Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Truth telling

Paul challenges us to challenge the principalities and powers. It requires truth telling -- which can be difficult at times -- and demands profound personal discipline: "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." (Ephesians 5:11)

In my lifetime, Martin Luther King stands out as the most eloquent and abiding truth teller -- exposer of darkness:

"We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open where it can be seen and dealt with...Injustice must likewise be the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured." (Letter from a Birmingham Jail)

And then we get to the household code (Ephesians 5:21-6:9). It grates on the ears and seems to undermine everything else that Paul has said in his letter. At first reading, the household code seems to be proof text for wives to be subordinate to husbands, children to parents and slaves to masters. It seems to hold up social inequality as a cultural norm.

But -- and this is the key, "be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ." There is an emphasis on mutuality here. It undermines the hierarchy of the time, a hierarchy which engenders injustice. Paul addresses both parties in the three household relationships -- husbands/wives, children/parents, slaves/masters -- and admonishes them to be respectful of each other. Secular codes couldn't -- and wouldn't, do this. They were only addressed to the paterfamilias. Subordinates in the family system were deemed not worthy of ethical instruction.

Paul is leveling the family playing field. Some would say he could have done a better job. And he does -- at the end" ...for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality."

Paul is exposing the injustice of wives, children and slaves having no voice -- and no value. There needs to be mutuality -- and relationships need to be gathered around -- and abide in, the living Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Dearly Beloved,

    "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." (Ephesians 5:11)

    Paul's words still resonate to a world bereft of truth. We prefer the staid condition of denial over acceptance, dumbfounded silence to confession, blind delusion to reality, a fumbling amnesia to steadfast mindfulness. We prefer to suffer the consequence of deception then break the mendacious chains of hypocrisy. A world drowning in a sea of delusion condemns the life raft offered by truth tellers. They beheaded John the Baptist, crucified Jesus, assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. and now the world heaps scorn on today's notorious prophet of truth, Julian Assange.

    Paul's words ring with the clarity of a clanging warning bell. He pleads and exhorts the beloved to be faithful to the truth not accomplices to deception either in things done or maintaining an idle muteness in complicit silence. We are called to witness to truth, in truth, in how we engage the world and how we perceive ourselves. Failure to so makes us confederates to deceit in open rebellion to truth. We are an abomination of sinfulness if we continue to walk the path of the untruthful.

    Pilate asked the condemned Jesus "What is truth? The truth of love, light and faith stood before the most powerful man in all of Israel and he could not recognize that it was staring him in the face. Jesus is a mirror that we can hold up to truthfully examine ourselves and use it to reflect on the world and how we can faithfully engage it in service to truth.

    When Pilate asked the question "What is truth?" Jesus stood silently before him. Truth needs no justification. As we sojourn on to Christmas to once again behold the truth of the Word Become Flesh enthroned on a cradle of hay, we are reminded of the lyrics of What Child Is This:

    Why lies He in such mean estate,
    Where ox and ass are feeding?
    Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
    The silent Word is pleading.

    The silent Word pleads with us to open our ears to see the world with an open heart. In the deafening silence the truth speaks.

    For this reason it says,
    “Awake, sleeper,
    And arise from the dead,
    And Christ will shine on you.”
    Ephesians 5:14


    Peace and Prayers to all the Beloved.



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