By Walter Brueggemann
Faith is a summons to be different, to have a different buoyancy and to live a different ethic. That difference is visible in Psalm 5. After the Psalmist details all kinds of ignoble conduct on the part of the wicked and evil-doers (such as being bloodthirsty and deceitful) (vv. 4-6), then comes, “But I” (v. 7). The “I” of faith acts from the assurance of God’s loyal love (v. 7) and is led by God to a straight, safe path (v. 8).
Father Abraham is described in these Genesis narratives as being different and making a difference. In 13:8-9 he commits an act of uncommon generosity by letting his nephew, Lot, choose the land he wants. In response, Abraham receives sweeping promise from God to receive the land of promise (13: ). That divine promise, moreover, is verified in the remarkable covenant-making ritual of chapter 15. Abraham and his family are marked as carrier of difference that is grounded only in God’s promise.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs his disciples on making a difference by loving one’s enemies. That difference is the vocation of the church. The church faces two temptations; one is to give up difference and fade into the social landscape along with everyone else. The other is to separate from all the others to be safe, pure, and unvexed by social reality. Neither is faithful. Rather this community is dispatched to be engaged in transformative, reconciling generosity, the only difference that finally matters.
We pray for courage to be different. In our self-indulgence we do not want to be different. In our fearfulness we cringe from our vocation. Give us hearts shaped by courage and resolve that persists. Amen.