Tag Archives: justice

Second Sunday of Advent year A


Psalm: 72:1-7, 18-19
OT Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10
NT Reading: Romans 15:4-13
Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12

Very belatedly now, I’m looking at the lectionary readings for the second Sunday in Advent.

Often it is quite a challenge to perceive a connection between the readings. In this instance, there is the repeated refrain of Christ as ‘the root of Jesse’, the king of righteousness whom the gentiles (nations) will seek. But how does the passage in Matthew relate to Advent?

I picked up volume 2 of the new Northumbria Community’s Celtic Prayer: Farther Up and Father In, and glanced through its readings for Advent.

It says “This is the path that John marked, whose voice called in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’.”

That is it precisely. As we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord (which Christmas is supposed to represent), we need above all to repent; that is, to ‘make teshuvah’, to turn away from those things in our lives which distract us, produce negativity and unhappiness in ourselves and others, and embrace the Kingdom life in which love rules, and righteous justice for the poor, the weak, the vulnerable is brought to bear.

Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel,  who only doth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory.

Amen and amen.


Election Prayer

My battery is dying, so this will be a quick one. I just wanted to post this prayer for the election.

Abba Father,
We come into your presence on our knees,
And we acknowledge our sins and the sins of this nation – the things we have done and the things we have failed to do.
We ask for your mercy Father, for your Great Name’s sake.
Have mercy on this land and this people.
Restore us to yourself.
May your will be done in this election.
May we not get the government that we deserve, but the government that will bring glory to your name and heal this land.
In the name and for the sake of Jesus we pray,

(c) Shoshana Sharon Tootill, 2015

Hate the sin, love the sinner

I always feel uncomfortable when I read or hear people using words like ‘scum’ and ‘filth’ to describe human beings, and especially so when the ones doing so call themselves Christians.

Sometimes, obviously it is understandable when referring to people who have done despicable things and appear to have absolutely no conscience or humanity enough to repent. I’m not talking about bankers or estate agents here, I’m talking about the kind of people who rape, abuse and murder.

Last night I had a discussion on one of my twitter accounts (I have several – I may get round to posting links to them at some point) about the ISIS fighters who killed the Jordanian pilot. What was done was absolutely horrific and utterly reprehensible; there is no question about that at all.

A Christian (lady? man? not sure now I think of it, as the name is neutral and could be either) who tweets officially for a Christian charity posted a tweet in which he / she called the perpetrators ‘filth’.

Yes, of course, it is perfectly understandable to respond in such a way to such brazen evil. But is it right? Is it ‘Christian’?

I posted in response: “I agree they’re utterly despicable. But Christ died to redeem ‘filth’ like them. Seems inappropriate 4 believers 2 use.”

He / she responded to me: “Read Jesus on religious hypocrites. ‘Broods of vipers’, ‘whitewashed tombs full of filth?’ Take your sanctimony elsewhere.”

OK, interesting. I have never been called sanctimonious before! Well just to be absolutely clear, the Dictionary.com definition of sanctimony is:

“pretended, hypocritical, religious devotion, righteousness,etc.”

Well, no – sorry. I can’t confess to that. Hypocrisy and pretense are things I find disgusting and intolerable, so I hope I can never be legitimately accused of that.

So what of Jesus’ pronouncement? Was he addressing a comparable situation, and does it follow that Christians should be free to speak to and about people in like manner?

Well, let’s look at the context. Jesus was addressing some of the Jewish religious leaders who should have known better. They were members of the Covenant people, they had the Law, they had a history of revelation from the true and living God who (despite some Christian misapprehensions) revealed himself even in the ‘Old Testament’ as a God whose character is defined by loving-kindness. If their hearts had been in the right place they could have known the very heart of God.

But there is a difference between how those within the Covenant family of faith should deal with those who are within the Covenant and those who are outside. This is not the same as ‘religious’ and ‘non-religious’, since the word ‘religious’ can also include those who have no knowledge whatsoever of the God of love as revealed in the Bible. It has no meaning in this context. the ISIS terrorists may be as religious as ever can be, but they have no knowledge or experience of the God of love as revealed in the Bible.

Such ‘religious’ people are in utter spiritual darkness. Their greatest need is to be exposed to the light of Christ and be spiritually reborn, and indeed Christ died for them. Yes, even ISIS.

“The vilest offender who truly believes that moment, from Jesus, a pardon receives” – Fanny Crosby, hymnwriter

If you are a Christian, you must believe that redemption and repentance is always possible. That is not to say that such crimes should not have consequences. Murder and abuse cannot go unpunished when a character becomes reformed. (A genuinely reformed character would be prepared to surrender themselves to punishment, whether it be execution or life imprisonment).

But eternal forgiveness is available. The ‘filth’ is not the people themselves, but their sin, and that can ultimately be washed away back into the pit of hell from whence it came.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

We often used to hear the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin” but more and more I am seeing an inability to divide the two – either we seek to love the sinner by accommodating the sin, or fail to stop short of hating the sinner when we hate the sin. We must, as Christians, learn to hate the sin but love the sinner.

I have also seen this kind of wrong-headed judgmentalism by Christians on either side of the Israel debate several times recently, and it makes me feel rather  despairing. Ultimately, it does damage to the cause, (the charity in question in this case) and ultimately the world that we are supposed to be trying to heal, because if we fail to offer the transforming love and spiritual rebirth that Christ makes available to those who need the light so badly, the darkness will be unstoppable.


I learned today, via a contact on Twitter, Rachel Barenblat, the @VelveteenRabbi (I hope you get the literary reference) that Israel has a policy of detaining Palestinian suspects without charge, sometimes for years.

I don’t know how I have been unaware of this fact, except that I probably tend to see Israel with slightly rose-tinted glasses.

The last thing I would ever want to do would be to damage Israel in anything I say or do. I know that Israel for the most part is a haven of democracy in a very toxic surrounding culture, and despite constant accusations of being an ‘apartheid state’, it is nothing of the sort. Furthermore, Arabs and Muslims living in Israel are known to fare better there and have more freedom than in any Muslim State.

Israel’s argument for legitimacy far outweighs the arguments of its detractors.

Nevertheless, detention without charge, especially for long periods is wrong. It’s not justice, and as @VelveteenRabbi says, it’s not Judaism.

I tend towards Libertarianism politically in a lot of ways, and generally speaking I would support freedom of travel and movement. But how could a country that is surrounded by people who passionately hate and desire the destruction of its inhabitants survive without State controls?

The only answer is that it couldn’t. If Israel is to survive, it must protect itself.

But surely such protection must not extend to contravening the human rights of suspects, even if they are suspected of terrorism.

Looking at the Twitter feed of the Israeli Centre for Human Rights, it reports that the Palestinan’s top runner has been denied entry to Israel to run in the marathon. How petty that decision seems! Meanwhile, though, Israel has released another batch of *convicted* terrorists and murderers to the Palestinians who, rather than incarcerating them themselves for their crimes, as any other State would be expected to do to murderers, celebrates these wicked men as heroes.

Israel, just like Palestine, obviously has a lot to learn about genuine justice.

May God restore justice to His people!