Today’s Gospel: Matthew 5:38-42
This Gospel passage is foreign to me. Not foreign as in, “delicious French baguettes still warm from the bakery!” Foreign as in, “Let’s have sea worms for dinner!” It doesn’t beckon me to some wonderful land. It beckons me to a strange, scary place I don’t want to go.
I have heard people – wise, learned, holy people – tame this passage. The tame version is difficult enough: Pray for your enemies, keep an even temper, look for that creative third way to resolve conflicts. If I manage even the domesticated version of this Gospel, that’s a pretty big day for me, spiritually speaking.
But I don’t think our Lord means for us to stop there, and declare ourselves fit for the Kingdom of Heaven because we managed not to throw a temper tantrum when the waiter gets the order wrong. We worship a God who became man not only to die to everyday problems, but to die on a cross.
I’d rather eat a sea worm than die on a cross. And I have no intention of eating a sea worm.
Is there hope for me? Who has no interest in handing over my cloak to my enemy? Who considers it a supreme act of forbearance to keep my mouth shut five minutes longer than usual?
Well, Jesus did himself begin with the tame crosses. He lived a perfect life, but one begun in perfect answers to smaller things – the wrong kind of delivery room, a hurried trip to Egypt. A perfect life, but one that, for a time, involved slipping away from the big cross that threatened, until it should be the proper hour for the final agony.
So I start there. I can’t pat myself on the back for an A+ in Cheek Turning 101, when the best I managed was to not stick out my tongue, or sling my fist. When I respond to evil with an answer more graceful than vengeful, I can’t tell myself I’ve fulfilled this Gospel mandate. Not yet.
But I’ve started. We begin with the small trip to the safe place, and go from there to someplace wilder, more dangerous, and more magnificent.
Where are you, today, in the journey towards learning to repay good for evil? Still spitting mad and plotting revenge? Ready to lay down your life for the person who destroyed all you love and hold dear? Or somewhere in between?
This is a hard teaching, Lord. Your ways are completely different than mine. You ask of me things that seem impossible – are are impossible, without your Grace. Today I am asking you to help me take the next step towards becoming more like you, and loving others, and myself, more like you do. Thank you. Amen.
Copyright 2014 Jennifer Fitz