Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 22:39

19
May
21

Tennis anyone?

Watch out for his wicked backhand!

I am not a huge tennis fan, but I do love watching a good, sustained, competitive tennis volley. Each player is moving to the ball… returning their opponent’s shot with confidence… probing to find the perfect angle to sneak the ball past the opponent… hustling to get in position for the return shot…

It reminds me of a few conversations I’ve had lately.

I am sure you know what I’m talking about. The settings are eerily similar; first, there is something in play, only in the case of the conversation it is a Topic of Mutual Interest (TMI for short) instead of a tennis ball. Second, instead of high-performance rackets, the combatants are wielding Perceptions

Custom-built, finely tuned Perceptions

Back and forth flies the TMI, vigorously batted from one side to the other. Sweat begins dripping down the face of each player as they grunt with the exertion of each stroke. Finally, one player breaks through and hits a screaming, utterly unreturnable shot past the flagging defenses of the person on the other side.

Game. Set. Match. On one side, a winner. On the other, a sad, deflated loser.

Flipping back to the tennis setting, we almost always experience great joy and satisfaction when we are the one standing on the winning side of the net. But when we shift our focus to the playing field of the person-to-person conversation, that moment of victory can sometimes ring a little hollow, can’t it?  

 Let’s all confess this right now, in unison: “I LIKE TO BE RIGHT!”

This is certainly true of me. Anytime a person makes a statement that exhibits deep, factual flaws [statements like, for example, “This whole COVID thing is a sham,” or “I’m really not sure these vaccines are safe, so I’m not getting one.” You know… dumb stuff like that] I feel a compulsion to rush in and set the record straight by lobbing a truth bomb and blowing away such blatant tomfoolery. 

But is that always needed? Are there times when there are higher values to uphold than factual correctness?

The Bible speaks frequently about the need to be “righteous,” (also translated as “right”).  By my quick count, the Good Book uses the words “righteous” or “righteousness” a total of 493 times. God is regularly quoted as saying – in effect – “It’s got to be MY way or the HIGHWAY.”

Jesus’ take on righteousness, in contrast, is markedly different than the one we find in the Old Testament. His call was for a right adherence to not necessarily all 613 commandments of the Torah, but to the Two Great Commandments: love God and love your neighbor. (Matthew 22:37-40, NRSV). 

Here is what Jesus has to say about the relationship of LOVE and RIGHTEOUSNESS, as he quotes Proverbs 21:3: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13, NRSV).

Being so brash as to interpret Jesus’ direct words to you, he seems to be saying here that he is more concerned with right RELATIONSHIP rather than factual or scriptural rightness. In other words, I think Jesus would be totally cool with you if – while stumbling to quote a passage of scripture accurately – you fed a hungry person. 

Which brings me back to my original question; are there times when you and I need to adhere to a higher value than our need to be right all the time? 

If you are married, you already know the answer to this one.

If you are NOT married, the answer is: YES…. there absolutely are times when you need to bite your tongue, refusing to return that shot for the sake of the relationship. 

Much easier said than done, I’m afraid. 

Abundant blessings;

06
Aug
20

There Must Be a Reason

Asking whyMy wife, Joan, is a big fan of “doing things for a reason.”

And there is always a good, solid reason for the things she does.

When cooking her world-famous pasta primavera, for example, [What… you’ve never heard of it?] it is not by whim or accident that the carrots are cut to THAT exact size, or why they go into the water 10 minutes beforethe broccoli florets.

She chose to drive to Loveland via Highway 287 rather than I-25 the other day for the very good reason that Google alerted her to a possible tie-up on the interstate.

For the long-term health of our marriage, it is a really good thing she is wired this way. That’s because – as you might have guessed by now – I am sort of wired with the opposite polarity. “Oh, I don’t know… no reason,” is the phrase that most often comes out of my mouth when Joan asks why I chose THAT particular shirt to wear, or why I am using THAT tool to pull weeds from the yard.

Having a reason for the things one does is smart and commendable. And even though I only sporadically engage in this practice, I highly recommend it…

… except, that is, when it comes to the subject of love.

And to be clear, I am talking here about the selfless, unconditional, Christ-like, agape kind of love when I say this. Romantic-style love usually proceeds on a whole host of reasons… some rational, others not so much.

In the 22nd chapter of Matthew’s gospel, we find Jesus engaged in a street-corner debate with a lawyer. Eager to match wits with this up-and-coming rabbi, the lawyer poses this question: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:36, NRSV). Knowing that there were 613 laws to choose from, this hot-shot thought he had really painted Jesus into a corner.

As usual though, Jesus quiets the questioner and the crowd with a simple, straightforward response. He answers the lawyer by saying, “Love God, and love your neighbor. Everything else is window dressing ” Or words to that effect.

For me, the really revolutionary part of this response is the two words Jesus does NOT include in his answer.

Jesus’ answer does NOT include the words, “So that…”

In other words, he did not say, “Love your neighbor SO THAT the other guy will thank you.”

He didn’t say, “Love your neighbor SO THAT they will ‘owe you one’ and love you back.”

He didn’t say, “Love your neighbor SO THAT the crime rate in your neighborhood will go down.”

Heck… he didn’t even say, “Love your neighbor SO THAT she will join your church.”

There were, however, two other words that came after the word “neighbor.”  He said, “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

Wow! Wild. Radical. Revolutionary. Necessary.

Of course, if anyone had asked Jesus to explain WHY we should love our neighbor, he probably would not have said, “Oh I don’t know… no reason.”

 

He probably would have said something like, “Because your Father told you to!”

25
Aug
19

For me?

Puerto Rican tree frogJoan and I (and Joan’s daughter Jessica) are in Puerto Rico for a few days, enjoying our first-ever trip to this island.

What an amazing place! If you have never been, I highly recommend it.

For Jessica, this is a vacation. That’s because Jessica is a working person.

Joan and I, however, are only allowed to call it a “trip” because we are both retired. That means we are legally prohibited from using the word “vacation.”

We are staying in a little seaside spot near Punta Santiago on the east coast of the island. It is far outside the city of San Juan and therefore very peaceful and serene.

The remoteness of our location has allowed us to meet the little tree frog that is known as “the symbol of Puerto Rico,” the coqui. The coqui has a distinctive and piercing call that begins right around sunset and continues until the wee hours of the morning.

Wikipedia tells me that the coqui’s call is made up of two parts… the “co” which is designed to scare away other male frogs, and the “qui” (pron. “key”), which is his come-on to any female frogs in the area.

I am glad I looked this up because when I first heard the call of the coqui, it struck me as the call of the most self-centered little amphibian in the world.

The call I thought I heard him making was, “For me?” repeated over and over and over again.

It made me think about how often I have employed that mating call in my own life.

I had to stop and ask myself if I am only able to appreciate the joy and wonder of life when it is especially designed “for me.”

Am I only able to weep and feel the true depth of sorrow when a tragedy is uniquely “for me”?

I sincerely hope that is not the case. Because if it were, I would truly be a person worth pitying.

When Jesus commanded us to, “love your neighbor as yourself,” (Matthew 22:39), I believe he was commanding us to do away with the notion that there is a distinction between the two.

When I see no distinction between my neighbor’s well being and my own well being, self-care and compassion merge to become the same thing.

Your joy is indeed “for me.” Your sorrow is also, “for me.”

So maybe instead of being annoyed as the little coqui sings me to sleep tonight, I will instead choose to be grateful for his sermon on authentic human compassion.

 

But maybe he could try preaching it a little more quietly though, eh?




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