I call myself a Wayseeker – someone who seeks to follow the way of Jesus, This is actually a lot harder than it sounds.
Here is what I have determined about Jesus and his Way thus far:
1. Forgiveness is mandatory.
2. Revenge is not allowed under any circumstances.
3. Judging other people is strictly forbidden.
4. You have to love a lot of unsavory people. In fact, you have to love everyone. That can get tiring, let me tell you.
5. Caring for the sick, the needy, the destitute, the possessed, outcasts, adulterers, thieves and all folks of questionable virtue and cleanliness is another requirement.
6. Being rich is a liability.
7. Being a woman is not a liability.
8. The Kingdom of God is here. Right now.
9. We are all members of the Kingdom.
10. Love is the price of entry into the Kingdom. All other debts and liabilities have been redeemed by Jesus.
So essentially the Beatles were right. All you need is love.
But like I said, that is easier than it sounds. I mean, it sounds straightforward in the abstract, but when you get down to real people and real situations, it is pretty darn tough to live the Way.
Take, for example, a couple of lessons from my own life this week.
In the First Lesson, we visit the Good Women of the Village where I used to live. We all met at a local playgroup and for a few years have gotten along quite well. The playgroup is defunct, but thanks to Facebook and coffee mornings and a few evenings down the pub, we’ve been able to keep the camaraderie alive.
That is until a few of the women decided that another of the women – the Suspect – had nicked some money from them, and on more than one occasion to boot. No one has any evidence of this other than 1) the Suspect has the wrong accent (that is very a very telling sign in England), 2) she is a single parent and clearly in need of extra funds, and 3) the psychic they met with described her to a T.
On this basis, they threw the Suspect out of the Facebook group. When it was pointed out to them that you can’t just chuck people out of a group without concrete evidence (the above notwithstanding) they decided to leave the group themselves.
The sad part of this story (besides the Holier-Than-Thou Pointing of Fingers part) is that the three women who left the group are all church-goers. Despite their attendance at church, however, they feel quite comfortable judging others.
When I first heard this tale, I wanted to message them all and demand answers. I wanted to let them know how disappointed I was and to point out how disappointed Jesus would be, too. I wanted to apply a liberal lashing of Bible verses and remind him that judging others was against The Way….
Judging others is against the Way….
There goes my lecture.
Because Jesus also said only that those who are without sin should be chucking around rocks of condemnation.
And let’s just be honest about it – I am absolutely riddled with sin, especially if you interpret “sin” in it’s Hebrew context of “missing the mark”, or incorrect thinking.
I miss the mark all the flipping time.
It doesn’t make what the Good Women of the Village did any better or even remotely o.k., but it does put the entire situation in a new context. It would be so easy – and oh, so satisfying – to beat up folks with my sharp tongue. It is much harder to extend myself in love to the victim and to stand in solidarity with someone who has been cast as an Outsider and a pariah. It is hard to risk losing friends.
But Jesus did say that losing friends (and family) was not only possible, it was probable. People might say they believe in peace, love and understanding, in turning the other cheek and in loving your neighbour as yourself, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, a self-satisfying if ultimately ineffectual lecture is way more entertaining.
And while many church-goers (myself included) mean when they say that you should love others as yourself is that you should donate to worthy charities.
What they do not mean is loving, forgiving and feeling compassion for really unlikable people. Say, for example, a crook or an adulterer.
Of all of the serious sins out there, I see adultery as quite possibly the worse offence you can commit without risking jail time. And yet, it is also one of the most destructive. It breaks trust, promises, contracts, families, and hearts.
It is devastating. Ugly. Unforgivable.
I found out this week that someone close to me has been having an affair, less than a year after getting married and with a baby on the way.
When I heard, I wanted to take a firm stand. Pack up their belongings, put them on the curb, change the locks. Let there be no comfort for the Dirty Dog who who would do this not only to the New Spouse but to the rest of the family as well. We liked the New Spouse!
And now the family is being broken up, because of a stupid, thoughtless, heartless act.
A little suffering – and another nice, long, biting lecture by Yours Truly – was in order.
Except when I saw the Adulterer, it was clear that suffering was already present. It was written in the downcast, bloodshot eyes, the dropped shoulders, the barely contained grief that sat heavily on his shoulders like a physical thing.
So instead of my lecture I just said, “I am so sorry.” And he looked like he wanted to cry so I hugged him. I told him it would be ok, that it was going to be very hard for a very long time because this was an epic mistake, but it would all be o.k. again. One day.
I have no idea what went on inside that marriage. But I do know that marriage and family are hard work – that keeping things together takes sacrifice, forgiveness and a strong back to be able to hold up under the pressures of modern life.
What this person did was wrong. But as a Wayseeker I understood in that moment that it does no good to judge. In fact, judging and picking sides often causes more harm.
And perhaps that was jesus’ whole point. Decisions made out of love and compassion have a way of healing. Anything else is damaging.
That’s why no wussies are allowed – healing takes more effort that wounding. Putting things back together, holding broken people up, loving those who act like they don’t want it or need it is hard, hard work.
It is also the only way to realize the Kingdom on Earth – just exactly as it is in Heaven.
I’m going to do my best to get there. But it won’t be easy.
Just like Jesus said.
Here endeth all of the lessons.