‘Such as these’ 2 – Nicholas Wolterstorff

NOTES (these are not direct quotes but paraphrases)

“Setting the Biblical/Theological Stage”

By Nicholas Wolterstorff, Professor Emeritus Yale University

The grand charter for Christian social work is Matt 24… In the parable, Jesus declared that in welcoming the stranger we are welcoming him… It has also been a favorite of the artists of the church. …

Every translation available mistranslates the Greek at two points. …

Isaiah passage… the downtrodden …

Jesus invites us to bring Isaiah into the picture. …

The word “righteous” in Matthew 24 is better translated “justice.” … If this is on the right track and it is about justice, then reference the great commandment. Jesus speaks of love not justice. … It would seem we are to treat our neighbor not as justice requires but as gratitous love requires…. But that is not the case. … The two love commands are quotations from the Torah. … If you want to understand what Jesus meant by agape, it would be good to look at the OT context for the second command. … Moses is instructing Israelites to treat fellow Israelites with justice. … Love does not supercede justice nor are they to be pitted against each other… examples of treating the neighbor justly are cited as examples as loving the neighbor. Agape encorates justice. …  Shalom goes beyond justice.

Back now to to the court parable. … By wronging the downtrodden we are wronging Jesus. … You and I are latecomers in history. We cannot literally do things for Jesus, but we can treat him with justice or injustice. … By not doing these things we violate what Jesus was called to do, thus we wrong him. … That ups the ante enormously. We thought we were being good and gracious by extending charity. Now we understand we’re doing what justice requires. …

The injustices of the world are the wounds of God.

Some say the exclusive business of government is to protect our freedoms. … Some believe in a safety net. … They must have not read Romans about the God-given task of government, which is to curb wrongdoing. … Freedom is important, but justice is basic. … To those who say a safety net should be preserved, grutitous charity is optional; it goes beyond what is required, which is justice. … Bible does not say government should be dispenser of welfare. It is the task of government to see to it that the weak and vulnerable are not being wronged, that they are being treated justly.

The parable of the great trial… It’s familiar, but it is strange. … All nations gathered before the king, the Son of Man. … Told two days before Jesus’ final Passover… a parable of his coming kingship. … you and I are in the crowd before the King. … Jesus says the father does not bless us for any acts of our piety. … the reason he gives instead is feeding hungry, welcoming stranger, visiting prisoner. … This is really strange. becuae all except those who encountered him at his lifetime have never done these things to him…. But when we’ve done this to such as the least of these, we’ve done it to Him. … Has our perplexity been resolved? … No. …

Raise an important issue of interpretation, which is entertwined with translation that I mentioned. … The word “righteous” occurred twice. … dikios … the righteous. … to the best of my knowledge is always translated same way in English. Who am I to question? … Vulgate and translations in romance languages translate it with their word for “just.” It’s the just who enter into eternal life. … The Greek word was ambiguous at the time so you’ve got to use context to determine the appropriate meeting. … Righteousness is a character trait; justice is a social designation. … Blessed are those who are persecutued for the sake of rectitude or for the sake of justice. … The upright are seldom persecuted. It’s the people who pursue justice that get under the skin of other people and thus get persecuted. …

I think Jesus was here talking about justice. … Coming to the aid of others is a matter of justice not of gratuitous charity.

Wolterstorff spoke during a May 24-25, 2011, conference titled, “…such as these…”: An Evangelical Advocacy Response to Global Childhood Hunger. The event was held at Dallas Baptist University and sponsored by Bread for the World, Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, National Association of Evangelicals, Micah Challenge, Baptist World Alliance, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, and DBU.

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