Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What Then Should We Do?

What then Should We Do?
Luke 3: 7-18

The question asked of John the Baptist in Luke is a question that comes easily from our mouths today.

If you were to take the story of John the Baptist from the gospel of Mark and from the gospel of Luke and lay them side by side, we would notice that Luke's account is greatly expanded. Luke includes the question, "What then should we do?" and John's answer to that question. Mark is writing to a community of believers who believed that the return of Jesus was not only imminent, but also immediate. Repentance is all that need be mentioned, for Jesus will return any minute. Luke is writing to a community of believers at least a decade later, who, while still believing in the imminent return of Jesus, do not see the return to be immediate. As a result, there is a need for an ethic. Out of that need comes the question, "What then should we do?"

The response to the question comes to people who have lived first hand the brokenness of human life. There are those who live in poverty. There are those who live under the power of extortion. There are those who are the victims of violence. The ethics that John puts in front of the listeners is one that counters the brokenness of society and brings healing.

What we do is shaped by our feelings.

As we sit horrified by the events in Newtown, Connecticut, we have strong feelings. They may be feelings of horror and deep sadness, feelings of fear, and feelings of anger. These feelings are normal and faithful. It is normal to be horrified by acts of violence such as this. It is normal to feel afraid for our own children following this act of violence. It is normal to be angry at the man who committed this crime and the situations that led to this act of violence. It is normal to have these feelings, and it is faithful to have these feelings.

The feelings of horror, fear, and anger are indicators that something is wrong. It is wrong for a man to enter an elementary school and shoot 20 children and 6 adults to death. It is wrong for parents to send their children off to school in the morning, not to see them again, but knowing their bodies are lying on the floor of the school without the sustenance of their love.

Our feelings are normal and faithful, for they tell us that there is something wrong. When we apply the question, "What then should we do?" I think we must consider this concept. Our feelings are normal and faithful, what we do with them, can make the situation better or the situation worse.

I can, right away, let you know one thing you can do. You can wrestle with God about this tragedy. Our ancestors in the faith, Abraham, Jacob, Job, the psalmists all wrestle with God. We even hear in the words of Jesus as he dies on the cross an echo of the words for Psalm 22, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

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