Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"Be excellent to each other" theology

I sometimes--often?--sound a little derisive when I use that term when people rely on Matthew 5-7 as a behavior guide to the exclusion of the rest of the Gospel, because while it revolutionized how we should treat one another, the first half of Matthew 7:1 is often used as the lens through which the entire Sermon on the Mount is viewed, with supporting evidence like "Jesus didn't condemn the adulterer" and "He ate with tax collecters."

Turning the other cheek is great, but there is more to loving your neighbor than simply damping down the cycle of violence. Refraining from judgment is great, but you're not loving your neighbor by telling him his sins are good. The last thing Christ told the woman was "Go and sin no more."

Correcting the sinner, instructing the ignorant, and counseling the doubtful are spiritual works of mercy. None of them runs counter to any of the others. Picking out a few at the expense of the others may be convenient, but saying something like "You don't have to be helpful as long as you're kind" is sort of like spoiling a child, and it's a sin against justice. Charity may be the greatest of things, but justice, too, is a good.

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