God’s Partiality

Today’s First Reading hit me like a ton of bricks for some reason:

“Hear, O kings, and understand;
learn, you magistrates of the earth’s expanse!
Hearken, you who are in power over the multitude
and lord it over throngs of peoples!
Because authority was given you by the Lord
and sovereignty by the Most High,
who shall probe your works and scrutinize your counsels.
Because, though you were ministers of his kingdom, you judged not rightly,
and did not keep the law,
nor walk according to the will of God,
Terribly and swiftly shall he come against you,
because judgment is stern for the exalted–
For the lowly may be pardoned out of mercy
but the mighty shall be mightily put to the test.
For the Lord of all shows no partiality,
nor does he fear greatness,
Because he himself made the great as well as the small,
and he provides for all alike;
but for those in power a rigorous scrutiny impends.
To you, therefore, O princes, are my words addressed
that you may learn wisdom and that you may not sin.” Wisdom 6:1-9

There is a short parallel in the New Testament: “There is no partiality with God.” (Romans 2:11.) It makes sense that God would show no partiality, since He is infinite in love and mercy and has no need to. Giving love doesn’t diminish God’s greatness, even if we squander it, and there’s no limit, so He can afford to give it all the time no matter what.  Even if we weren’t all loved equally,  the tiniest piece of God’s love would be beyond our comprehension, better than we could dare hope for, and a call for others to respect that love.

The big problem of theology in this age (or any) it seems to me is an insistence that God either loves someone less than us, or God doesn’t love a particular class of people at all. And of course, if God doesn’t love somebody, we’re excused, aren’t we? People God doesn’t love deserve what they get, and maybe we have an obligation to show no mercy. We are happy to show partiality, and will do it even when we proclaim we’re being impartial. We have no problems practicing a kind of spiritual Jim Crow standard.

God isn’t like us. In saying we’re better, we give ourselves license for all kinds of evil without penalty or consequences. And no matter how right we may be about other things of faith, as Paul describes in the famous passage in 1 Corinthians 13, without love we are nothing. Without unconditional love we are nothing. With partiality, we are nothing.

God sets a high standard for us here. Even though it seems inhuman, God has no partiality. We’re better off accepting this, getting used to it, and living with it, even changing our hearts to follow it, whether we’re in public office or not. If God loves each of us as if there were only one of us (as St. Augustine says,) we have a great obligation to all the people God loves unconditionally. And we don’t get to speculate whether God doesn’t love somebody else, or what we might deserve. People God loves already have the best, and deserve our unconditional respect and affection. As far as I know, that’s everybody.

 

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