Matthew 10:32 "Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one's foes will be members of one's own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 40 "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple--truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward."
Jesus lived in a world where some were thought to be more holy than others. People were declared “unclean’ because of physical or mental illness, and were thought to be less loved by God than those who were “clean”. In the above passage from Matthew 10 we find Jesus opposing this idea. He uses the word "whoever" (Greek: hostis) as a recurring idea throughout this passage. It makes the statement comprehensive - to embrace both the bearers and the hearers of the message. The effect of this is to “level the playing fields”. There are none who are exempt – neither the preacher or the hearer, neither the righteous nor the unrighteous, neither the rich nor the poor. And just in case someone still thinks that s/he is too good/too holy/too righteous, Jesus deliberately includes an act of inclusive compassion towards the “little ones”.
Through the years religious people have been tempted to create classes or categories of people. This normally sounds like this: those who believe like us are therefore loved by God, and those who do not see life as we do are not loved by God. Let us build a new generation that is willing to discover that everyone (hostis) is within the love of the Creator.
Prayer: God of all creation: Thank you for loving me. Open my eyes that I may see your embrace for the other people in my world. Amen.
Second Sunday after Epiphany
8. “Come follow me”
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 59.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.