Monday, 13 February 2017

Living for love

In a world dominated by pain and hurt, in a world that sees neighbour pitted against neighbour, in a world that seems to be spiralling down into chaotic individualism what hope does the simplicity of Christ's message have for us today?  We often seem to see our scriptures as places of aspiration and ways of living that are really pie in the sky dreaming.  Theologians and preachers have a tendency to analyse everything that is written in the scriptures and in some respects over analyse the writing both style and content.  For why? Well to get to the crux of God's message, to deliver the good news and show the Christian life.  I often wonder, in my simplicity, are we asking and delving too much sometimes.  Creating our own spin to bring about highs of aspirational wonder like some drug induced ecstasy that gives us a moment of feeling good but does not really change anything.  Let us look at the section from Christ's sermon (Matt 5.21-37) twinned with Paul's Corinthian masterpiece, or at least part, (1 Cor. 3.1-9).

I think the first thing to remember is that when Christ spoke and Paul wrote there were no theologians dissecting what was said.  Paul was writing to an average congregation of the time, quite possibly something like any congregation today.  From the opening of this letter we are aware of tension within the congregation, which could perhaps be considered similar to a tension created by followers of say Barth opposed to Balthasar or Evangelical congregants vs Catholic members.  The congregation as Paul acknowledges are well versed, intellectually, in the new Christian faith.  Yet, for Paul, seeing in from the outside, he only sees followers who are like children rather than those who are mature in their faith journey.  Today, we often associate intellectual prowess with a certain maturity of thought and action, perhaps very similar to the Corinthian congregation.  Paul only sees children and in teaching them at this point he uses a story, a parable, just like teaching children.  Suggesting in the story that seeds planted and watered, irrespective of who does the planting and watering (evangelical or catholic) it is God who does the growing.  It is not for us to debate what we are aware of intellectually rather it is for us to allow God to work within our lives so that we live as Christ in love and respect for each other.

Peace and tranquility only comes with working on our own attitudes

Remembering that we are only human, this is hard but something that Christ talking to a bunch of illiterate people on a hillside demonstrates a possible solution to this very issue.  Typically, as intellectuals, we dissect the Sermon that Christ gives and come to the conclusion that these are ideals; these aphorisms that Christ lays out.  We focus on ideals rather than on something that may well be simple, practical instructions given to simple, practical people.  Christ gives a prime example in the first few verses of this piece of scripture (Matt. 5.21-26) as he starts with the commandment regarding murder.  If we think of the verses (Matt. 5.21-22) we might think that vs. 22 is a bit idealish to say the least, we are only human.  Calling a person a 'fool' gets us into even more trouble than murder!!  Christ calls some one a fool in the Gospels!! (Matt. 23.17). Let us stop and think a little such as a person might without much theology.  If our anger or indeed any of our emotions, gets out of hand and is either hidden away or aroused beyond control what could result?  Could we think of a number of jealous acts that end in murder or an angry road rage that ends in death?  If so can we believe that there is a possible solution to this self fulfilling circle that leads inevitable at some point to death or injury?  The answer or a solution is given in the following verses.  A rebuttal of the circular and a path towards forgiveness and love.  A way of living that increases our hold on peace rather than anger and war, that increases our love for each other instead of expanding hatred and violence.  A cooperative way that, yes, is hard but creates community rather than dividing.  Taken into the wider world the violence of war and bickering in local politics would tend to decrease.  Here is an ideal; what would happen in opposing political factions actually sat down and listened to each other rather than tearing apart each others thoughts?  Could a more judicious and peaceful society be created?  The Christian faith journey is about building the capacity for love and peace if we were only to listen rather than act on our emotions; live into compassion and love rather than fueling anger and disappointment.

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