For special Sabbath reflection this weekend, the Revised Common Lectionary recommends the harmonious passages from the Old Testament’s 6th century BCE prophecy of Ezekiel (at chapter 33), and from the New Testament advice of the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Romans (at chapter 13) written sometime around year 57 CE.
Those two scriptures help us see how clearly Holy Scripture challenges us today to press on from belief to action.
Simply put, we are instructed in Ezekiel 33 to be sentinels for society, identifying and calling out long-term, self-destructive sin and patterns of behavior such as deeply-engrained racism and its accompanying injustice arising from “white privilege” throughout the history of the world.
Romans 13 goes one “giant” step further and points out that such wrongs constitute a violation of our one over-arching obligation to God — that we love each and every one of our neighbors as ourselves — an obligation as old as its early articulation in Leviticus 19:18b.
And note that my supposition, which I wish to call out, is that this love cannot coexist with “white privilege” or racial injustice or racism.
Meanwhile, many of you know the love that the impassioned Apostle Paul is speaking of, the love that is the prime focus of chapter 13 of his first letter to the church of God, which was in Corinth where many scholars believe the Letter to the Romans was written. It is agapé love — the universal and unconditional love for every co-inhabitant of the planet Earth.
Note also Paul’s specific condemnation of “quarreling and jealousy,” which unfortunately are so common in church and which are linked, in an un-Christ-like way, to gratifying unholy desires and holy desires for one or more, but not all.
— The Rev. Dr. Wesley S. Williams Jr., K.St.J., is Priest Scholar and Chaplain at Washington National Cathedral and previously was Bishop’s Dean and Sub-Dean and Priest in Charge in congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands (U.S. and U.K.)