Thus says the LORD:
You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry; my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children orphans.
If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them. If you take your neighbor’s cloak in pawn, you shall restore it before the sun goes down; for it may be your neighbor’s only clothing to use as cover; in what else shall that person sleep? And if your neighbor cries out to me, I will listen, for I am compassionate.
Psalm 18:1-3, 46, 50
I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
so I shall be saved from my enemies.
The Lord lives! Blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation,
Great triumphs he gives to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his descendants forever.
1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10
Brothers and sisters:
You know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘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.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
In the Exodus reading, we consider God’s compassion and his wrath. We understand that he gets angry when someone hurts his defenseless, poor, children and responds when they cry out to him. We feel the same way and it is kind of a relief to think that God’s wrath will burn against an abuser and that he will give them a taste of their own medicine. But the death of our enemies, the widowhood of their wives and the orphaning of their children does not really bring anything satisfying to victims. It does not correct a wrong. It does not teach empathy.
It is better for people to change rather than be destroyed. So in the Gospel we learn that the love of God is not for wrath but for salvation. The greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbor.
Followers of Jesus, like God, still hate abuse, injustice, and sin, but they show love not by avenging victims of hurt. Even if they are being persecuted, they accept the word of God with joy and imitate the Lord, while waiting for his return.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank you that you care about the ways we suffer injustice in our lives. In your compassion, I ask for grace for those who are in need of empathy, and repentance for those who are in danger of wrath. May the suffering and death of Jesus always help me to remember to suffer wrongs patiently and to offer it as a sacrifice for the conversion of souls. Amen