Seeing Old Testament passages as relevant to our faith today is often a bit of a stretch. Heck, progressive Christians are even sometimes hard put to connect the New Testament to faith in a pluralistic world. I think they sometimes forget that those who founded our faith also lived in a pluralistic world, with both “Eastern” and “Western” influences from religions like Hinduism and the Roman pantheon.
But take the passage below for example:
He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over. 2 Kings 2:13-14
It’s primarily a story about how Elisha takes over the “mantle” both figuratively and literally of Elijah as the most vocal prophet of Yahweh to the Israelites. To be blunt, in the year 2013 who cares?
Well, maybe it’s a matter of helping us understand the mindset of those who wrote some of the most basic statements of faith that we still refer to.
I’m thinking particularly of the fact that for them there was no separation of church and state. That’s a concept that’s wholly modern and quite frankly very “western” even today.
And that should resonate with us.
Leaders should lead from the foundation of what they believe. Indeed, how could they avoid it? We each conduct ourselves on a daily basis in accordance with what we believe don’t we?
If our beliefs are exclusive; if we feel that there’s no place for any opinion except our own; if we are so rigid that we cannot allow ourselves to accept that those who differ from our doctrine or dogma are at best wrong and at worst the enemy – if that’s the case how can we act any different as leaders?
Just as with Elisha, there is no separation of “church and state”, of belief and action, in any of us today.
We cannot “separate the waters.” But we can do our best to ensure that they flow smoothly.