With Justice and Mercy for All

In one of Jesus’ pithier parables, he tells the story of the tax collector and the Pharisee praying (Luke 18.9-14).  

Tax collectors were known for their wily ways and Pharisees were known for their overly pious ones.  Jesus’ plays to those stereotypes when he addresses his audience: “certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust.”

Huh.

I don’t doubt the Bible contains a Living Word.  But does it always have to be directed right at me?

Daily, I read articles from media sources that either confirm my biases and reinforce my beliefs or that I react strongly against because they do the opposite.

This election season, more than ever it seems, has created the kind of world that Jesus describes: one where we have convinced ourselves that we are righteous and look on everyone else with disgust.

That makes it absolutely imperative that we take Jesus’ message in this parable to heart.  The interpretation from the Greek is a little fuzzy, but Amy Jill Levine’s interpretation makes a valid case for both the tax collector and the Pharisee go home justified.  Certainly, both are dependent on God’s mercy.

We must live our lives the way the Pharisee did – being generous and faithful and steadfast.  And we must pray the way the tax collector did, standing before God with our hearts open to receiving God’s mercy, the mercy we depend on.

And, in this season of demonstrable democracy, we must elect leaders who use their power to lift up the lowest among us, who with their authority seek to be generous and faithful and steadfast.  We must engage in discourse the way Jesus did, surprising one another with our mercy, setting our hearts toward openness rather than judgment.  Using our words to create a culture in which even our enemies have a place at the table.

In doing so, there is hope for a better world, a world where all who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.  A world where we draw nearer still to the kingdom of God.

- Melissa St. Clair

Melissa St. Clair has served as pastor at Heart of the Rockies Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Fort Collins since January 2013, first as Associate Minister and now as Senior Minister.