Scripture: Matthew 23.30
And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’
Reflection: Mistakes of the Past
By John Tillman
After Japanese planes attacking Pearl Harbor roared over their church, three miles from the base, the Hirano family, like every other Hawaiian family, set about a new rhythm of life—building bomb shelters and helping their community. But then, due to their Japanese heritage, their experience diverged from the rest of America.
One day there was a knock on the door. I answered it and there stood two men with rifles. They asked me where my father was. I told them in the back yard. When he came in they told him to get his toothbrush and underwear and come with them. My father did as instructed, and that was the last we saw of him for the next four years. — Dr. David Hirano, from passage included in Stormy Road for This Pilgrim, by Nelson Hayashida
Temporal provincialism tells us to blame mistakes of the past on our grandparents, asserting that we’ve progressed so far as to never make such errors today. Christ rebuked the Pharisees for such attitudes (Matthew 23:29-32) and we must listen to his rebuke as well, resisting our tendency to judge ourselves more righteous than our forbears simply due to our having the benefit of hindsight.
Christian theology confesses that humanity and governments are flawed and Christians should be willing to confess rather than deny our part of the sins of both. We also should recognize that in the midst of these conflicts, there are Christians imperfectly living out their faith, following Christ.
Though little is written about it today, there were protests and opposition to internment, much of it from Christian leaders in the Pacific region. In Hirano’s account, the people who reached out to take care of his family in the midst of their injustice, were Christians. Historian Gerald Sittser notes that although churches failed to stop interment, they organized to meet the needs of the Japanese community.
Our situation is not so different today. Christians living out their faith will always be in tension with cultures, industries, and governments, as in today’s reading from Acts. Though Christians are called to be good citizens, we must remember Jesus never asked Peter (or by extension, the Church) to lead a country, he asked him to feed lambs. No matter the errors of current or past governments, feeding lambs and sheep—taking care of the vulnerable—is our path to influence in our culture.
…It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples…
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.