Is it wrong to curse your country
Challenge to our society
The Lord said to Abram, Go away from your land, from your relatives, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you. I will make you a great people, bless you and make your name great. You shall be a blessing. I want to bless those who bless you; I want to curse whoever curses you. All the families of the earth are to receive blessings through you. So Abram went away, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him too. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai with him, his nephew Lot, and all their belongings they had acquired, and the servants and maidservants they had won in Haran. They emigrated to Canaan and arrived there. Abram went through the country to the place of Shechem, to the oracle corpse. The Canaanites were in the land then.
Genesis (1st book of Moses) 12: 1-6
You hear the news:
Jericho. Hundreds of nomad families are on their way to Palestine. As a result of prolonged periods of drought, crowds of Aramaic semi-nomads are crowding into the fertile regions of the Mediterranean. Several thousand refugees from the Arabian desert are likely to appear on the edge of the cultivated land shortly. From some Canaanite city-states it can be heard that mobilization of the armed forces is considered essential. There are fears that the Canaanite culture will be infiltrated and that the use of the pastureland will suffer major losses. Corresponding agreements between the individual city royalty are, according to well-informed circles, in full swing.
Dear sisters and brothers,
if there had been such a thing as news almost four thousand years ago, I am sure that this or at least a similar report would have gone around the globe.
In the 19th and 18th centuries BC a tremendous movement shook the Middle East and the whole Mesopotamia. Everywhere in the Arabian desert groups of nomads packed their tents and moved to where life was still worth living. Entire nomad tribes poured into the area of Mesopotamia and Palestine in a huge traveling wave.
One of them was Abraham.
That sounds strange, because normally we hardly think about the fact that there were other clans, that others set out with the same goal as Abraham. If one only hears the biblical account, this passage of Abraham's departure, as we just heard it in the reading, then it always sounds as if only Abraham and his family left.
And it also sounds as if he didn't even think about it. There it sounds as if God suddenly broke into Abraham's life and gave him the order out of the blue, as it were, to leave his home and move to a distant country.
But that is wrong!
Abraham himself certainly toyed with the idea of leaving his home country, like thousands of others. The pastures had become bad, there was hardly any food left for the herds. The Arabian desert, which was originally the home of all these people, was hardly anything left; quite different from the lands of Mesopotamia and the mild regions of Palestine, which had to appear to the nomad groups like a land in which milk and honey flow.
They wanted to go there, they wanted to share in the comforts of this country, which is why they gladly gave up the traditional hiking areas. That is why people then invaded Mesopotamia and Palestine in droves; People who set out to be able to participate in the comforts of the cultivated land; People who today we would simply call "economic refugees".
And Abraham was one of them.
Abraham had only one problem: his wife was sterile. And could he really dare to leave with a woman who was barren; setting off into an uncertain future, not knowing whether there will be enough offspring to look after you in old age; not knowing whether he will actually manage to get hold of a spot for his herds in this much sought-after new habitat. These worries alone held Abraham back.
So God did not have to first order him to leave the country behind him, which had not given up for a long time. What is described in the Bible is not a command from God, which Abraham then heroically obeys. God doesn't command anything. God does something completely different: God gives Abraham courage.
"Dare to take it easy! Set off, it will go well! You will have offspring, and you will come to the land you long for. It will happen because I am with you to guide you. I am going with you, I myself will accompany you on this path to this new country. "
God does not demand the departure of Abraham, God encourages it. God encourages Abraham to set out and move calmly to the country that he hopes will do better there.
How many can God encourage today?
Eventually they come in droves, all those who no longer see any perspective where they were born, who want to live, who flee, are on the run from war, from persecution, from hunger, unemployment, from poverty and the absence of anyone Perspective. They do the same thing as Abraham: they leave with hope.
And the God of the Bible encourages them.
And he does a lot more. The Bible also makes this abundantly clear to us. God not only encourages all of these people.
About 750 years after Abraham, he gets to the point, as it were. At that time there was once again a very specific group of people. A large group, one that we encounter a few hundred years after Abraham in the whole of the Middle East, from Mesopotamia to Egypt.
They weren't a people, these people weren't related to each other. But one thing connected them. They were all people who evidently did not settle down. And they came out of nowhere and suddenly flooded the whole civilized world.
Above all, however, they were people of inferior rights; People who didn't really have rights. These are people who were ultimately worse off than slaves and who were also used for services that had to pull stones, for example.
And something else connected these people.
It's her name. In all cultures of the world at that time, they are named with the same name. Their names are the same everywhere. And we know this designation, it has even been preserved in our Bible, because even in Egypt in biblical times, such people suddenly appear in large numbers. There these people are called Hebrews.
Hebrews, it is not a people, it is not a national entity, it is not even a clan association. Hebrews was the name of people back then who we today would call migrants, at least descendants of economic refugees. They left biblical traces in Egypt.
And you know what the God of the Bible did to the Hebrews. He has taken her side completely. "My people", he called them. He freed them from slavery, he gave them the right. Made them people who have rights. And he brought them to a land of milk and honey; to the land where the Canaanites lived.
The Canaanites didn't like that. They weren't thrilled that crowds of poor people suddenly appeared in front of the cities and permanent houses, that others wanted something from the comforts of the cultivated land, a piece of the cake of prosperity.
The Canaanites, those who were rulers of this country at the time, were now gripped by panic at the approaching crowds. And they had their hands full to secure their property and to overcome their fear of cultural foreign infiltration.
But guess what? Apparently that God didn't care! The God of the Bible is partial. And he has always not been on the side of those who live in prosperity. He didn't do that then, and he doesn't do it any less today. At least since Jesus told his parable about the rich and poor Lazarus, we should have been familiar with this.
And that must always be present in an Antonius congregation. In the end, Anthony of Padua made a conscious decision in favor of the Franciscan order - a mendicant order. For the very order that holds the mirror in front of our world and our profit-oriented society. For an order that has voluntarily committed itself to poverty in order to make it clear to us again that God sets different priorities than we do. This Antonius has become a beggar. One of those who would be referred to as social parasites at the regulars' tables today.
In the eyes of the world parasites; one of his children in the eyes of God, one in need of help from others, one entrusted to wealthy children.
Sure, of course you keep hearing: "We can't help everyone, we can't take everyone in!" Of course, we cannot heal the world's misery. We can only do what is really possible for us. Nobody has to provide more help than they are able to help.
But hand on heart - with a country like ours - with us here - there is still a hell of a lot of room for improvement; a lot of air until we reach the limit of what is possible for us without us having to restrict ourselves in the slightest.
We can't help it, we haven't done anything to ensure that we were born in a corner of the earth where there is abundance of prosperity. It was given to us.
But it wasn't given to us for us! It was given to us to share, to share with those who were not so lucky in life.
The God of the Bible makes this clear to us again and again. Because God is on the side of the poor, the oppressed and the outcast. He has always, from time immemorial, placed himself on the side of those who no longer saw any perspective in life. And he gives them courage. Last but not least, the courage to set out, where there is abundance of prosperity, where those are who could actually share if they only want to.
God encourages a new departure, because God is partial. God is on the side of poor Lazarus and God is on the side of the Hebrews. And he is no less on the side of Abraham. He is on the side of the economic refugee, on the side of the foreigner, on the side of those who move abroad out of need.
If we are on another side, then we are not on his!
(Dr. Jörg Sieger, Karlsruhe)
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