A quote by the Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder caught my attention recently. From his unique eschatological perspective, he offered a critique in saying that we are obsessed with "a deep desire to make things move in the right direction. Whether a given action is right or not seems to be inseparable from the question of what effects it will cause. Thus part if not all social concern has to do with looking for the right 'handle' by which one can 'get a hold on' the course of history and move it in the right direction."
The context for the quote is a commentary on the Gospel of Matthew by Stanley Hauerwas, reflecting on Matthew's apocalyptic section in chapters 24 and 25. In speaking to that desire to move history in a particular direction, Hauerwas comments that rather than focusing on the exact future day and time of the apocalypse, Jesus is teaching his disciples how to faithfully live in the moment with his response to their questions and in telling the parables of the Ten Bridesmaids, the Talents, and the Separation of the Sheep and the Goats.
I had never before thought of that drive towards social justice as being a construct used to turn history in a certain direction. The quote bothered me as I think I saw myself in it. It felt like there was a prompt there to question how much of history's movements should be left to God's sovereignty and at what cost is humanity trying to direct things? How does living in the moment distinguish itself from trying to make history change course?
By way of application, may we take action that is faithful in the moment, balanced in our approach to justice. May we allow ourselves to be productive partners with God, both living under his sovereignty and as willing servants doing our part to fulfill our dynamic calling.
Rev. Dr. Jennifer Bales
Communications Director &
Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church