You have probably heard George Santayana’s famous quip, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Perhaps the writer of Ecclesiastes phrased it differently. The reality is that human behavior (especially, selfishness, greed, and hatred) has a tendency to repeat itself.
Jewish history is full of faithful followers of God being mistreated by their blood relatives. Whether it being cast into cisterns, having to hide in caves, being openly killed, it happened. We have the words and/or lives of some of these followers in Scripture.
Based on the general summary of the Old Testament, it is highly likely that there were many, many more that we don’t know about. The people of God were often more the people of the Enemy. Even with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, it still seems to be the case.
I have read this passage in Luke many times, contemplating it. The harsh truth was that the Jews decorated and maintained the tombs of the people their ancestors had killed. Instead of feeling shame for what their ancestors had done, they applauded themselves for taking care of the tombs. They celebrated that they cared for the tombs of those their blood had murdered as if it was the honor of the dead to be cared for by them.
This comes to mind as there is a reckoning happening in the US. Statues of famous people are being removed. Buildings named “in honor of” famous people are being renamed. Even a whole university was renamed.
These famous people brought light and/or heroics in US history. All of them had parts that most of us today cannot support. They were, without a doubt, the product of their times. Even celebrated religious leaders in various denominations, including our own, had preferences or opinions that we would not today celebrate or endorse.
I was raised in a “Northern” household and a “Southern” household. Needless to say, the Southern household had a lot to say about the “War Between the States” (i.e., the Civil War). Not all of it was accurate, as I would learn. On the other hand, some of the behavior of the “heroes” was equally abhorrent as the defense of slavery, as I also learned.
All were products of their time. They did what they thought was right or did wrong to uphold a “higher” purpose. Sherman’s destructive march through the South comes to mind. Sherman was a military man. He was there to win the war. That was the higher purpose. Later, he was a leader during the Indian Wars (a horrific wiping out of First Nations peoples). This, despite being named after a famous First Nations chief.
The church too, as a whole, has similar shades of darkness in it. As the nation wrestles with its future, it also wrestles with its past. The church has much of the same work to do.
For the church to be what it called by God to be—a light unto the darkness—its people need to be diligent in cleansing, repenting and reconciling its past and current wrongs so that it can be the spreader of hope for a world that desperately needs it.
What people and issues come to mind in this? What will/can you do to be Christ’s light in the darkness?
Father of justice and mercy, be kind and merciful to us as we learn what justice really means, and how to apply it to our lives. Amen.