June 3, 2018

Adult Bible Study Online

A current connection to each week's session

Justice and Sabbath Laws
Matthew 12:1-14

Read this article as a Word Document

“Sabbath: A Radical Demonstration of Justice”

There is far more at stake here than religion. If you had any idea what this Scripture meant—“I prefer a flexible heart to an inflexible ritual”—you wouldn’t be nitpicking like this. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath; he’s in charge (Jesus, Matthew 12:6-8 MSG).

In Matthew 12, Jesus was accused of not keeping the Sabbath law. He was called out for the profane act of doing justice on, of all days, the Sabbath. He reminded the Pharisees that his disciples were doing what was allowable—picking heads of grain to feed themselves. But then Jesus had the holy audacity to heal a man on the Sabbath.

What are some radical acts of justice that might be offensive to Christians, on the Sabbath or Sunday or any other day?

Recent police actions, prompted by calls from white citizens, confirm the awful truth that racism is alive in the USA in 2018. Indeed, many believe that the recent incidents brought to light, usually through social media, are not creating an increase in racial violence but raising awareness of what has always been. Being black is to live a traumatic experience that impacts individuals’ mental and physical health. Living while black foretells economic hardships that are passed on to future generations. Blacks report less than favorable views on policing agencies as well as the overall justice system.

Communities of faith and denominational leadership are by and large segregated along racial lines. The integration present in the church is usually the result of interracial marriage, not intentional ministry. In these congregations, people of color typically are not in positions of leadership; when one person of color is a leader, organizations are quick to applaud their own diversity and inclusion.

Here’s the point. As we seek to follow Jesus and live our faith in everyday experience, consider what might happen if on the Sabbath and every day we challenged systems and traditions embedded in racist practices and perspectives. Could we remember the Sabbath and keep it holy if more men and women of color comprised congregational and conference leadership? What would white people, specifically white men, say or do if the structures and systems of faith shifted toward greater diversity?

Would we find “policing practices” within the peace church that obstruct inclusive leadership? Can we look inward and around and challenge ourselves to live in ways that fulfill the vision of love and justice that is so central to the gospel message? Can we commit to finding ways to feed the spirit of diversity and inclusion in Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada? Will we intentionally begin the healing work in our congregation, conference, and community? Can we put down our coffee long enough to make certain everyone is welcomed and served? Can we do it today so we don’t find ourselves turned into a meme or caricature?

—Kelly Bates Oglesby, kellyoglesby@gmail.com

© 2018

Kelly Bates Oglesby of Indianapolis, Indiana, is our ABS Online writer for Justice in the New Testament, our Summer 2018 study. She is joyfully married to Herman Oglesby. Kelly enjoys writing and teaching. She is discerning opportunities for pastoral ministry.

This article supplements Adult Bible Study, a quarterly Bible curriculum for adults. Adult Bible Study provides in-depth, challenging Bible study from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, written by an intercultural group of pastors, teachers, professors, and leaders across Canada and the United States. Sessions include daily Bible readings, resources for additional study, and free downloadable resources.

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