Once again Melbourne is gripped in racial tensions after a violent brawl in Collingwood in the early hours of last week. The racial profiling identified the main perpetrators as African and Islanders. It comes on the back of another wild brawl a few weeks earlier in Taylors Hill with similar racial profiling. The Letters to the Editor and talk back radio were almost cut and paste from a few weeks ago with people saying the same things:
- Deport them
- Jail them.
- Stop calling them African Australians – there’s nothing Australian about them.
It is easy to get caught up in the hatred in similar ways that hatred was directed against all Muslims in the aftermath of terrorist attacks.
To suggest that God could possibly love them and send his own Son to die for them would have many people seriously looking at us with misgivings. And yet that is the radical nature of God’s unconditional love – that God could possibly want them to be saved and come to him so he can embrace them with his love.
We have to believe that about God’s love because if we draw a line in the sand and say, this is where God’s love stops, then we could never be sure if God’s love extends to us. How would we know where God has put the line in the sand? Jesus today shows that in people’s minds there is a line in the sand but that Jesus wipes that line out completely. A woman whose daughter is sick comes to Jesus for help; she is of Greek origin so Jesus lays down the line in the sand for her request; he tells her – I have come for the children of Israel (this side of the line in the sand). It wouldn’t be fair to take the children’s food and throw it to their dogs (the other side of the line in the sand). So “fairness” is the line in the sand. It wouldn’t be fair to take the children’s food and throw it to their dogs. To help her daughter would be “unfair” – to help first the children of Israel is the “fair” thing to do. But the mother points out to Jesus that it’s not about what is fair and unfair. It’s about all people receiving what God has to give. And so when Jesus says it’s unfair to give what belongs to the children of Israel to their dogs – she responds – even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.
The problem with using “fair” as the benchmark is that it is so subjective. What one person deems as “fair” another might deem as “unfair”. We hear it all the time in society. Is it fair that an asylum seeker – or what many refer to as an illegal immigrant – queue jumpers – is it fair if they get housing while there are so many “real Aussies” who are homeless. Is it fair that they take OUR jobs? Is it fair that my taxes pay for the long term unemployed who are probably going to use it on drugs and alcohol? All of a sudden we stop thinking about the needs of people and replace it with whether it’s fair or not – BUT according to OUR set of values.
Jesus did not extend his love to others based on whether it was fair or not. He went to those who needed him. He was criticised for it – he eats with sinners and tax collectors. But as Jesus pointed out – a doctor goes to those who need him. Or, when the woman washed Jesus’ feet with her hair: If Jesus knew what sort of woman she was he would not let her touch him. Or the Good Samaritan who did not base his help on one of his enemies as to whether it was fair or not but based on his need for help. And Jesus told us to “go and do likewise”.
It is so easy to fall into the trap of judging others based on what we perceive is fair or not. None of us like what we see happening in society today. It does make us angry, but as St Paul says – in your anger do not sin.
Instead we are called to pray. To not join in the chorus of those who regard others as more or less worthy of love and acceptance. James points that out also when he criticises those who make a distinction in the church. Those who showed acts of favouritism to the rich saying – have as seat here – this side of the line in the sand. While to the poor they said – go and stand over there – the other side of the line in the sand. Wealth became the line in the sand; rich people here – poor people over there.
Just as God shows no distinction in showing his love we too are to show no distinction when it comes to showing his love to others. God loved “the world” so much that he sent his one and only Son to die for us.
It was while WE were yet sinners that Christ died for us. It’s not while THEY were yet sinners – while WE were yet sinners. And if we think it’s unfair that God should even extend his love to those with whom we disagree how unfair is it to God that he continues to forgive us time and time again – even though we’ve promised to never do it again. But he does because his love is not based on fairness but on his unconditional love for us in Jesus Christ who died for us and the entire world. There is no line in the sand. And he does not place a line in the sand for us either; Love your neighbour as yourself – we hear in James. Jesus goes even further – love one another as I have loved you – and by this all people will know that you’re my disciples. If we join in the cries of “unfair” will we witness to God’s love?
If we join in the cries of unfair, how can we be sure others aren’t judging us the same way when we stray?
As Jesus says: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. It is so easy to join in with the crowd as they did against Jesus and shout “Crucify Him” It’s no different to the shouts: “Send them back where they came from – lock them up and throw away the key”. Jesus however sets a different standard as he cries out:
Forgive them Father for they do not know what they are doing. Remember what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount:
- Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
As children of God we won’t be sitting under the table picking up the crumbs in heaven. We will be sitting with Jesus at his table enjoying the great feast. Until then Jesus invites you to his table to receive a foretaste of that feast to come as you receive, not crumbs that fall from the table, but the very body and blood of our Lord that is given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins so you can be sure there is no line in the sand you have to reach because Jesus invites you to come, for all things are now ready.