Yesterday my friend Rhonda preached while I sat in the pew - a nice change-up. She took as her text a reading from Ezekiel, with her sermon title taken from the NIV, “Standing in the Gap”.
Yet it was not Ezekiel, but Abraham who drew my attention as Rhonda referenced Abraham’s bargaining with YHWH over the fate of Sodom.
Lawyer me was reminded of Blackstone's formulation, Better 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer, a concept which actually harkens back to the Genesis account of Abraham’s wrangling with the divine.
Astonishing as it is that one should stand in such intimate relation to God that he could and would dare to recall God to God’s highest and best self, today I am struck and saddened by how far we have strayed from Abraham’s heart for his fellow human beings.
In the New Testament (John 11.50), there is a vastly different correlative where Caiaphas proclaims that it is better that one man die (for the nation) than that the whole nation should perish.
The contrast is startling: Caiaphas feared Rome more than he feared God; Abraham feared neither.
Caiaphas, it would seem, stood on the ground of reason, while Abraham, who used reason, stood on the ground of God’s own self.
Caiaphas sought safety; Abraham sought justice.
And therein lies all the difference in the world.
For Abraham would preserve the many guilty in order to save the innocent few.
We, like Caiaphas, would surrender the many innocent in order to slay the guilty few.
Consider then our many perceived ‘enemies’ around the world.
The one at the top of the headlines in this election cycle in the United States is Iran. ‘Nuclear ambitions’ are nothing to be taken lightly. Yet the philosophy of first strike/pre-emptive war, grounded in the fear of what might happen, demands and even exalts the Caiaphas worldview – better them than us . . . better thousands of their innocents die* to try to get at the one or few guilty among ‘them’.
The voice of Abraham, the voice that cries out to God to spare the guilty in order to protect the innocent, has all but disappeared from our national consciousness.
When did the innocent become so expendable?
If the world is to be governed by Machiavellian ideals, then so be it.
But airwave commentators, preachers on Sunday and the common citizen in these United States must stop at once any invocation of God and God’s blessings upon us when we hold so lightly what God holds so dear.
We must stop decrying our claim to value life above all else and admit that, in fact, our first principle is ‘me first’.
We must admit that our fears are larger than our faith.
We must surrender any notion that we as a nation are or ever were governed by anything even approaching the vision of Christ proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount.
Either that or we must surrender our drones and get down to the very hard work of making, being, and giving peace to our enemies and bargaining not for our lives, but for theirs.
|Abdul Hakeem before his surgery|