Thursday, March 30, 2017

Malachi 3:5 By: Judy Trumbo Vine

Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. (NRSV)

In this passage, the LORD is speaking through the prophet Malachi to the Israelites.  The context: He is vowing swift judgement against those who do not fear Him.  And who are those people? In a list of inequities he includes "those who thrust aside the alien".  Other translations say, "turn aside the sojourner from his right" (ASV); "deprive the foreigners among you of justice" (NIV) . There is no distinction between one who treats the foreigner unfairly and one who lies, one who cheats on spouses or laborers, and more. Even sorcery is on an equal plane. All who are unrepentant of these sins will incur the swift judgement of God.

Now this may not be the basis on which to build a national policy on immigrants and refugees--after all there are interests to balance, borders and a populace to secure and defend. Both Paul and Jesus admonish us to obey our leaders (although I think a case can be made that God's law is higher that human law).

But this warning in Malachi must be of concern to us individual Christians.  It is prescient to the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25), in which Jesus tells of judgement that will come down upon those who treat "the least of these" without compassion.  

It calls to mind the passage in 1John (20-21):  20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

1John in turn echoes the greatest commandment, as Jesus states in Matthew 22: 37 “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  Full circle to Malachi 3:5.  

Like the widow, the spouse, the laborer, and orphan--like all people we come into contact with-- foreigners are made in the image of God, and therefore worthy of respect, compassion and justice.

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