Homily for Monday. 18 June, 2012: Responding Like Jesus
1 Kings 21:1–16 / Matthew 5:38–42
What happened to Naboth was grossly wrong, and he is far from the only one in human history to suffer horrible injustice. Life is unfair. No matter who you are or where you live or what you do, something will inevitably happen which makes it abundantly clear that life is unfair. How do we respond when life is unfair? Do we get resentful? Do we try to justify ourselves? Do we plot to get even? Maybe you’ve seen a certain bumper sticker which says: DON’T GET MAD –– GET EVEN! If we are honest, there is a bit of Rambo in all of us.
How do we respond to unfairness? If we are Christians, our model is Jesus Christ. We are called to make him such a part of our lives that we respond to unfairness like he did. Think about it: Jesus did not “feel” like dying for us (in his humanity he dreaded his suffering and death), but he was willing to die in obedience to the Father. Neither will we always “feel” like letting wrongs go and "turning the other cheek," but we can learn to ask Jesus for humble and obedient hearts.
An appropriate epistle selection to complement today’s readings could be from 1 Peter 3, which has a classic section about following Jesus in the context of suffering. St Peter tells us that Jesus is our model: He left us an example in his suffering that you should follow in his steps. In other words, in the unfair things of life we are to be like Jesus. We are tempted to think that if we are being obedient to God, he will keep hard times away. Jesus shows us that obeying God may be the very thing that brings the unfairness of the world down upon us. Naboth was a righteous man.
So, how can we live with this? Does it not matter if others take advantage of us? Does it not matter if we are cheated and abused? Does unfairness not matter? It is here that the Christian answer is so distinctive: Notice what Jesus did. If Jesus was obedient to the Father (and he was), and if he trusted in God's vindication rather than seek his own (and that is what he did), it is because Jesus knew this world is not the ultimate reality. We need to know that, too. Jesus knew that what happens in this life is not the last word. The unfairness of today will be made right, and those who are obedient to God will know justice beyond comprehension in the coming kingdom.
When Jesus was unfairly arrested, tried and killed, he was not only God's unique sacrifice for sin (and he was that), he was also showing us how to live, how to die, and most of all, how to love. How do you respond to the unfairness that comes against you? Take time to listen to the One we claim as our Savior and Lord. Jesus has something here to teach us.