Note that Jesus reserves his most damning and dualistic statements for matters of social justice where power is most resistant: “You cannot serve both God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24); “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24); or the clear dichotomy in Matthew 25 between sheep (who feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned) and goats (who don’t). The context is important. Jesus’ foundational and even dualistic bias is against false power and in favor of the powerless. If you do not make such points absolutely clear (and even if you do, as Jesus did), history shows that humans will almost always compromise on issues of justice, power, money, and inclusion.
.. The United States always has all the money it needs for war, weapons, and bailing out banks, but never enough for good schools, low cost housing, universal health care, or welcoming refugees. Has this not become obvious? No wonder Jesus dared to be dualistic and dramatic first! He offers clear, contrasting statements about issues of ultimate significance and calls us to decide between them. His point is always transformation.
Unfortunately, Christians have managed to avoid most of what Jesus taught so unequivocally: nonviolence, sharing, simplicity, loving our enemies.
.. Over the next couple weeks, I will explore how we might embrace Jesus and the prophets’ calls to “do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with God” in this world (see Micah 6:8).