This saying of Jesus is difficult. Take a moment to be present to your feelings as you consider what would a fierce God, a “rough God” look like. This is the view from “after the flood.” Sit with me for a moment in the sanctuary of the church of Van Morrison:
Those few minutes are probably not going to change anyone’s mind who believes God is here mainly to be a comfort to us who are lost down here in Separation. Jesus must have gotten a little tired of that kind of blithe indifference. In more than one place he lets loose with how he really feels. These are called the “difficult sayings of Jesus”:
And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Mt. 5:30, NIV translation)
I did say it was a difficult saying. Because of course no one should claim “Jesus told me to” with a smoking gun in their (other, remaining) hand. Unless that was their actual experience, but the likelihood of being able to establish any support for such an idea is beyond minimal.
I only share this saying because it persists, pressing my attention. Of course this is how Bible verses make the cut over the years following the time of Revelation. They have persisted. Hate them, argue with them, deny them. There they are.
Consider how much easier it would be to disregard this saying. It does put us on the spot.
Like when you’re stuck up a box canyon, with only one way to go, a time of no choice.
For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth going on right now, neither the U.S. nor the E.U. is that oppressed yet. In other regions, yes, in numbers that are stressing the capacity of all. But those who can see what is coming see the hockey stick bend in any graph of cumulative stress as a forerunner of a box canyon situation, if corrective action is not taken.
To recap this year in politics: the right appreciates might, like capital in the form of humans as well as other resources; and the left seeks fair distribution yet also will resort to bullying over terms. Where is God in all of this, is a good question to keep in mind without hasty conclusions, or at least with careful consideration of those conclusions: why would you think that?
The challenge facing any idea of spiritual truth in the world [is] that it is all relative to where you are looking from and your position in the universe and in Creation. —The Soul
A fox with its leg in a trap will affirm Jesus was simply saying, comes a time of no choice.
The witness of the durability of a difficult saying is actually a “tell” for an authentic teaching of Jesus (and not a later redaction by a “helpful” editor? lol no, because it would require more than one lone gunman to try to slip something like this in!) but also a testimony to widespread support for that “tell.”
So when I contemplate the urgency of this difficult saying of Jesus–what! Jesus, no!–I see that he is trying to communicate to us that our situation is more critical than we understand. Is it time-sensitive, culturally dependent, no longer applicable? Well, I tend to open the aperture too widely in the other direction, perhaps, by reading it as an expression of the core existential question.
And as for this rock of the conservative vs. hard place of liberal orientation to life, I would say both right and left hands need to let go of what they are holding onto that keeps them from reaching to shake hands in accord. Or to get to work on taking care of business.
Part Two in the series, “You Say God-Fearing Like It’s a Bad Thing!?” is here