God's Word: Live It!

A Persistent Faith

Sunday, we ran smack into one of Jesus’ most difficult discipleship expectations: “Turn the other cheek.” Added to that, he asks us to pray for our enemies, not to seek revenge, give money to everyone who begs —the list just keeps on growing. All of it is difficult and some of it, for a lot of us, is impossible. Why does Jesus keep heaping these demands upon us? Are his expectations too high? Is he out of touch with the world we live in? Doesn’t he understand the complexities of this world, its demand for vengeance and blame, and brute strength? 

Yes, he does. He does have high expectations because he is willing to die for us. That’s how highly he thinks of us – that we’re worth his agony and sacrifice. He is asking us to persist in living on the higher ground, listening to our better angels, leading our friends and family, co-workers and neighbors and fellow church members to a place of forgiveness, gentleness, understanding and generosity. We cannot always accomplish this, but we’re being asked to persist in TRYING to accomplish these attributes as a way of life. We have nothing to gain by holding onto grudges, being unforgiving, blaming or name calling. Jesus knows we are children of God. We are marked by the cross of Christ forever. He knows we are equipped with the Holy Spirit and the 10 Commandments. He knows we can live up to the hard work of making peace with our past, with those who have hurt us, and try to prayerfully accompany those who upset or frighten us the most. Let us begin anew each day to persist in living out our baptismal promise. 

  • Pray for the strength to be forgiving.
  • Let things pass.
  • Use words thoughtfully.
  • Give, give, give, share, share, share.
  • Use “we” instead of “they.”
  • Be merciful, grateful and non-judgmental just as we hope people will be towards us.

Words and Women

Yesterday, we read that Jesus continues to parse the Beatitudes focusing on two very important issues: 1)the power of language and 2) treatment of women. Jesus is clearly saying we can’t justify harsh language and that kind of speech has ghastly divine consequences.  No, we’re not talking about taking the Lord’s name in vain. We’re talking about hurtful, mean, abusive, harsh language used to intentionally hurt feelings, steal someone’s spirit or kill their sense of self. There are the obvious, like racial epithets, using anatomy to describe women, or taunting. But we also discussed the national climate of mean spiritedness, name calling and lack of civil discourse. As social and political beings we can get caught up in this verbal mayhem. Jesus calls us to step out of the fray and find ways to manage it with civility, peacemaking and conciliation. He says the further we are from a sense of common humanity, the further we are from God. The further we are from God, the bleaker our lives become. Finally, using language to nullify another’s humanity is simply not an option for disciples. Words can kill. Abusive language is not “of God.” Period.

As for women Jesus teaches us that demeaning women with language and lust, and gender inequality is not acceptable.  He appeals directly to men to see women as human beings, not chattel or objects of lust. In our society women are used as sex objects to appeal to our voracious appetite for consumerism. Jesus challenges us to change our way of looking at women, seeing and uplifting their humanity, not their sexuality. He emphasizes women’s equality, dignity and humanity. I could give a list of suggestions, but I fear they would be easily discounted moralisms. Perhaps it is better to remember that this is not a small matter. For Jesus it is at the heart of human community and the way he understands discipleship. If that doesn’t gain our attention, we’re lost souls.

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