4 If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.
We are called to help our enemies in a proactive way. If there was someone who despised me, and I happened to witness their ox or donkey wander off (or some modern equivalent of troubles), I could easily do nothing. It’s not like I let them escape or personally caused this trouble to happen. I am under no obligation to help them with their troubles. I could rest easy knowing that I didn’t do anything wrong by not assisting since it had nothing to do with me.But God calls us to do something, even for people who are our enemy.
We are to be proactive in helping them. While it would be simple enough to just “not do anything” if their ox or donkey wandered off, we are called to bring their animal back to them. If we see their donkey fall down under its load, we could easily just keep on walking since it’s not our fault, but instead God calls us to stop and help our enemy with it.
This is difficult!
In reading Russ Reznik’s essay Messianic Jewish Ethics in Introduction to Messianic Judaism, he writes “the divine image is obviously not a physical resemblance, but neither is it an abstract spiritual resemblance. Rather, it entails representing God through active engagement with the creation.
This understanding of the image of God gives rise to the Jewish idea that God does ethics before we do, that our ethical behavior is not just a matter of obedience, or even of pleasing God, but of reflecting God and his nature, fulfilling the assignment to bear the divine image.”
It’s hard to imagine what life would be like if God treated us like we treated our enemies. Even when we despise God, God loves us and blesses us. We are called to proactively bless our enemy, not just passively “not” harm them. We aren’t called to do this so much for obedience, but rather as a reflection of the divine image of God. God does ethics first.
I am slowly working through a collection of essays, edited by David Rudolph and Joel Willitts, entitled Introduction to Messianic Judaism. This is an excellent read, especially in light of the growth of the Messianic Jewish community and the interest of “gentiles” in the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith.
This book covers a lot of material: Messianic Jews in antiquity and the modern era, the “nuts and bolts” so to speak of Messianic worship style, synagogues, ethics, role of and relationship with women, and the relationship of Messianic Judaism and Israel. The relationship of Messianic Jews and the wider Jewish community, as well as with the Christian church, is also discussed.
There is a lot to chew in this book. I keep my Bible within reach, as well as my computer for clarification of unfamiliar concepts or words. Each chapter has suggestions for additional reading. and I find myself following rabbit trails as I read.
I’ve made it through the first half of the book, and rather than go through all the previous chapters, I am going to look through some of my notes and post some of the more significant points that I wrote down. As I work through the second half, I’ll continue to post quotes and thoughts on the current reading.
I’m a member of a wonderful reading group online, and being a member has really challenged me to increase my personal reading and personal scholarship. For the month of February I am reading Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, by Madeleine L’Engle.
Having only ever read her works of fiction, this book selection is revelatory. This book delves into the relationship between art and the act of creating, and our faith in the Creator.
As I read, I find myself nodding along and writing down select lines. I will share them, along with any other thoughts as I progress through the book. I’d love to hear feedback if you are also reading, or have read, this book.
I have been reading the Bible following the Good Morning Girls schedule for a couple of months, and it’s been a real blessing. It is one chapter a day, with the intention of really getting into the scripture one small piece at a time. Courtney at Women Living Well promotes the SOAK method. The SOAK method is simple:
Scripture – Focus on one or a couple verses from that day’s chapter. Even in a chapter as “mundane” as one detailing the measurements of the Tabernacle’s curtains or listing off the geneology of one of the tribes of Israel, we can find a gem, a nugget of wisdom from God.
Observation – What is the selected verse talking about; what are our observations?
Application – This one is a little harder. How does what we observe in the selected verse(s) apply to our life today? How can we use this scripture to grow in our spiritual life?
Kneel in Prayer – Previously P for Prayer in the SOAP method. How are we moved to pray following our bible study?
The new year started with the reading of Exodus, and will be wrapping up this month. I’ll be sharing some of my SOAK notes for the remainder of Exodus, and then move into Matthew in March.