All religions attempt to instill a sense of right and wrong into the hearts and minds of their followers. Although we can think and discuss ethics without considering religion, it is difficult to discuss any religion without, at least partially, recognizing how the followers of that religion live out their faith. It is, therefore, understandable that one way religions generally, and Christianity particularly, have divided humanity is by sorting them into “good people” and “bad people.”
Psalm 125 comes from a time when the inhabitants of Jerusalem feel confident in their safety, security, and place in the world. They believe that God protects their holy city from all enemies. For their part, the inhabitants have to make sure that no “evildoers” or people who “turn aside to their own crooked ways” or any “wickedness” find a place within their blessed, protected, and holy city. Furthermore, clearly the psalmist views himself and the people who agree with him as decidedly not in the group of “evildoers” but rather in the group of “righteous” and “good” people who are “upright in their hearts.” All that needed to be done is to round up all those “bad people” and remove them so the “good people” can remain and be assured of God’s protection.
This way of viewing life does not match the way the world is. While there may be a few true saints and a few true devils scattered here and there, the vast majority of us are a mixture of both. Being a creature of God means we have within us light and darkness, evil and goodness, hope and fear.
Lord, help me recognize my own virtues and vices before I label others as “good” or “bad.” Show me how to love all my neighbors as your children. Amen.
It has become an uncomfortable subject for many in our society, but God does have ethical standards. The author of Proverbs declares that those who act unjustly, particularly if they oppress the poor, will provoke God’s judgment. The psalmist repeats the refrain that God blesses the righteous but is not pleased with those who choose a consistent lifestyle of rebellion against God. James challenges us practically on this point. Do we judge people by their wealth or status? This is not from God. Truth faith shows no partiality and prompts action. Jesus models this in Mark when he heals two Gentiles. Jews and Gentiles generally remained separate (an ancient form of racism), but Jesus did not discriminate based on their ethnicity. He cared only about their hearts.
• Read Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23. How has God shown you that there is no difference between persons who are rich and persons who are poor?
• Read Psalm 125. When have you seen righteousness in someone your church or community has labeled “wicked”?
• Read James 2:1-17. How do your works support your faith in God?
• Read Mark 7:24-37. God calls us to love all our neighbors, no matter their abilities or place of origin. How can you be a good neighbor to those your community has excluded?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.