Print Version October 6th, 2005
There’s something almost comforting about dear old Malachi. It could be a Conservative Party conference in Blackpool. ‘Look at the state of the world. Look at what we’ve come to. Look how things have gone to the dogs.’ It seems things haven’t been the way they used to be for at least a few thousand years.
Malachi’s complaint is that you can’t tell the bad from the good any more. In two senses. The bad guys aren’t getting their comeuppance any more. In fact we rather admire them—the arrogant, the go-ahead, the ruthless—and covet the blessings they inherit.
Malachi’s solution is appropriately apocalyptic. The day is coming, burning like a furnace and all the arrogant and the evil will be burnt up like stubble. But the others, the good guys—let’s hope that us—well, God makes allowances for us like the good sons and daughters we are.
Malachi wants to call a spade a spade—he wants clear labels sown on our clothes to mark the evil out from the good—he wants no ambiguity, no shades of grey. No more embarrassment when bad guys prosper and good guys suffer. The day is here when God gets tough on crime and we get a ringside seat at the show.
Jesus on the other hand is asking us to take a step back and a step inward. He’s asking us to entertain two awkward truths at one time. It’s this: we, who are evil, know how to give our children what is good. Malachi’s division runs right through us. We are good guy and bad guy all at once. In here.
In here we know ourselves cruel and kind, compassionate and callous, arrogant and humble. And somehow God looks upon our divided hearts, puts away the furnaces and fires, and brings out the eggs and fish and bread. God finds himself a father and mother of exasperating kids. Wicked and delightful brats with all the potential to be a Mother Teresa or another Hitler or just another loved sinner. And what does God do? She feeds us. She brings out the bread and wine and waits to see how her children will surprise her.