By Father Casey Shobe
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and I want to share a story about something that happened through my participation in HeROs. HeROs (He Respects Others) is an auxiliary of Genesis Women’s Shelter that focuses on helping men become part of the solution to domestic violence. A few years ago I attended the annual membership recruitment breakfast. It was pretty typical: room full of men in suits; excellent keynote speaker; presentation of the sobering statistics on DV; brief talk on what HeROs do in support of Genesis.
Then – and I’ll never forget this – a man, who happens to be a member of our church, got up to deliver the “recruitment pitch.” With his two young sons at his side, he said that he wasn’t “asking” the men to join the fight against domestic violence. He didn’t “hope they would consider it.” He said that standing on the side of abused women and children is not something a man of character or integrity could choose not to do. He didn’t just hope his sons would grow up to be defenders of abused women and children, he expected them to.
“Which is why,” he said, “today I expect you to join.”
I remember it so vividly, because he was right. In a world full of choices, there are some things that are simply not optional, and defending the most vulnerable people in our society against violence is something we should all simply be expected to do – as human beings, let alone as followers of Jesus. There are baseline levels of decency that we can rightly expect all people to uphold, and particularly all who call themselves Christians.
This is essentially what Jesus is getting at in the parable we’ll hear this weekend. Here it is as told in The Message:
“Suppose one of you has a servant who comes in from plowing the field or tending the sheep,” Jesus says. “Would you take his coat, set the table, and say, ‘Sit down and eat’? Wouldn’t you be more likely to say, ‘Prepare dinner; change your clothes and wait table for me until I’ve finished my coffee; then go to the kitchen and have your supper’? Does the servant get special thanks for doing what’s expected of him? It’s the same with you. When you’ve done everything expected of you, be matter-of-fact and say, ‘The work is done. What we were told to do, we did.’”
Our society is struggling with the gradual erosion of the foundations of basic morality. Leaders are not held to the same standard of decency and integrity that they once were. Honesty is no longer required. Respect for others is optional, based on circumstances. Decisions are determined with less regard to their moral dimensions than what’s in it for us. What will the result be? How will this help me? But Jesus wants us to know that disciples live by a different calculus. It’s not, “What’s in it for me,” but “What is required of me?” What is the responsibility of a follower of Christ in this situation? How am I expected to live when I join my life to his?
Which reminds me of part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus most famous teaching on the life of discipleship. Here is how it appears in The Message:
If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it.
This is the attitude that should guide our relationships with others, including, as I preached a couple of weeks ago, our commitment to pray for leaders we don’t support. Christians are held to a standard of conduct and behavior that is not rooted in the calculus of “what’s in it for me,” but “what is required of me?” And what is required of us is to love all people with the love of God.
Friends, as you draw another week to a close, give prayerful consideration to whether you have done what is expected of you. Have I always told the truth? Have I sided with victims and the vulnerable? Have I loved my neighbor as myself? Have I used my wealth to bless others, especially the poor? These are just a few of the things that, if we’re reading the gospels carefully, we realize aren’t just nice behaviors we could choose but basic expectations for those who join their life to Christ. And every day, every hour, every minute, is another opportunity to recommit to do what Christ has told us to do.
About Father Casey
Casey became the fourth rector of Transfiguration in October 2014 after having served churches in Rhode Island and Houston. He is married to Melody Shobe, also an Episcopal priest, and they have two daughters, Isabelle and Adelaide. Casey grew up in Temple, Texas, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin. His Master of Divinity was earned at Virginia Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry at the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee). He loves playing golf, road cycling, hiking, brewing beer, and working in his yard. You can contact Father Casey by email.