Who will be Spared?
In the first reading from Genesis 18:20-32, for the Sunday of July 29th, we find Abraham negotiating for the good and innocent people of Sodom and Gomorrah with God. The conversation between Abraham and God sounded like this:
While Abraham’s visitors walked on farther toward Sodom, the LORD remained standing before Abraham. Then Abraham drew nearer and said: “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike! Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?” The LORD replied, “If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
Abraham continued this conversation with God until God promised that Sodom and Gomorrah would be saved if there were at least ten good people.
About ten years ago I went to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. with a group of Jewish students from Tufts University. As a Christian it was very powerful to go with this group of students. As I toured the museum I learned a lot about ways in which people and countries stood up for the Jews and those being targeted by Hitler, and just as much about those who did nothing.
I remember the following poem/writing by the German anti-Nazi activist, Pastor Martin Niemöller:
In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me – and by that time no one was left to speak up.
In our world today we encounter situations which are unjust. How often do we dare to speak up like Abraham in the first reading from Genesis? Or are we like the writer in the passage above who did not speak up?
In the gospel of July 29th, we are invited by Jesus to speak up. We are not expected to be professional prayers…we are merely asked to use the prayer that Jesus gave his disciples long ago to speak up on the behalf not only of our needs, but also the needs of others.
The challenge given to us by Abraham and Pastor Martin Niemöller is to speak on behalf of those who are different from us! Whether that be for someone who speaks a different language, comes from a different neighborhood, and/or worships God in a different way than me. In the gospel, Jesus gives us words to use. Let us dare to learn the important lesson from Pastor Martin Niemöller and Abraham, that one or more voices can make a difference.