Acts 10:44-48 Psalm 98 1 John 5:1-6
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Who do you exclude ? The Christian Jews we hear about in the first reading today excluded from their circle of acquaintances all Gentiles, that is, all people who did not have pure Jewish blood. They excluded the Samaritans who had mixed blood and everyone who had no Jewish blood at all. They would not eat with them, trade with them, marry with them, touch them or spend time with them. Such policy has kept the Jewish people distinct in the world.
We’ve gone through similar times with Indigenous people, and with people from Africa and Asia, except we were more crafty than the Jews, we held them as slaves and used them for cheap labour, to increase our wealth, at the same time excluding them from all the benefits of established ‘white’ society. I’m not excusing anyone but power corrupts and white people in recent history generally had the power. We are of course not alone in this, every race of people, except the Incas, the Mayans and the Aboriginal people of Australia, have adopted power structures and dominated the weak in their societies and had slaves. Every dominate tribe or race, the Egyptians, the Hittites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Mongols, the Ottomans, South Asians, the Chinese, the British, the Russians, the Americans and Canadians have all had slaves and done things we should condemn. There are still an estimated seventy-five million slaves in this world; it’s very depressing and enough to make you want to throw up your hands and give up !
This last week the Superior Court of Quebec ruled that it was not right for the people of the Kahnawake Mohawk community to expel from the Reservation their full blood members who married outside the tribe, they excluded them. The tribe is worried about racial purity; I have heard that sentiment before and it troubles me and it troubled Peter too about those Jews.
No one comes out looking good in this do they ? But it shows one thing that none of us is superior to another, we all have weaknesses and ambitions that turn us from the ideal people God intended us to be, to people that we know we would rather not be.
But don’t despair. John in his letter today gives us the hope we need. He writes “whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God ?” The victory may be slow in coming (it’s not easy to convince six billion other people that we have the best way to get to a perfect life) but we will. The world is actually turning to the principles that Christianity holds dear, having achieved that, it is up to us to convince the world that it is faith in Jesus Christ that makes perfect civilisation possible. You might think that all those Greek, Roman, Indian, Chinese and European philosophers had the answer to a perfect world, well mostly they get us on the right track but they don’t have the final link, that is always missing, in the great stories of life, the final link that will tip all things to their way of thinking. That’s because it is ‘their’ way of thinking not God’s. God started all this stuff going and wouldn’t it be wise to return to Him ? And His Way ?
The early Christians called Christianity ‘the Way” because it is a totally different way of life. Those philosophers to a man, I emphasize ‘man’, so half the world was left out, were intent on regulating the power structures of their day. Christianity looks in entirely the opposite direction. It sees service, lack of power, as the key to a happy life, a profitable life an holy life.
Being servants to each other doesn’t mean being a sucker by any means. For years we are servants to our children and grandchildren, we don’t feel we are being played by them do we ? We willingly do all the things that a servant would do (if we could afford one) without hesitation or resentment, we do them for love, even when those kids are adults. Is it just blood that permits us to be like that ? If it is then we are no better than anyone else, those Jews Peter contended with, and every other race I have mentioned already.
Who do you exclude ?
The message of Jesus and the Way of Life He taught is totally different from that. He embraced people who have gone wrong and offered forgiveness as a passport to a better life. He embraced those who opposed Him and convinced them of a better way. To the self-righteous He said “do better”. I don’t think there was anyone who was indifferent to Him, He polarises people, you are either for Him or against Him (Mark 12:30) but you cannot be indifferent to Him. We need to keep our eyes on the prize. The prize is a bountiful relationship with God. We must not settle for a secular pleasantness of life by following Plato or Confucius, that would be settling for second best, at best ! There is a wonderful almighty God at the core of the Christian faith, who asks us to be inclusive, to love as we are loved, and to serve each other as though we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, which is what we all are whether we know it or not ! Don’t exclude anyone because you may exclude yourself too. Keep the Faith, then spread it around, there’s more than enough for the entire world. Amen and Alleluia.