G'ampa C's Blog

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Leaving My Gift at The Altar

Last night, I read something in Matthew 5 I had never understood before.
Jesus was telling his disciples about the old rules...designed to treat the action but not the heart.
"You have heard...murderers will be subject to judgement. But I tell you-
anyone who is angry at his brother (without cause) will be subject to judgement;
and anyone who says to his brother "Raca" (a term of contempt) is answerable to the Sanhedrin;
BUT anyone who says to his brother "You Fool!" will be in danger of the fire of hell.

THEREFORE, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift in front of the altar. First go, and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."

Jesus did not talk about right or wrong, who was at fault, or even what was done. His only requirement was that (in the first person) I realize someone has something against me. Why am I responsible for someone else who is upset with me? Why, indeed?

My brother who is angry at me (even without cause) is liable to judgement.
My brother who is so mad at me that he calls me a fool (or, probably, any other adjective or noun launched at me as a term of disgust) is in danger of the fire of hell.

Should that bother me? Absolutely. Enough to bring me to a point where I should go and seek reconciliation? Apparently. Even if it's not my fault? Hmmm. Apparently.

Notice that the issue is NOT that I have something against my brother, but that he has something against me.
The connective THEREFORE tells me that the "gift at the altar" sequence in verses 23-24 provides some kind of solution or answer to the judgements made apparent in the "you have heard that it was said" sequence in verses 21-22. Somehow I never got that before.
I am, in some fashion, responsible enough to God for my brother's anger or rage that I should wait before offering a gift to God until I try to reconcile. It should be really, really important to me that my brother NOT be mad at me. His soul could be in jeopardy and there might be something I can do about it.
How often do we launch out on a mission and offend folks (right or wrong) without ever making the effort to reconcile? The call by Jesus to be reconciled gets lost in the knowledge that "I have my rights." I think maybe this applies a lot to our treatment of our brothers and sisters who disagree with us on doctrinal issues. You say TOH-MAY-TOE, I say TOH-MAH-TOE, let's call the whole thing off. Does my assurance that my interpretation of any given issue is right relieve me of compassionate peace-seeking with someone who does not see things as I do? Hmmm. I don't think so...any more. I think this text is calling me to be a conciliatory man.
Paul touched on this attitude in discussing eating meat. He resolved that HIS eating of meat, in good conscience, should never cause his brother to stumble. I take that to mean he just would not do it in certain company or circumstances. He gave up his personal "rights" in deference to his brother.
Is that something like what Jesus said in Matthew 5:21-24? Are we really called to be conciliatory Cristians?
Is anyone out there?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Huckleberry Finn

I recently read again this old book. They have talked of banning it from schools and libraries again. I wonder if those people ever really read the book. The book is full of ethics and morality as viewed through the eyes of a simple kid with little "book learning" but lots of life experience.

Huck, a kid forced on his own by an abusive and neglectful father, discovers that the one man who is honorable and treats him fairly is Nigger Jim. Practically every other man in the book is a bum, thief, wretch, liar, alcoholic, swindler, dishonest or of questionable sense. Huck is informed by society that to help a runaway slave is wrong and he will go to hell for it, so he has to make a tough decision. He has to choose to either follow his heart or face Miss Watson's "Providence" in the day of judgement. He can't turn Jim in and do what his heart says is right, so he prepares for hell. I wonder how often our dogmas and misconceptions about religion, the lost, the church and Jesus make unbelievers decide it isn't worth it to pursue the life.

In another part of the book, the widow Douglas and Miss Watson tell him to pray for anything and God will provide it, which Huck takes at face value and prays for some fishing line. He got the line, but no hooks, even though he tried several times. Being apparently refused by God, he decided he was of no account, low-down and ornery, and wasn't worth God's time. I wonder how often non-Christians get the wrong impression and feel the same way. They pray for something without understanding and get no results, proving to them that either God is a hoax or they are not worth his time. Or, then again, how often does MY treatment of a waiter or clerk or salesman or the guy in the next car color the person's opinion of God because I outwardly profess Christianity? What DOES the non-Christian think when someone with a little fish on the back of their car scream at them for some offense then pull into the church parking lot?

Huck Finn got to thinking about the upright, church-going people he knew. They hadn't any fun and expected everyone else to be the same. They were strict, condescending and judgemental. Those were the people, they said, which would populate heaven, and he must do what they did in order to squeak by into the pearly gates. After he thought about it long enough, Huck decided he wouldn't try for it.

Hmmm. What should that say to me??

Some say Mark Twain was practically an atheist. Maybe it was people's version of God he couldn't believe in.