Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 481

Masters, act in the same way towards them, and stop bullying,
knowing that both they and you have a Master in heaven
and that with him there is no partiality.

One of our student chaplain at the VA, reflecting on the program and her experience, said, “All my training has told me not to be vulnerable; it came as a surprise that I should be vulnerable as a chaplain.”

Saint Paul voiced no opposition to the institution of slavery in his Letter to the Ephesians. The ancients knew their social institutions as “the way things are.” They had no formal study of sociology or economics. Slavery could no more be dismantled than they might imagine a fifth dimension or the space/time continuum. But the Apostle drove a stake through heart of slavery when he told Christian slave owners to stop bullying.

We’re still trying to imagine life without bullying. Can a government operate without bullying? Could a war be fought? Could a company be managed or children be reared without bullying? Can we imagine a society flowing like people during the Monday morning commute, watching one another and cooperating for the common goal of getting there alive and on time?

The United States was founded on bullying Native Americans out of their homelands, on imported slaves and indentured servants. We entertain ourselves with bullying games like football and hockey. Many people sport sidearms in public just to show how they're prepared to deal with conflict. 

And we tell our children "Don't bully?" You're kidding, right? 

Saint Paul's advice to slaves and their masters has been dismissed by most Christians in this country. They figure he gave this counsel to a strange people in another time and place; it has nothing to do with us. 

I think we should pay attention to his teaching. He urged Christian slaves and masters to work together so that they could demonstrate how God's people love one another. They do not bully one another; they do not take advantage of one another's vulnerability, as slaves are wont to do in dealing with the masters. 

They cooperate and communicate for the common good; they watch one another like dancers, moving gracefully and purposefully. They edify non-Christians by their harmonious relationships. Where there are different levels of authority -- as there always are among humans -- they never forget their standing before the Father of All, whose sunshine falls on the good  and the bad; whose rain falls on the mighty and the weak. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.