Divinely Inspired Ways of Relating
Scripture: Matthew 5:1&2, 21-37
If there was such a thing as a disciple report card. If this report card was based on Jesus’ words (the words we just heard from Matthew) would we have earned a B+ or two or three? How many A’s? Would some of us be looking at C’s?
I can start by declaring that I have not killed anyone. I have not committed murder. However! I’ve been angry. “Spitting in your face angry”? Yes. Have I called people names? Yes. Have I carried grudges? Sometimes. Have I been to court? Oh yes, I’ve been to the court. That’s where I was granted a divorce. Not only have I been divorced but I married again. So yes I am committing adultery. Looking with lust on another? Not lately. Saying ‘yes’ when I mean ‘yes’ and saying ‘no’ when I mean ‘no’? Not always. So my disciple report card …?!
In an early church letter, the Apostle Paul is writing to church folk in Corinth. He says: “I had to treat you as infants in Christ.” Paul continues: “I was unable to speak to you as spiritual people … I fed you with milk, not solid food since you weren’t ready for it.” Today we are not being fed with spiritual milk! Today we are at the adult table. We are being offered solid spiritual food. We are being served God’s Best: the Best of the Best!
Best for us. Best for others. I still have this memory from when I was going through my divorce. On a lovely summer evening, my then 9-year-old daughter and I were sitting outside on the back steps. I was explaining to her that her Dad and I were divorcing. With tears in her eyes and dismay in her voice, she said, “But Mom! I thought this would never happen to me. Other kids’ parents got divorced but not mine.” God’s Ideal is that marriage is a loving, faithful, lifetime relationship.
Biblical scholars have said that Jesus takes the laws in Deuteronomy and expands on them.
Repeatedly Jesus says “You have heard …” This is followed by “but I tell you.” (I tell you, my disciples.) When Jesus says, “I tell you”, the Greek word for tell is logos. It’s the same word that is so prominent at the beginning of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning, there was the Word (the logos), the Word was in God’s presence and the Word (the logos) was God.” So it seems to be that God is speaking to us through Jesus’ words. It seems to be that we disciples are to aim for God’s ideal. Jesus seems to be saying: Here’s the best of the best – now go live it! Ah yes! Easier said than done! The psalmist says “If only I were more faithful in keeping your statutes …” Yes God – if only! However, at the same time, we know how those first disciples faltered and failed. We know that the Apostle Paul persecuted Christians. We know that many of the trained religious leaders who heard Jesus – didn’t get it. It’s been said before and it’s worth repeating: God is both demanding and life-giving.
We have been fed with solid spiritual food. We are being coaxed into trusting and living that which is demanding and life-giving. Will we succeed? Of course we will! And of course we won’t! If there were disciple report cards, most of us would not receive all A’s. Yet we cannot get away from how serious Jesus is! Pluck out your eye, cut off your hand may be hyperbole and metaphor but also insisting on getting and holding our attention. Now that Jesus has our attention how shall we respond? Let us choose not to give up on ourselves. Like those first disciples let us choose not to give up on our God and God’s ways of relating. We disciples choose to be idealists aiming for God’s Ideal.
Report card or no report card it seems to me that we take note and we give ourselves credit for even the smallest of steps that take us towards God’s ideal way of relating.
Over the years Chad and his brother-in-law Wilbur have tolerated each other. Chad is United Church. Wilbur is what he calls truly Christian and truly Evangelical. Politically they are miles apart. In the past weeks their relationship has become even more strained as they work together to move Chad’s parents out of their home of 40 years and into a condo.
On this particular Saturday morning, Chad and Wilbur are to meet at 9 am to sort and pack.
At 9:20 Chad sighs and digs into a box from the basement which turns out to be his stuff – baseball and mitt, some textbooks from university. As he hoists up the box to take it out to his car, the bottom of the box falls out. He repairs it with masking tape. As he is putting his things back in the box, he sees a bracelet. His? He doubts it. Its red rubber with bold black letters WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?). Something his sister gave him – maybe? If it is, he’s never worn it. He throws back into the box. Then he retrieves it. He puts it on. After taking the box to his car, Chad makes a pot of coffee. From his lunch, he removes two cookies. It’s 9:35 am. In walks Wilbur, “Sorry I’m late – as usual.” Chad responds, “Would you sit with me and have a coffee? I’ve been a bit …” “Hey man! I know I’ve been more than a bit difficult.” The two sit together to share coffee and a cookie.
We all have those moments when we choose to take tiny steps toward divinely inspired ways of relating. Yes, only tiny steps, but also moments of learning and transformation.
Is there a disciple report card – No! Not as far as I know. However as disciples, it seems wise to be mindful of how we’re doing when it comes to the high bar set by Jesus. We need to take note of those steps we’ve already taken and, as well, the steps we are presently taking towards that very high bar.
It is true – isn’t it! We disciples are called to be idealists!
But then, so is our God.