Yahweh Is Generous to All (Psalms 145:8-11)
by Kosuke Koyama
>Kosuke Koyama is John D.Rockefeller, Jr., Professor of Ecumenics and World Christianity at Union Theology Seminary in New York City. This article appeared in the Christian Century, April 19, 1989, p. 411. Copyright by the Christian Century Foundation and used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at www.christiancentury.org. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.
Yahweh is tenderness and pity,
One image of the universality of God is the shepherd who goes out in search of one sheep that is lost (Luke 15:3-7). The church experiences the universality of God, whose compassion is over all that God has made, not in the 99 sheep in the fold but rather in this searching shepherd. The God who comes to us through the crucified Christ is not a narrow parochial God. God’s love frees us from parochialism, too.
God’s tenderness and generosity is fundamental to the Christian faith. The holy God is a tender and generous God. This is the heart of the Christian sacrament.
The belief that God’s tenderness embraces all creatures gives more meaning to the words with which Abraham Lincoln concluded the Emancipation Proclamation: "And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God." In our world with which God is slow to anger and compassionate, we can always invoke two benedictions, one from God and the other from humanity. It is by the grace (tenderness and generosity) of God that there is such a thing as "the considerate judgment of mankind." (Racists may find it much easier to invoke "the gracious favor of Almighty God" than to invoke ‘the considerate judgment of mankind"!) The Emancipation Proclamation moves in the same direction as the healing universality of the parable of the lost sheep.
In 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City, Martin Luther King, Jr., invited us to repent before God:
We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them 8,000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.
King saw clearly a connection between the events taking place 8,000 miles away and those unfolding on our own doorstep. Imperialism, by definition, ignores or rejects such a connection. Those who cannot discern the connection are not ready to embrace the painful situation. King was not fooled by the distance of 8,000 miles.
Christ embraces human community fully aware of the tragic contradictions in it, and he does so through the symbols of bread broken and wine poured. The one who embraces the contradiction is broken. In the sacrament of the Last Supper the broken Christ embraces all things.
In 1969, two years after King spoke at Riverside, humanity saw for the first time a color photograph of the earth, taken from space by the crew of the Apollo 11 spacecraft. Our planet itself is a Noah’s ark, navigating through infinite space. Though full of human tragedies and contradictions, God embraces this ark. God’s commandment is for us to have "love for one another" (John 13:35). Wherever this "love for one another" is found, there are disciples of Christ. "I have made you a light to the nations, so that my salvation may reach the remotest parts of the earth" (Acts 13:47).