It doesn’t seem to me that the question is all that pertinent these days.
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Maybe that question made sense in the first century, but maybe the burning question in Canada this week is:
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit the keys to power? What must I do to be re-elected, preferably with a majority? Good teacher, you know something about ruling, what must I do to become the Prime Minister of Canada? What must I do to inherit (or retain) the Prime Minister’s office?”
“Well, obey the Torah,” Jesus might reply. “You know, ‘you shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honour your father and your mother,’ and ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'”
I could see Jesus saying this. After all what was the only thing that the Torah required of those who would be kings in Israel? That they meditate on Torah. Not that they would amass great wealth, nor chariots and horses, nor many wives, just that they meditate on Torah. If they meditate on Torah and not get taken up with economic growth, military power and strategic alliances, then they would rule with wisdom.
So, let’s boil it down to a few of the great commandments. Can you take care of this kind of business in your life? Then maybe you could be the Prime Minister.
Now I don’t really know anything about any of the leaders’ family lives. Whether they have committed adultery or been dishonouring of their parent isn’t really up for public discussion.
But how about murder, bearing false witness and loving our neighbours?
You see there’s more than one way to kill someone. If you fail to provide the necessities of life for the poorest of the poor, or fail to provide safe drinking water to native reservations, or refuse to provide foreign aid that will protect life, might any of this amount to murder? Are there political ways to engage in murder?
And bearing false witness, well this election has been called on a matter of contempt. Surely contempt of parliament, the refusal to honestly divulge what government policies and plans will really cost, is a bearing of false witness.
But if the election was kick-started by false witness, then you can be pretty sure that it will be characterized from beginning to end by false witness on all sides. We don’t really expect elections to be about truth anymore, do we?
And love your neighbour as yourself? Well that is really at the heart of politics, isn’t it? I mean, what is politics if not a commitment to the common good? And what is the name of political love of neighbour, if not justice? You see if this election isn’t about the meaning of loving our neighbour as ourselves, then the whole thing really is a sham.
I don’t know how the party leaders would respond to these questions. But my hunch is that none of them would be able to say, “Teacher, I have obeyed all these since my youth.” They would each have to at least confess that they have borne false witness and perhaps not always sought policies that really could stand the test of love of neighbour.
So maybe Jesus would never have to get to the follow-up requirement that he laid upon this rich young man. Maybe he would never have to push the issue further and say, “One thing you lack, go sell everything that you have and give it to the poor.”
It’s a good thing that he would never get that far if any of the leaders came to him. Because my hunch is that they would all shake their heads and wonder what kind of a world this guy lives in. They would all be dismayed at the political and economic naiveté of this requirement. They would all have to conclude that while the teacher may be good, he is not politically or economically realistic.
I wonder if we would all walk away as well.
Let’s find out tomorrow morning at Wine Before Breakfast.
Chris Dow has shaped the liturgy and will be preaching.
The band returns with Cockburn’s “Dweller by a Dark Stream” shaping our prayers.
And David Neelands will break the bread and offer the wine for free.
Wine Before Breakfast
Tuesday @ 7.22am Wycliffe Chapel
All rich young rulers, political hopefuls and everyday citizens welcome.