Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Food for Thought: For Goodness’ Sake

Food for Thought: For Goodness’ Sake

Notes composed and discussion facilitated by Pastor Bryan Hackett.

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

For Goodness’ Sake

I woke up thinking about “the good”, and something George has said a few times—that he looks for “the good, the true, and the beautiful”.  What is good? In particular, what is moral goodness? What is virtue? Why is real justice so elusive?

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

The Ten Commandments:

You shall have no other Gods but me.

You shall not make for yourself any idol, nor bow down to it or worship it.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

You shall remember and keep the Sabbath day holy.

Respect your father and mother.

You must not commit murder.

You must not commit adultery.

You must not steal.

You must not give false evidence against your neighbor.

You must not be envious of your neighbor’s goods. You shall not be envious of his house nor his wife, nor anything that belongs to your neighbor.

 

Other codes were developed like The Code of Hammurabi, in pursuit of “the good” or “the just”

Hammurabi ruled from 1792 to 1750 BC according to the Middle chronology. In the preface to the law, he states, “Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind.” On the stone slab are 44 columns and 28 paragraphs that contained 282 laws. Some of these laws follow along the rules of “an eye for an eye”.

 Women could also receive punishments that their male counterparts would not, as men were permitted to have affairs with their servants and slaves, whereas married women would be harshly punished for committing adultery. (Wikipedia)

Two lessons of the law in the Bible

-If you have broken one, you are guilty of the whole thing

-The law fails to bring about justice (goodness), and only acts as a restraint

Jesus and the woman caught in adultery: Why this story is central to my vision of wE. (no stones to throw)

  • It represents, for me, the heart of Jesus
  • He must subvert the law to achieve genuine goodness (like many of his followers since)

Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.  When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

Stoning:          Social ostracization taken to its limit

Nobody was guilty of the actual murder: “I only threw a stone”

With social ostracization, no one person is guilty of the dehumanizing, murderous rejection or hate—each has their reason for the personal choice to exclude.

Jesus instead subverts the “mob mentality” that the law prescribes and turns the exclusion on to the accusers. (It perplexes me that Paul later prescribes such ostracization, though he does say “bring him back before it kills him” in the next letter.)

I think that Jesus really has to struggle towards the good here—it cannot be simply “yep, that is what the Bible says. Go ahead and stone her!”

The people who come “packing the heat” of Scripture feel very justified in their cause.   But the good has totally eluded them.

While the people who feel the injustice struggle, perhaps writing in the sand and reaching for what they know must be the good, even when scripture seems to say otherwise.

Bartolome de las Casas was a young priest who came with Columbus to conquer Cuba, and became a vehement critic of Spanish cruelty (https://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/zinncol1.html)

Endless testimonies . .. prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives…. But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy; small wonder, then, if they tried to kill one of us now and then…. The admiral, it is true, was blind as those who came after him, and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians…. 

The equality of women was noted by Las Casas, as was the absence of lust.

Marriage laws are non-existent men and women alike choose their mates and leave them as they please, without offense, jealousy or anger. They multiply in great abundance; pregnant women work to the last minute and give birth almost painlessly; up the next day, they bathe in the river and are as clean and healthy as before giving birth. If they tire of their men, they give themselves abortions with herbs that force stillbirths, covering their shameful parts with leaves or cotton cloth; although on the whole, Indian men and women look upon total nakedness with as much casualness as we look upon a man’s head or at his hands.

Point: Their pagan culture had achieved “the good” in very different, but workable, ways.

Leave a Reply