For Sunday, February 19, 2017 – Matthew 5:38-48
From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus seeks to bring together what has been divided. Not to balance the opposites. Not to teach us to see one another as separate but equal and to encourage us to practice greater tolerance and acceptance. More than tolerance, he wants to reveal to us the potential we have to be a new entity altogether, stronger and more beautiful for our differences—a new creation revealing to the world the true nature of God.
However the opposites might be identified—Jews and Gentiles, religious and secular, righteous and unrighteous, rich and poor, healthy and chronically ill, incarcerated and free, the judged and the judgmental, children and adults, those educated in schools or on the streets, those with or without decent jobs or fair housing or adequate access to food, with or without the “correct” political, religious, social ideologies—Jesus knew the truth about us. We are one. And he knew the nature of God, who does not waste energy measuring out life, the sun and the rain, in varying portions depending on whether we are deserving or undeserving, but who scandalously pours out the same abundance on all.
How will he teach us to be more aligned with this kind of God? Jesus suggests some practices; you’ll have to read them to believe them. None are easy but all are guaranteed to change our perceptions about people we might have considered to be beneath us, deplorable, or disgusting. Trying to implement any of these disciplines in our own settings would help move us beyond judging and ridiculing, beyond tolerating what we thought was intolerable, and into taking the risk of face-to-face, concrete acts of generous solidarity. Practicing them together in community would help us begin to believe more fiercely in the dream of a new creation and its power to change the world.
Jesus does not hope that we will eventually learn to accept our differences and put up with those who annoy us or undermine us. No, he seeks something much deeper, something that will reveal more truly who God is: that we will become a new body entirely. He wants us to stop trying to find the perfect balance among all persons, perceptions, and opinions. Rather, he wants us to live together, messily, clumsily, toward the perfecting of love. He longs for us to heal the divides and be a sign to the world that it’s possible.