Malachi is clear: ‘Have we not all one Father?’
The writer describes the age-old temptation of religious officials – priests in this case – to subvert the divine-human relationship to their own ends: ‘you have destroyed the covenant… Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us?’ If relationship rests on the oneness of humanity and in finding elements there of goodness and truth – then these principles are to be found running like a thin but discernible and powerful line through the whole of the Old Testament. It is as true now as then that religion is ill-served by its ‘officials’ if they somehow claim control over the work of the Spirit of God and constrain the field of its operation – creating some who are excluded and some who are included. Malachi is clear: ‘Have we not all one Father?’ Freed of their historical context, these words point to the intuitive notion that God is defined as the ‘One who breaks all human barriers’ and divisions into them and us. Christianity denies its roots and its genesis in the great relationship with God if it does not seek to find consonance, not dissonance, with all other religions and philosophies. It must seek first to love its neighbours as the pre-requisite for any dialogue with them over ‘differences’.
To the Thessalonians, Paul insists that he brings God’s message – it is not his or any purely human message. Exactly positively saying what Malachi negatively denounced. The Good News is from God – and thereby cannot be directed at a section of humanity only. Moreover, Paul compares himself to a Mother willing not just to feed her children (with the Good News) but to die for them. His entry into the great dialogue with God transforms him into being a channel of the outpouring of the love of God.
Matthew has Jesus describe the besetting temptation of religious leaders to subvert the relationship between God and humanity by redirecting it towards their own benefit and glorification. This temptation has not always been avoided by Christian leaders in every generation. Instead of pointing to the inclusive relationship between God and humankind –they can restrict it to a certain group who qualify only by fulfilling their man-made book of laws and rules. We must be on our guard and confess whenever we give in to this most subtle of all temptations – as Christian parents, educators or priests. Matthew has Jesus reflect the universality and inclusive nature of God’s call: ‘you have only one Master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you only have one Father, and he is in heaven’. Above all, partnership enables humility and service of all others and indeed the whole of creation.