On the Way: The Ethics of Jesus
“…first be reconciled to your brother or sister…” –Matthew 5:24
I’m tired of politics. Anger seems to be the primary tone of the day. Vilifying and dehumanizing those who disagree with you is a common tactic. It seems that crushing and destroying your opponents is the goal. The uglier the better. Perhaps it has always been this way (there are accounts of dueling being a problem in congress at one point in history), but the sound of ranting and raging seems to have reached a fevered pitch in our day.
I’m tired of politics. Perhaps it’s just me. I confess, I’ve never been good at confrontation. I don’t like conflict, and prefer to avoid it (though I know you can’t always do that). I blame it on the bullying I experienced as a child. What I learned from those painful days is that confrontation and conflict get you punched in the face, stuffed in lockers, and solves nothing. I prefer negotiation, mediation and sitting down and trying to work things out. I prefer seeking common ground, listening (as best as we can) and doing the hard work of reconciliation.
I’ve been thinking about all that a lot as we’ve been working through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount this year. In this collection of Jesus’ teachings, he “turns up the heat” on the Ten Commandments as a frame for living our lives as the people of God. It is not an easy ethic. I doubt that are many (any?) who can read through Jesus’ sermon and not feel convicted. I do. And yet, I think Jesus’ words not only convict, but also paint a picture of a world I yearn for and aspire to. A world I would love to live in. Imagine living in a world where anger does not crush people, where women (and others) are not objectified, where faithfulness in marriage and other relationships is upheld, and integrity and honesty are the hallmarks of human community. I think that’s the world God intends for us, and there are hints of it that sometimes manage to poke up through the ranting and raging of our day. It’s those little hints that give me hope and that I want to nurture and find ways to encourage in the course of my own life and ministry.
“Love your neighbor as yourself…” Along with loving God, Jesus says this sums up all the Commandments, and underlies his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Striving to loving our neighbor is the way we live into the vision of the sermon. That is often a challenge, especially when we disagree, or worse, fear our neighbor. But, in the end, the results have to be better than responding to our neighbors with anger, adultery, unfaithfulness, and false witness.
Please pray for all our leaders, and especially for our politicians during this election year.
Thanks for reading.