This week’s gospel reading can be a contentious one. I know that, for many years, I recoiled from all of the talk in the Bible about keeping rules and doing the right thing in order to get in God’s good favor.
I’ve always thought of myself as a decent person. I haven’t murdered anyone, perpetrated securities fraud, or committed any hate crimes. Why doesn’t God just get off my back? I didn’t kill Jesus! I haven’t even killed any bad people! Leave me alone!
Maybe you can relate to this feeling...
And so, when we freedom-loving westerners (seriously, not judging this - it’s fine!) read a line from the Bible like,
“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
...it can sound like there’s the in-crowd (the ‘just’) and then there’s the rest of us who are not invited to God’s table (the ‘unjust’).
But I want to invite you to see this differently - this whole ‘just’ and ‘unjust’ thing. It’s an important distinction.
I’d argue that when the Bible (particularly when seen through the Christ hermeneutic) speaks of the ‘just’, this isn’t the hoity-toity religious types with endless lists of spotless good works. The category of ‘just’ isn’t composed of the winners of the spiritual Olympics.
In Jesus’s book, the ‘just’ are forgiven sinners who consciously trust in Jesus; who can relax and laugh that there’s actually no scorekeeper in the sky.
(I don’t know anyone who lives entirely in the ‘just’ group. I think we might step into ‘justness’ every now again, but I think it’s a temporary state.)
Conversely, the ‘unjust’ (aka, me and everyone I know) aren’t the naughty people who cuss, skip church, and do all the ‘wrong’ things. In Jesus’s book, the ‘unjust’ are the forgiven sinners who don’t live by trust in their okay-ness in Christ.
With the ‘unjust’, Jesus is like, Gaaaah! Why are you still keeping score? I’m coming, as God, not to throw a spiritual beat-down on the oppressors, but to DIE TO IT and renew all of creation.
The ‘unjust’ are the ones whose main theme of living is to constantly prove our worth. We don’t need religion to do this. All we need is social media. All we need is a family dinner. Hell, all we need is a mirror! We do this worth-proving by default.
The ‘unjust’ live by score-keeping. If we’re Christians who believe in a heavenly afterlife, we might think we’re going to show up at the pearly gates (that symbology is another conversation, btw) with a spotless record. We look forward to comparing our record books to Jesus’s.
To the ‘unjust’, Jesus grins... Gives us a c’mon-now punch in the shoulder... Maybe pours us a beer (or a matcha tea)... And tells us that nobody up in heaven pays any attention to those books. All that Jesus sees when he opens his book - the book of life - is our name. All of our transgressions have been erased by Jesus. None of the good deeds have counted either, though God has enjoyed them.
The just and the unjust are gathered as one in Christ. We are all forgiven sinners. Faith is just the recognition and the living out of that.
Grace + Godspeed,
Inspirational Source: Fr. Robert Farrar Capon