Thursday, March 12, 2009

At what price "order"?

Perhaps news reports about abusive treatment of the poor and of women have highlighted this issue in my mind. James said that our conflicts (verbal and physical) begin in the unfulfilled desires raging within us. (1:14-15, 4:1-3) Prof. Boaz Johnson (North Park University) recently wrote about the enslavement and maltreatment of the lower castes by the higher castes, while reflecting on the movie which story had echoes in his own childhood, Slumdog Millionaire. A World Focus segment on female genital mutilation in Africa and subsequent conversation with an African friend reminded me how girls and women have been harmed, deformed permanently, and sometimes killed by this procedure. Is protecting one's daughters from genital mutilation or social ostracism and public humiliation if it's refused grounds for refugee status in the US?

I happen to be working in an environment that orders by alphabet soup -- i.e., when one walks down the halls of this institution, past dozens of offices, each name plate has the person's name, followed by title and the acronmyn for every degree and certification achieved. Somehow, I think my grandfather, a college President who believed education to be a guarantor of "equality of opportunity for all," would have been sorely disappointed to see how humans have wielded their educational credentials to aggrandize one's position, and to batter others' self-worth.

Whether order is cemented by circumstance of birth family, by gender, by educational or experiential credentials, by personality or charisma or appearance, by race or ethnicity, or by physical power, makes no difference to biblical prophets. God's ordering is the antithesis of ours: we serve an upside-down God - or, rather, we have been up-ended by our sin and God is the only upright One!

So, to the co-worker or boss who objects to the "disorderliness" of kindness and patience, our faith responds with a graceful "no" to reorient the process toward love, care and service of one another. We're called to look to the interests of others, to deny ourselves, to have the mind of Christ, who served us even to the cross. In the face of one who demeans any other person, we respond with love and grace toward that one, a re-affirmation and reminder within ourselves of Whom we serve, and we continue to stand for the good news of God's value and worth of the other person. May we not back down in the face of the threat, whomever the person threatening us may be!

We're simply afraid of God's ordering of love. We think we'll lose position, wealth, status, or worth. Where's the faith of Jesus Christ whom we claim to follow?
Psalm 56:10-11

In God, whose word I praise,

in the LORD, whose word I praise,

in God I trust; I am not afraid.

What can a mere mortal do to me?

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