Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Welcome to my Morass

Can you addendum an addendum? Whether or not, I’m about to do it! I started out talking about how I have resolved to “engage conflict”… then in an addendum, I said I’m way too tired to get into it with EVERYone, so I’m just going to limit it to those closest by. Well, each time I thought, "That's all I have to say about THAT!" But then my crazy, confused mind keeps churning over all the crazy confused thoughts that have resulted from the statements previously made... and I just can't seem to move on! So here's a peek into the morass of moral struggle that pushes and pulls on my brain just now:

While I was writing the first addendum, I almost used in my defense my two quotes from Jesus in the first blog, which instruct us like this (emphasis mine,): “If your brother has something against you…” and “If your brother sins against you…” NOT, “If anyone you meet has something against you…” or “If anyone that crosses your path sins against you…”

My point was that “brother” implies close relationship – family... but I didn’t go there because I was also mindful of the parable of the Good Samaritan. This is a pretty popular story, but in case you need a refresher, here it is, as found in Luke 10:

The Good Samaritan was a stranger, but
the naked guy's neighbor nonetheless.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Of course this story uses the term “neighbor” instead of “brother,” so maybe it's referring to something completely different...? But I still didn’t feel right using the words of Jesus to justify myself in this case. I mean, you see where it got the expert in the law in Luke 10, right?

This is my neighbor... I
love him and would certainly
get him out of a ditch.
I have always found this particular parable ten kinds of confusing, even though for the most part, it couldn’t be clearer: Help people, dammit. Whoever God puts in your path! No matter who they are!

What I find confusing, though, is this: if you think about it: The man says, “Who is my neighbor?” (that is to say, “who do I have to love?”) Jesus’s answer is – the one who helped him. What? I thought it was about who WE were supposed to help. Now it’s – who helps us? See? I told you it was confusing!

Does that mean I’m supposed to love those who help me? That doesn’t seem right, does it? Doesn't everyone do that? (In another place Jesus says "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" FYI, that's also the passage where Jesus takes it all the way and tells us to love our enemies... as if loving our neighbor isn't enough work!)

Maybe Jesus meant for us to love whoever gives us the time of day... even if they are a filthy Samaritan. (Oddly enough, that reminds me of a friend of mine who lists his religion on Facebook as “Dirty Jew,” which totally cracks me up. Weren't Jews the clean ones?)

What I’m getting at here is… does the “brother” Jesus talked about as the person you are supposed to make things right with no matter what, differ from the “neighbor” who is either whoever needs your help – or whoever helps you?

These are my actual brothers... I love
them in a completely different way...
of course I would also get them out of a
ditch if called to do so.
I don’t know. Certainly giving physical aid to someone as an act of Christian love is not the same as the love you have and show to a person in your own family. You wouldn’t treat every woman the same as your wife. I hope not, anyway. You’re supposed to love your wife as your own body. And the woman next door? Just help her when she needs help. Unless, of course, she needs a sperm donor.

But I digress... and this has degenerated into one of the sillier, more self-answering posts I’ve written. I guess what I’m wondering is this: is love for one’s brother or other very close relative different from love for one’s neighbor? Maybe it’s the difference between love+affection and love+charity…? 

Another confusing thing is that apparently, all Christians are our brothers now. ("For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." – Matthew 12) Hmmm... I guess that's why Paul felt comfortable censuring other Christians... seeing as how they were family and all... 

So... does it mean that I am called to develop deep and excruciatingly real relationships with every Christian I meet? Not to sound awful, but I hope not. To reiterate – I'm just too tired. One thing is sure, though: If I see ANYONE lying in a ditch left for dead – Christian or not, I need to go out of my way to help… even if I might chip a nail.

And all this serves to highlight just how FAB Jesus was. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” But He didn’t just lay down his life for his friends – He laid it down for people He didn’t even know. Oh – wait a minute... He's God – He DOES know everybody! He's our neighbor, our brother – even our husband!* Fab, no?

*Ever heard the excellent song Jesus, Lover of My Soul?

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