Thursday, January 04, 2024



For most of his adult life, Jesus was a carpenter in an agrarian society. This meant that he would have built houses; and also constructed, and repaired, agricultural tools: ploughs and yokes for breaking the soil, sickles for harvesting, threshing sledges for breaking open the harvested grain. This, in turn, would have involved a process of development that included trial and error, the deconstruction of certain received practices, and the construction of new ways that built on tried and tested traditions.

Reflecting, many years later, on the experience of having known Jesus, one of his disciples, John, wrote that anyone who constructs justice is a child of God, while anyone who practices missing that mark is a child of the devil; indeed, the children of God cannot construct injustice, for God’s own seed (which produces a harvest of righteousness) is planted in them. (See 1 John 3.7-10)

It is possible to imagine two ways of being a carpenter, one that intentionally constructs justice and another that deliberately undermines it. The latter makes tools they know won’t last, so that their customers will have to return again and again; perhaps they also cut a deal with some powerful figure to ensure their own monopoly, preventing the community from seeking better. In contrast, the former works to develop their skill, their craft, to put quality tools that will last generations into the hands of those who worked the land, by the sweat of whose brows the community was fed. Tools made with love, given in love.

And whichever way you choose to put into practice becomes second nature in time.

The regular discipline of Confession is a disruptive practice that undermines the possibility of constructing injustice before we can get going. It prevents a habit from forming, or, indeed, weakens a habit that we want to break and move on from. But it also has planted within it the seed of a new habit, the habit of loving God with every part of our being, and loving others as ourselves, wanting for them what we want for us. This is the seed that, in the fulness of time, produces a harvest of justice.

Confession is the plough that turns over the hard soil of our hearts.


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