Archives for posts with tag: New York

Most people are at least somewhat familiar with, or have heard of, the story of the Tower of Babel. This story is found in Genesis 11. What might not be so obvious is the connection between the Tower of Babel and Abraham’s being called by God from his homeland, Ur of the Chaldeans.

The name Ur in the Babylonian languages means “the city.” To refer to a city as “the city” indicates it is a powerful, marvelous city. I can certainly relate to that personally, having attended seminary just north of “the city”/New York City. Anywhere near that area when someone refers to “the city,” they are referring to New York City. In fact, generally speaking, a reference to “the city” is even more specific than to New York City in general—it is referring to Manhattan proper, one of the boroughs, and not the entirety of New York City. For example, someone in Queens or Brooklyn might mention “going to the city” while they are already in New York City because they are speaking specifically of that most marvelous borough of Manhattan—the one with the enormous buildings that is always bustling with people and traffic.

If we have this in mind we can see the connection between the Tower of Babel and Ur. At the beginning of Genesis 11, God is displeased with humanity because they had decided to congregate in one place and build (remember, I mentioned building is usually not good!). They did this specifically to “make a name for [themselves] lest [they] be scattered abroad” across the entire earth (vs. 4). This behavior displeased God, who had previously commanded humanity to spread forth and multiply, because it represents human arrogance. So God confused the languages at Babel and scattered humanity across the face of the earth.

Now, if you don’t like God’s approach at the Tower of Babel, at least respect His consistency! Because we quickly see once again God call Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans, out of “the city” and into a wide open space. Throughout the rest of Scripture, God will primarily deal with His people either out in the open, in the wilderness, or in exile and slavery. In all of these cases the people are tested to see if they truly put their trust in God or if they instead trust in their own endeavors and accomplishments. Israel will often be tested to see whether they rely on God or whether they wish to “make a name for themselves.” They will find out if they trust in God and His Law to provide them with eternal protection or whether they will rely on the city gates, the political leaders, and the armies to protect them instead.

For me, personally, what I have mentioned above is one of the most challenging aspects of Scripture. I have to ask myself: do I really put my trust in God and His promises? Or do I rely more on the protection provided by the locks on my front door, or the police officers patrolling the neighborhood, or our military protecting us from foreign invasion? If I’m honest with myself, I probably will not like my answer.

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As a Yankees fan, the season (and perhaps career) ending injury of Mariano Rivera has been tough news today.  For those who are not aware, Mariano Rivera is one of the all-time great baseball players and a New York Yankee.  He is one of the best pitchers in the history of the game.  Indications were Mariano would retire after this season.  He has always been considered a class act as a human being and player, never being connected with any sort of controversy or immorality.  He has been as consistent over the past twenty years as any player in any sport, and last was on the disabled list for an injury 9 years ago.

Mariano is respected by his teammates and opponents alike.  He is known as a generous, Christian family man.  Given his history, everyone familiar with him hoped he would finish with yet another strong season, a fitting tribute to a good human being and superb athlete.  No one would have dreamed his career might end in the outfield of Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City during batting practice while he was shagging fly balls and twisted his knee (tearing his ACL).

One of my initial thoughts about this situation was the sadness he surely feels.  I also thought about the injustice of the situation.  An apparently good, honest, upright man who worked hard and was respected by everyone goes out in such a tragic way.  Granted, Mariano has millions of dollars to help comfort him–don’t get me wrong–but for me the deeper issue from a Christian perspective is the lack of justice in this situation. 

I think most people consider justice to be a good and noble thing.  However, true justice simply does not exist in this world.  Furthermore, I would argue, it has little place in Christianity.

St Isaac the Syrian once said (I’m paraphrasing) God is not just.  For where is the justice in the only sinless one dying for the sins of others?   Now, this is not to say God is unjust, but rather that God exceeds justice (emphasizing a higher virtue of mercy and compassion).  The reality is, through God’s grace, we have the possibility of not “getting what we deserve.”  We have the possibility of repentance and forgiveness and restoration.  Moreover, those in this world who suffer injustices are promised to be recompensed in the afterlife.  This is the gist of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).  It is also reflected in the Magnificat from Luke’s Gospel: “He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich has He sent empty away” (Luke 1:53).

As Christians, we should spend much less time and energy thinking about “justice.”  There is no justice in this world.  Instead, in this world, we should focus on showing love, mercy, and compassion.  These are the highest gifts, the greatest virtues (1 Corinthians 13:13).  “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13, see also Matthew 12:7).