Judah: Mirroring the Journey of Our Becoming
-Dr. Samantha Joo
“Don’t be in such a hurry to condemn a person because he doesn’t do what you do, or think as you think. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.”
I have never heard a sermon on Judah. Like Abraham and Jacob, Judah is present in several chapters of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 37:25-36; 38:1-30; 43:1-34; 44:18-34; 49:8-12). But unlike the great patriarchs, Judah is rarely, if ever, mentioned by pastors on the pulpit. It might have something to do with the semi-incestuous sexual encounter. Judah beds Tamar, his daughter-in-law. I mean, how does one incorporate such a story into a sermon? Tamar is clearly the heroine in the story, but she tricks her father-in-law into sleep with her. This was a taboo union in the ancient Near East and even more so in our modern, puritanical society. I can’t imagine a pastor talking about a man who got duped into impregnating his daughter-in-law with any congregation, especially the church I’ve been attending the last decade. It is predominantly an old, white congregation.
It’s unfortunate, however, to ignore a story in which a man is transformed by a personal tragedy. Because of a personal loss, Judah—a thoughtless, selfish man—becomes a thoughtful, self-sacrificing person. He is not the same person.
When I reflect back on my own journey, I realize the extent to which I have changed because of my personal encounter with pain. I use to be anti-gay, anti-premarital sex, anti-abortion, anti-anything that was not conservative Christian. It was not until I personally walked in the shoes of the “other” did I grow into the person I am today. Honestly, I am the last person to promote suffering, but it is through pain that I have learned to become compassionate. And it is because of my own journey that I am less likely to judge another person’s life.
Given my own transformation from a narrow, judgmental Christian to a more understanding, progressive Christian, I have come to realize that each person has a unique journey. I do not know what a person may have experienced or will experience. This does not mean that I will idly stand by why others are being marginalized. I will definitely speak up, but with humility rather than self-righteousness.