This passage may upset some people who feel a particular kind of zero-tolerance for injustice. They may see this passage (and yesterday’s passage about husbands and wives) as Paul’s kowtowing to - if not actually supporting – the evil status quo of society.
Church people, they feel, should not for a moment tolerate or even allow themselves to be perceived as acquiescing to any unjust situation.
Injustice is indeed intolerable for Christians and we should do everything we can to establish true justice and peace on the earth – without, however, neglecting our other duties of preaching the full Gospel of Christ and ministering to people in their present needs.
We can and should do it all. The Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ cannot be reduced to simply a campaign for earthly justice with a Christian veneer or merely a pious anesthesia of otherworldly realities.
Thus, St. Paul ministered to people in their current needs, telling how to live in their particular concrete circumstances, yet also quite clearly planting the explosively subversive seed of the Gospel: that everyone, even slaves and masters, are equal in the eyes of God. Within a matter of decades, ex-slaves would become popes.
(Sadly, the road to the universal abolition of slavery would still be long and uneven: evil is always inclined toward domination and thralldom – even today, slavery rears its ugly head in Sudan and elsewhere.)
For some, it may seem to be too much, that too much is required: to preach the full Gospel AND work for justice AND minister to people. It is not easy, but it is what we are called to do: the way to eternal happiness and glory.
Today’s Gospel should help impel us to action. We should strive to enter through the narrow gate – as I have just said, being a true Christian is not easy – and we must put into effect in our lives that which we have heard and that which we believe, lest we be like those shut out by the Lord. Simply listening to the Lord and feeling close to him are not enough.
We must teach, work, and minister as Christ commands.