Reflection August 25, 2019 by Rev Sunny Kim
Jeremiah 1:4-10/ Psalm 71/ Luke 13:10-17
Pride and Prejudice, and God’s Reign
It is my belief that everyone, with no exception, has prejudice against something and someone. I also believe that bigotry can take such a subtle form that those with privilege cannot feel microaggression happening. Microaggression is a very subtle form of bigotry. For example, when I went to a medical clinic because I needed a doctor (not in Sicamous), one of the receptionists, instead of just telling me that due to the shortage of doctors they were not receiving new patients at the moment, said the service was for residents only. Did you get it? She assumed that I was not a resident because I look like this. Attila didn’t pick up it even though he was there witnessing the whole thing because he looks like that. But as I said, no one is free of prejudice and here’s the one fact about myself for today. I am passionate about social justice issues. Justice for the LGBT people are the closest to my heart. But when I first started theological school, I was once on the other side of microaggression. We had a very attractive professor, who is gay. I said among our small group of classmates, “Too bad he’s gay; he could have made a woman happy.” I am NOT proud of this statement; I was younger and stupider. What I said is microaggression because my statement assumed heterosexuality as the norm, as what the receptionist said assumed being white as the norm of her town, which was also my town.
Prejudice is one of the vices that Jesus constantly challenged his followers to overcome. The gospel story we read today is a typical story of pride and prejudice. According to the Jewish Law, one is not allowed to do any activity that constitutes as ‘work’ on the sabbath. I’ll give you one example, I was once invited to a Jewish Passover meal, which takes 3 hours and required me to sleep over. The family forgot to leave the bathroom light on before sunset because turning on a switch is considered ‘work’; because sabbath and Passover start at sunset on Friday. They had to ask this Gentile to turn on the light at night. Anyway, the point is that Jesus disobeyed the Law by healing this woman. What the leader of the synagogue says to criticize Jesus is technically not wrong. But what is evil about this criticism is that he twisted what is right and good to participate in evil, which in this case is pride and prejudice. The reason why his attitude is evil is in what Jesus says; “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free form this bondage on the sabbath day?” Do you remember the story of Jewish leaders criticizing the disciples of Jesus for picking grain in the field to feed themselves on a sabbath day? Jesus shut them up by saying sabbath was made for people, not the other way around, meaning, “Get your priorities right!”
Which is more important; rules and laws or people they were designed to benefit? For Jesus, people always came first. Law was written to protect the vulnerable. If the law has to be broken to save someone, quoting the favorite Christian question, what would Jesus do? Jesus would not even blink an eye and choose to save and help. Disclaimer; I am not in any way encouraging you to break the law. I’m just saying no law is perfect and without loopholes. Sometimes we have to choose our priorities according to God’s kingdom values. A lot of pious Jews in Jesus’ time abused the loopholes of the Law for their benefit. Jesus always reacted with indignation at the pride and prejudice of the privileged people, leaders of his society. From this we learn that God hates pride AND prejudice. Thinking we are better than others and judging others who are not like us are against God’s principles of compassion and justice. Jesus constantly taught humility; “First shall be last and the last shall be first,” for example.
We are taught to be humble and compassionate to one other. Why do you think God chose Jesse’s youngest son David to be king of Israel? Why do you think God chose the boy Jeremiah to be one of the most important prophets of Israel? Why do you think God’s son was born of a poor family? It’s because God values humility more than anything. Only when we are humble can we completely trust in God’s care and guidance. Only when we are humble can we see each other as God sees us, with compassionate love.
No matter how much power, wealth, knowledge, and status we have, compared to the power of God, we are nothing. We should humble ourselves and confess, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. In you, I seek refuge. You are my hope, my trust from my youth; from the time of my birth, I have leaned on you.” Let us trust God as if we were young children relying on their parents for protection and guidance. We know what comes of the foolish children who defy their parents’ guidance and strike out on their own. Read the story of the prodigal son, who thought he could take care of himself just fine. If we can humble ourselves and see one another as God sees us, we will be able to see beyond each other’s skin colour, gender, culture and religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, different ideas and lifestyles, and overcome our impulse to judge each other, considering them wrong or inferior. Judging from the teachings of Jesus, we know that pride and prejudice are against God’s kingdom values. Let us pray and strive to be humble, so that we can treat all God’s children with compassion and work to bring God’s reign of justice to our communities.