Living Up To God's Expectations
Vineyards are used frequently in the Bible to serve as a metaphor or the context for a lesson. In fact, the words "vineyard" and "vine" appear more than one hundred times in the New International Version.
Two of this week's passages use vineyards to illustrate a common theme, namely, that God has created a vineyard and that those entrusted with its care have failed in their responsibility. In Isaiah 5:1-7, The Song of the Vineyard describes a loving God who has created a beautiful vineyard that yielded only bad fruit. He had entrusted the vineyard to the people of Israel, but He was disappointed at their failure to live righteously and to provide justice for the poor. (Isaiah's focus on the poor is even clearer in an earlier verse, 3:14: “It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses."). In Matthew 21:33-46, Jesus tells the Parable of the Tenants, in which the tenants of a vineyard fail to return a portion to the owner, and in fact, beat and kill the owner's servants, and even his son. In both cases, those entrusted with the care of the vineyard have failed to live up to expectations.
So what are God's expectations of us? An Old Testament answer is in Micah 6:8: "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." A New Testament answer is found in another passage that refers to wine. In John 15:5,16-17, Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.... You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit —fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other." So central to God's expectations of us are love, mercy, justice, and humility.
In these times of HIV and AIDS, God's expectations of us are that we act in genuine humility, and that we treat all of God's children with the same love and respect, whether or not they are infected with HIV, and regardless of the circumstances of their infection.
To Think About: What can I do today to help ensure that we all live up to God's expectations in this time of HIV and AIDS?
Written by: Dr David Barstow President EMPACT Africa: An AIDS-Free Generation Requires Stigma-Free Faith Communities