In Laws, out laws, enemies, family, having your cake, and eating it too

Yesterday, I blogged about how we like to pretend that situations are win-win, like they are easy compromises when in fact they are difficult and actually do create winners and losers.  Today’s sermon at Fellowship church, given, of course, by Marty, helped to clarify my thinking in this direction and also to spur it off in a few other direction.

The most direct repurcussion to what I posted yesterday: Marty was preaching on some really tough words of Jesus.  He said that people try to soft pedal these words, chalk it up to cultural differences, translation errors, etc.  I don’t think I’m putting words in Marty’s mouth to say that I think he’s right in some healthy skepticism at these attempts at explaining the hard stuff away.

It occurs to me, in fact, that this is another way of trying to have our cake and eat it too.  We have our cake by saying I accept the whole of The Bible.  We eat it to by saying that when it’s hard to swallow parts we can just rationalize and explain the hardness away.

There’s actually something really reassuring about the fact that this stuff is not easy.  The reassuring part is this: we could reasonably, rationalized be accused of making up a faith that was easy, that confirmed the perceptions that we had before we allowed ourselves to be changed by the scripture. 

The hard truth might not be fun.  But the very fact that it is hard actually helps to confirm the truth of it.  The very fact that we are trying to conform ourselves to the words, rather than the other way around, this implies that we are behaving obediently.  In Brian McLaren’s words, we are allowing the scripture to read us.

If I struggle with Jesus words, I am inevitably lead to question of where MY problems are.  If I begin with the assumption that the bible is true, and I really wrestle with the fact that Jesus is supposed to be more important than my biological family, I can turn my view on myself.  I can begin to see that there is idolatry in my attitude.  I was attempting to hold my family above the creator of the universe.  On the other hand, if I begin with the assumption that my world view is correct, then I will work hard at finding ways to make scripture not mean what it seems to mean.

This is not to say that we should instantly simply assume that Jesus’ words should always be taken in the “hardest” sense possible.  He did, after all, promise that his yolk was light and easy.   What I’m getting at here is that reasonable understanding is huge, but we have to be careful not to delude ourselves into taking the very easiest way out.

The fact that Jesus came with a sword to set us against those in our biological family is hard.  I think we should really hold onto this difficulty.   We should not try to escape the reality that people we love very much might end up our enemies. 

But we should hold this reality next to the reality of what Jesus told us to do with our enemies.  He told us to love them.

Holding these truths next to each other is harder than just taking one and running with it.  This isn’t a win-win, really.  This isn’t letting one of Jesus statements counter act another statement so that they cancel each other out like matter and anti-matter in a cheesy science fiction novel.

This is letting his words meaning penetrate in a real way.  As we wrestle with Jesus meaning it determines the “wrestling moves” we use.  In this case, it leads to me the following questions:

#1) Does it look the same to love an “enemy” and love an “ally”?

#2) How do we go about living our every day lives with people who are “enemies”; how do we strike the balance between loving them and recognizing there is something in them which is opposed to what we are supposed to be doing and thinking and feeling?

Looking foreward to answers,



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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

One thought on “In Laws, out laws, enemies, family, having your cake, and eating it too”

  1. Sadly (but not surprisingly) no answers. I liked the juxtaposition of hating family/loving enemies, though. I had never thought of it that way. I’ve been struggling with the whole Scripture-reading-me thing lately. Last week I met up with a friend who has, I learned, made a life-choice that I think is very unScriptural and yet she has done it in the name of Jesus, and it seems that He is still blessing her in other areas of her life.

    It’s both comforting and sobering, I think, to realise (and then see an example) that God will allow us to misinterpret and outright disobey Him . . . and yet He still loves us and wants “in,” in our lives.


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