Thursday, April 27, 2017
Christian Spirituality XXIX: The Law and the Prophets
Christ is risen! Yes, He truly is Risen!
I feel obliged to comment on the second part of the section that deals with asking, seeking, and knocking. Jesus continues by saying that we, who are evil, yes even we know how to give our children what they ask for. How much more will the Father! Then verse 12, “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.”
What is Jesus saying? He uses this same line later in Matthew’s Gospel when He gives us the two Greatest Commandments, Matthew 22:34-40. The Greatest Commandments are that we love God with our whole being and that we love our neighbor as ourselves.
One note about the second part of this commandment: some people, indeed some Bible translations render this part as, “…love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” This is incorrect. Truly, we are to love ourselves, but this is not what Jesus is saying. He commands us to love our neighbor as if he or she IS OURSELVES. For if we read the Church Fathers and Mothers, yes, truly our neighbor is in fact me. I must see myself in my neighbor. My neighbor is me. You must see your neighbor as you. You and I must treat our neighbor in this manner.
We are all guilty of being far more merciful to ourselves and our mistakes than we are with our neighbor. We can be very short tempered with others, very judgmental. Oh! We must correct this behavior if we are going to have peace in our own souls and peace in the world. Practice, practice, practice to treat our neighbor as if in fact we a different person who is acting upon ourselves. Treat ourselves with mercy. Treat ourselves with mercy in the other person. The other person is me and you. We must never forget to treat each other with mercy! Be merciful to the sin or errors and mistakes of others! This is so important. How will the world let alone Christians understand that our God is a merciful God if we do not act with mercy!
We hear so much about “God is justice!” And true, He is, but what those justice proclaimers often forget is that even in His justice, God is merciful! Mercy and justice go together. Does this sound like a contradiction? Please read the following sermon given not so long ago at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois.
There is much to consider here. And we would do well to follow the Lord in His command. When others do injustice to you, please, please, please, (and this advice is for me too!) we must make progress in not lashing out! We must find a way to return good for evil, love for hate. We are commanded by our Lord to love even our enemies. This is the way of the disciple of the Lord. When someone does us wrong, we must pray for that person.
Will we become meek and mild over night? Oh no. And I have been at this for many years. I am certainly not perfect, but I think there is progress. One key to unlock this behavior, one key to end this horrific impulse to lash out with violent words, violent actions, or violent emotions, violent thoughts, is to remember that we do not belong to this world. We are pilgrims and sojourners. We are here but a short while. The spiritual combat is fought in our hearts every day. Every day we can choose to love and be merciful. The devil and his minions will try to convince us to lash out, put down someone, or be harsh with them. Oh, and he makes so much sense. He tells us things like, “Do you want to be a door mat? If you don’t take care of this now, no one will ever respect you!” And I could go on.
It is our hearts that want to lash out at others because we are deluded into thinking we have a right to be treated better than others. Look at the injustice all throughout the world. So many do not even have food to eat. So many people forced from their homes or jobs or even have their families slaughtered in front of their eyes. So terrible. We must look at these events and resolve in our own hearts that we can bear some bad words or perhaps the loss of a little money. We embarrass ourselves when we lose our temper over trivial things, or treat others poorly in order to make a few more dollars when we look at others who live the Christian faith much better than we.
You know, Christ took all of our sins, from everyone, to the Cross. Perhaps our cross is to bear the sins of just one of neighbors, or a friend, or our mother. Just one person and just for a short time, and just a sin or two that they have done to us. Is this too much to ask for? St. Paul urges the Corinthians to put up with the injustice of others, at least for what others do to us in 1 Corinthians 6:7-8, “To have lawsuits at all with one another is defeat for you. Why not rather, suffer wrong?”
Pray for the strength to endure. Pray for a compassionate heart. Pray for patience. Pray that each of us will improve in our way of dealing with others. We must cultivate in our hearts that my neighbor is me, that your neighbor is you. When we have made progress in this, we will be able to truly love the enemy. We will be able to see that very often, I am my own worst enemy. Yes, I am my own enemy too often. And rather than condemn, I must love. I must love myself even when I am at my worst. I must repent! Very true, repentance is the hinge that opens the door to Christ! This will hopefully teach us to love our neighbor even when he is at his worst. Somehow, perhaps I can see his pain or darkness and help him heal. This is our problem you know: we have pain. Somewhere in our hearts, we act in wicked ways because we are in pain. We lash out.
We must get in touch with our pain. Bring it to the Healer, the Master, the Lord. He will teach us the way to love and heal. And just a note to ponder, the word in the Bible so often translated as “to save” or “salvation” is a synonym with “to heal” or “healing,” and also “to deliver” or “being delivered.” So, while we are being saved, while we are on the journey of salvation, it makes perfect sense to me that we are also being healed and delivered from our afflictions. They go hand in hand.
Dennis the Little