Compassion and The Voice

15 Feb


Matthew 5:21-37

In our continued reading of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel, we are confronted with a Jesus who crosses the line. In last week’s reading, Jesus says that he didn’t come to dismiss the law but to fulfill it. In today’s reading, he shows us what that looks like and it is not easy or comfortable.

D Mark Davis suggests that: “Jesus is quite willing ….- to take the Scriptures and recast them for a new moment. Neither Jesus or Matthew can be accused of being biblical fundamentalists when one reads the text.”

Constantly throughout this reading, Jesus says ‘You have heard that it was said‘ and follows with “But I say to you” before moving the pressure gauge up a notch or four! These are not simple acts of just doing what has been the accepted practice, this is about stepping out of our comfort zone, out of our zone of possessiveness (me and mine) into a place where simply living is costly and sacrificial. It is no longer about a sense of I belong to society because I follow the rules of the club. I am asked to make my way into a space where there are no rules except love, the custodial ethic embracing others as us and ensuring they receive more out of life, even if that means we give up our privilege.

He shifts the ethic of the law to the ethic of compassion. Jesse Middendorf writes: “It is easier to live by lists and laws than it is to live in authentic, dynamic redemptive relationship with people. Laws can be static and arbitrary. Jesus reached into the Law to reveal its objective: the valuing and the protection of others.”

Valuing and the protection of others is not a paternalistic act. We cannot do it to or for others. We can only do so if we live in “an authentic, redemptive relationship with people”, even people who have always been defined by race as the outsider, the indicator of our difference. We are defined by not who we are like but by who we are different to. That is the purpose of the myth of race. To set us apart from those who are not us and cannot be us.

Noel Pearson in his recent lecture series made the controversial comment that “Australians do not like Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.” People reacted and said I do. I like Aboriginal people, I listen to Gurrumul, buy Aboriginal art, and read Thomas Mayo and Stan Grant……… On a personal and superficial level, this may be so.

But the truth is Australia is Australia because it is not Aboriginal. This dynamic of difference defines this nation, a nation built on racism and exclusion right from its beginnings. The White Australia Policy was a bipartisan policy aimed at the external – those coming from somewhere else. Its lifting changed nothing for Aboriginal people because were not included as immigrants or citizens in Australian society or politics.

Australia is Australia because it was taken from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and there has been no attempt to return it. Land rights have been so decimated by various governments that it has no power or benefits for Aboriginal people. This is an example of what happens when something is left solely to legislation and why the Voice enshrined in the constitution is important.

One could argue that the Statement from the Heart is the Sermon on the Mount set in the desert.

Like Jesus, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not fundamentalists in terms of interpreting tradition and the laws in which they live. This statement shifts the focus from them to those who came later. It reminds those responsible for the dispossession and genocide of what happened and then offers an invitation to participate in a compassionate spiritual solution. This solution offers Australia the opportunity to share sovereignty with those who have been sovereign for 65,000 years, from the dreaming and to do so in such a way it will remain for another 65,000 years or to the end of time – in the constitution.

Here is compassion in action, love that expands to include those who were and are responsible for the loss of our culture, spirituality, lore, language, and traditions and offers them the opportunity for redemption. Stan Grant is right, the word missing in this discussion is compassion. He asks for Australia to be compassionate and vote to include us in the benefits of being Australian. And that is appropriate.

Not wanting to argue with a fellow Wiradjuri man, I would suggest he is looking at this from possibly the wrong perspective. It is allowing white Australia the power to define us with a stroke of the pen. Compassion has already been extended. It is there in the invitation from our people to your people. It is not about you doing a good thing for us but recognizing despite all that has happened to us since 1788 we still have the compassion to reach out our hand and say journey with us.

Yes, part of the journey is to allow us to share sovereignty with you, in fact, to legitimize the sovereignty imposed in the constitution by including the sovereignty that remains and will always remain. This is compassion. We do not want to take from you what you have, we only seek to enhance it by including us and what defines us, our relationship with this country, in the constitution allowing us to provide wisdom and insight on matters pertaining to us based on a millennium of experience.

It is not up to white politicians, media commentators, newspaper editors, or society to make the decision or to have compassion, although that would be nice. We have already decided to share sovereignty with you and to invite you into a compassionate spiritual process that will incarnate a new kin-dom in Australia. There is no hidden detail or catches. It is what it is. All you must do is accept this invitation by saying yes, I’m in.

  • Perhaps one of the reasons people find it difficult is that it is simple, one question, one question only.
  • Perhaps another is the scepticism that is rife in our society when someone offers us something we desperately need but fear it’s not real.
  • Perhaps another is that people find it difficult to understand how people who have been so badly treated can remain so generous and compassionate that they invite us to let them bring redemption to our society.

Alan Brehm suggests: “We find freedom when we commit ourselves to do God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. We find freedom when we live our lives in harmony with God’s justice and peace and mercy. We find freedom when we embrace a way of living that is defined by love.”

We find belonging when we accept the absurd compassion of those who have no right to extend it. This is the core principle of the Christian gospel. It is the absurdity f the Statement From The Heart.

The Voice is just the beginning.

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