Jan. 9, 2011 (Baptism of the Lord)

Today’s Readings (text):

  • Isaiah 42:1-7
  • Psalm 29:1-10
  • Acts 10:34-38
  • Matthew 3:13-17

“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation, whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him,” Peter tells a gathering of people in the house of Cornelius in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

At this time, the US seems to be a deeply partial nation, and what’s worse, nuts on the right wing as well as the left resort to violence. There is no reason or cause that could justify the taking of innocent life yesterday morning, including US District judge John M Roll; Christina Green, 9; Gabriel Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Schneck, 79, all of whom died by the hand of Jared Lee Loughner, 22, when he was aiming for US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of Arizona.

We will avoid belaboring the obvious point that Mr Loughner did not act uprightly, and his actions would be found unacceptable to the God of whom Jesus’ disciples spoke. And we know the left has just as many deranged, unjust people as the right.

But my point here, along with today’s lessons in Christian churches around the country, is that God doesn’t take sides. People who claim to be Christian have used hateful words, such as “crosshairs,” “job-killing,” and other words tainted with violence in expressing their points on Web sites, profitable broadcasts, the floor of the House of Representatives, and in other venues.

Information today is immediately available and unfortunately falls just as quickly on the ears of sane compassionate Americans who value human life as it does on the ears of insane assassins like Jared Lee Loughner. Americans appreciate lively debate and fully comprehend the underlying meaning of hyperbole in speech (no one actually thinks Sarah Palin wished the representative from Arizona’s Eighth District dead). It is so unfortunate, then, that those same words can be taken out of context by insane people on both sides of the political aisle and inspire the violence we saw yesterday.

Answers to most of the complex problems facing us are often long in coming. It is time to take a deep breath and reflect on the words of the newly elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, the man who is currently third in line to the presidency: John Boehner, Republican of Ohio.

“An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve,” he said.

This is exactly what Peter meant. God is completely impartial to political viewpoint. Rather, those who act uprightly — as Rep. Boehner said, who “serve” — are acceptable to him. This violence doesn’t represent who we are as Americans. It isn’t who we are as Christians, though it is clear from his actions and words that Mr Loughner is not a Christian. And I wouldn’t even care about that if he would choose to act uprightly.

We Christians should strive to follow the example of Christ and of God, as taught to us from the Bible. Partiality is not of God. Peter made that clear right in today’s reading. And we should pray that those who do not follow the Christian God, that they too may find inspiration in righteous acts of good people, not in the hateful words of profit-seeking monsters.

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