Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such great sin upon them?” Aaron said, “Let not my lord be enraged. You know that this people is bent on evil. They said to me, ‘Make us a god to lead us; for that man Moses, who brought us from the land of Egypt — we do not know what has happened to him.’ So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, take it off!’ They gave it to me and I hurled it into the fire and out came this calf!”
Exodus 32:21-24 (TANAKH)
We have all been desperate. Even when we know something is not “right” we can easily give in if there’s enough pressure. We tend to blame only teenagers for this behavior but the truth is that group-think is a problem among young and old alike.
Standing for what we believe to be right in the face of a raging mob is difficult. How many times we have experienced this in our families, our faith communities and our politics. When you add desperation to the mix, hopelessness and the unknown it makes it easy to give in, to go along, no matter what.
What I find interesting in this passage is that I expected Aaron to just be honest and acknowledge that he had given in, that he was concerned also, that he was trying to appease the crowd. He knew it was wrong, but was it? What if Moses did not come back? What if this “Lord” that Moses was talking to was not for real after all?
All of us are full of excuses for why we are not faithful to promises made and commitments taken. Sometimes those excuses might have legitimacy but most of the time they sound ridiculous in light of the larger narrative of our lives. The least we can do is acknowledge that we “messed up” and seek to begin again.
There are times when as people of faith we must stand for what is right, no matter the consequences. In the Christian tradition this means that we stand for the lowly, the poor, the marginalized, the hungry, the naked, the imprisoned, the one’s in need of good news. This might not be popular but it is God’s call to us in response to the covenant we have made in our baptism.
As leaders we know that human beings will always choose gods of their making instead of submitting to the one true God. We stand in the midst of the people, not with excuses, but to remind the people of our common story as God’s own.