life in the promised land. At the very beginning of this whole section are these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.”

Our justice and our judgment are not, in the end, our must trustworthy guides. It is in God alone that we, people of faith, are called to put our trust. Even when justice, for our world and for the least powerful in it, appears to be at risk, we must live in ways that acknowledge our connection to the one whose righteousness is beyond the conflicts that consume us.

God of justice and righteousness, remind me that you are ruler of all creation, that I am one of your creatures. Make me humble in my dealings with others. Even as your children suffer and our systems lead to oppression, let me not depend on my own action alone to make things right. Help me believe that our trust in you and faithfulness to your will can lead to true peace and dignity for all. Amen.

Written by Hardy H. Kim, Associate Pastor for Evangelism and Young Adults

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