Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 122; 149, Judges 5:19-31, Acts 2:22-36, Matthew 28:11-20
Have you heard of Jael? She played a pivotal role in the book of Judges. Israel was battling the Canaanite army, whose captain was Sisera. When he realized his cause was lost, Sisera sought refuge at the home of Heber and Jael, Kenites who had no conflict with the Canaanites. Home alone, Jael offered Sisera milk, food, and a place to sleep. As he slept, Jael hammered a tent spike through his skull until it stuck in the ground. Jael’s deed is celebrated in The Song of Deborah, a judge of Israel who prophesied a woman would kill Sisera. Yet Jael remains a controversial figure: she violated the hospitality code of her culture by harming a guest in her home. Normally the Israelites would have judged this type of infraction quite negatively, but since it was to their benefit, they interpreted it as the will of God.
After Jesus had risen from the grave, the chief priests and elders offered a large bribe to Roman guards to say his body had been stolen while they slept. They further offered to run interference with the governor, should word of the missing body get back to him. These chiefs and elders were the supposed spiritual leaders of the Jewish people. Among the laws they represented was a prohibition on bearing false witness. To do so warranted punishment equal to whatever the wronged party would have suffered. Yet because they convinced themselves they were doing right, the hypocrisy did not matter to them.
Double standards are pernicious, especially when we believe our cause is just. It’s natural to overlook flaws in the people and institutions we favor, and exaggerate them in those we don’t. Doing so, however, undermines our integrity, our credibility, and ultimately the cause we serve. For people of integrity, good ends do not justify bad means. The righteous who resort to unrighteous tactics destroy the thing they hope to preserve. Consciously hold your friends, your enemies, and yourself to the same standards. Let us be less concerned with whether we “win” … and more with whether we witness to Christ.
Comfort: Losing is no shame if you lose with integrity.
Challenge: Over the next week, pay to attention to the double standards of your own views, especially around religion and politics.
Prayer: God of Justice, open my eyes to my own short sightedness. Amen.
Discussion: What double standards bother you the most?
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