Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How selfless?

Today's reading from the Book of Sirach is a prayer. It openings,

Come to our aid, O God of the universe, look upon us, show us the light of your mercies, and put all the nations in dread of you! Thus they will know, as we know, that there is no God but you, O Lord.

The first part of the prayer is quite congruous with our faith, a petition for aid and mercy. But then they prayer turns and becomes selfishness disguised as selflessness.

They ask God to put all nations in dread of him, but then claim that they are asking God to do this so that all the other nations will understand that he is the one true God.

So to break this prayer down to its core: for us aid and mercy, for them dread.— but for their own good of course.

We may not engage in this so blatantly, but how often do we allow ourselves to enjoy it when someone we don't like falls down, or is being attacked. How often do we really love our enemies and pray for our persecutors as we are taught by Christ to do.

The fundamental problem with the prayer is that it divides the world into us and them. It is hard for us not to do this, particularly when we are feeling personally or communally attacked. But if we are Christians we have to fight the urge. When we as a Church seem to go on and on about the sanctity of every human life, it is not just about abortion. It is the core of our anthropology, our understanding of what it means to be human. Even the lives of Bashar al-Asad, and Kim Jong Un are sacred. That's what making being Christian hard.