What parent hasn’t heard this comment from a child on a long road trip. So for we Christians what is the trip we are on? Have we ever been inclined to ask if we are there yet?
HIGHWAY OF RELATIONSHIPS
Today I want to identify the highway of our journey as the way of relationships. Our life is meaningless outside of relationships. Relationships are the essence of community. So when Jesus announced the Kingdom had come close to you, I believe he was speaking of the quality of the relationality of community. In Jesus words, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst.’ In his name, implies the spirit and nature of Jesus.
If we stand back from our readings of the past few weeks we can see that in this season of Epiphany, the selection really focuses upon our experience as humans and most notably our capacity to relate.
At one point we were reflecting upon human attitude via reflection upon the be-attitudes. Once again we were measuring the quality and nature of our disposition toward all else both internal as well as external.
Last week our gospel reading addressed the challenges of life and the great problem of conflict that so regularly arises. Conflict with our neighbours, calling another a fool, and the ultimate consequence. It spoke of the ultimate consequence of conflict and its progressive nature if we fail to resolve it.
Being brought before the local court, then the central court of Jerusalem, or the ultimate court of what seems like a point of no return, hellish fire. Jesus points out its spiritual nature by linking conflict with the quality of our worship. They are not two separates, but mirror images of the one reality.
Today the reading swings back to its heart, the essence of love. The ultimate measure of the quality of Relationship is love. But this reading questions how long is the highway journey of love? Are we there yet? An answer requires a specific question to be addressed. “What is possible for humans when it comes to the question of love”?
Jesus has an opinion...
The common practice of the past was tit for tat, eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. That has always seemed reasonable, love others about as much as they might be prepared to love you. That was the Old Testament standard. But Jesus had come to fulfill the law and the prophets. Fulfillment is the big question.
What is possible for humans to aspire to in terms of love?
To answer Jesus presents a range of examples that imply challenging circumstances where others have turned the relationship into a power struggle. How common is that?
If anyone strikes you……
If anyone sues you ……
If anyone forces you …….
All examples of power initiatives. Jesus refutes the eye for an eye response. Rather, he calls for a response to step beyond the power struggle.
…. turn the other cheek
…. give them an extra coat as well
…. go the extra mile.
The way I read these responses is not to see them as prescriptive responses but examples of breaking the power dynamic. It may require one to creatively step back and find another response.
THE ULTIMATE GOAL
Jesus is viewing human behaviour through the spectrum of the ultimate goal of love. It is to grow to the ultimate point of seeing the good in those who treat you poorly, even when they are behaving like enemies. This journey is the perfection of love. How common it is for us to think such a standard is ridiculous. But Jesus has the ultimate vision and the journey is long.
His own life illustrates the path he calls people on.We ask, ‘Are we there yet?’. Naturally we answer, Certainly not.
ONE STEP AT A TIME
Can we ever make it? What does a parent do when the child asks, ‘are we there yet’? They give them a task. ‘Here eat this apple, read this book, count the cows’ etc, etc. Get the child to focus upon the possibilities of the present moment.
Life comes to us, one step at a time. And so we grow in love one step at a time. Life’s journey brings us continuously into relationships with others and with each encounter, a challenge to love. Some easier than others, but each with the challenge to learn the way of love. Each encounter is so to speak, ‘One step at a time’.
Jesus instructs us, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. If I have said Jesus process is to break the power model, he presents the fall back position.
Don’t get caught in the conflict. We might say, go to a deeper level, the level of spirit. Pray for those who persecute you. Praying is the mentality all life is to be built up.
It is our spiritual union with the mind of God.
It is the quality of mind from which creativity flows. And love is creative ever seeking new approaches.
So we may very well ask, ‘are we there yet’? No, but just keep loving one step at a time.