Scott Benhase: Stewards of God’s foolishness
King’s message comes straight from the church.
“I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their souls” -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Throughout the season after the Epiphany the church feeds itself from St Paul’s 1st letter to the church in Corinth. I find strange comfort in reading about the conflict and factionalism in the church there. Times have changed, but sin has not. The Corinthians argued with one another and almost forgot that they’d been brought together by God’s grace for a purpose: to be the Body of Christ for a hurting world that desperately needs God’s love. God has so designed the fabric of the church that we can only proclaim God’s love poured out for us on the cross of Christ through the frail, sinful means of one another. Now, we can question God’s wisdom in entrusting such Good News to a group like the church. Yet, God has entrusted us with it. We are stewards of God’s foolishness, as St. Paul might say.
So let us not be deterred by disagreement in the church. God requires a great deal from us as bearers of the Good News of God’s foolishness. God calls us to hunger and thirst after righteousness. God calls us to love kindness and mercy. And God calls us to do all that with meek and humble hearts. Fortunately for us, we do not have to do this alone. We’re to live such a life together as humble servants of the Lord Jesus.
Years ago there was an Episcopal priest in a rural, remote parish who desperately needed a community of sisters to staff his school. Their superior was, to say the least, eccentric. When the priest reproached the superior for her peculiar conduct, she was offended. She said, "I’d like you to know that I may have many faults, but I’m strong as hell on humility!"
Jesus calls us to be humble, but not humiliated. He calls us to be poor in spirit, but not to sit idly by while others suffer the pangs of poverty. He calls us to love mercy and to speak up when we see others showing no mercy.
Dr. King’s audacious call was addressed to our larger society, but he was a person who was first and foremost of the church. The quote above reflects the Great Commandment’s focus on the heart, soul, and mind of each person: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
As the church, we have the currency to call people to love God when we also work tirelessly to address their body’s need for three meals a day, their mind’s need for culture and beauty, and their soul’s need for dignity, equality, and freedom. Of course, working for such goals is the best way we have been given to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Scott Benhase is the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia.