Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blogging Towards Sunday, February 20, 2011

I've been thinking the past days about the text and sermon from last week - the first part of these 6 sayings of Jesus in the overall text of 5:13-48.  How can Jesus - the one who says to love your enemies - be asking so much, what seems so judgmental, destructive, impossible, unrealistic, un-Jesus-like?  It seems so much easier - and comfortable - to explain it all away.  Jesus didn't mean it, because he knew it's impossible to live out these values.  Jesus was talking to individual people in his day and age, but in our context - our world today - it's just not realistic or pragmatic.  Jesus spoke to oppressed people - inhabitants of a world occupied by the Roman Imperial power - in order to empower them to rise up and throw off their oppressor nonviolently.

And yet Jesus seems to really mean what he says - we are to love in a radical way that embraces even our enemies, risks life, forces us to see from the viewpoint of others, to walk a mile in their shoes, to imitate God in our life, work, words and relationships.  We're called to live differently than the culture and world in which we live as exiles - wether that's Roman occupied Palestine, or bankrupt California.

We're called to holiness - to imitation of God - to follow in Jesus' footsteps.  It's this sixth and final saying in which the 5 previous ones are summed up.  Wether about the power of our words to destroy others, the power of our lust to objectify others, the one-sided view of our brokeness - here in the marriage relationship - that tricks us - men in this case - to cast off the importance of another (the wife), our commitments are worth keeping because we should see others as worthy of the respect we expect, and revenge only leads to total destruction not vindication.

The psalmist talks of such holiness - such a radical way to live - that's not about personal morality, or particular "correct" stances on hot-button issues, but in the practice of a different way of living that liberates us from a personal righteousness that leads to death towards a God-given righteousness that leads us into life.

It is impossible.  And yet I think Jesus really said it and meant it.  So how then do we live with it.  How is such a word good news and also a challenge to live differently in a world in we're called to put our own interests first, get what we can, define ourselves by our accomplishments, build so that the next generation has it better than us?  God in Jesus give us life - and calls us to a new one that can't be fit into our existing one, but has to regenerate, heal and replace it.

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