“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.” This is actually a quote from Flannery O’Connor – noted 20th century author and Roman Catholic. But in my head, I attribute it to a priest friend who was the Chaplain to Canterbury at Baylor. – Not many sermons are often short-lived in my brain.
I tend to hear them, take a bit and then dumb all the information. I don’t feel particularity bad about it, because for the most part, I do this to my own sermons as well.
But for some reason, this quote from this person has always stuck with me. The same guy preached at my wedding, but do I remember one word be said there? No, I think the quote sticks with me because it rings so true about the Christian experience.
Take this weeks Gospel lesson-one in my opinion that is one of the harder saying of Jesus.
He starts with the easier portion from the Old Testament. From Exodus 21:22-25
22 When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. 23 If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
This is revolutionary-why because it requires us to keep our emotions in check and stop at justice.
Because when something bad is done to use, what is our natural desire? To get the person back… with interest. The Chicago way – one of theirs pulls a knife, you pull a gun. One of theirs puts yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue.
But this stops prior to that, it stops at justice. When Exodus expands on this, it shows that the emotion is supposed to get them out of it so that justice prevails. Justice is meted out eye for eye, tooth for tooth.
This is understandable to me, it is balancing the scales of justice, and while we get in trouble for unbalancing them, at least it always gets back to level.
Now comes Jesus who takes this standard and raises it. Now granted Jesus is speaking hyperbole here. Does he really want us to look at the person who punches us in the face and say “I’m sorry you could get the other side too – I’d hate to look unbalanced?”
Because if this is the case, then it seems like going back to the model of vengeance but in reverse – Make your assailants happier by making yourself feel worse, or maybe make them pity you to the point of stopping.
No, here he is talking about deescalating the situation. It is about seeing the person and why they are doing this.
Why is this person mad enough to punch you in the face? Would it make you feel better to get the other cheek too? I’m sorry why are you stealing from me? Is it because you are hungry or cold? Here have this shirt I have in the truck and let me help you get to a place that can actually help you.
This is about going beyond just ourselves and seeking to see the other person as a whom God made with as much love as he made us.
This is the hard part. It is easy to write off these with whom you have issue as ignorant or wicked, or all the other adjectives I see people call each other on Facebook and Twitter. It is easy to do that because we know our own story and how our beliefs fall into it.
But it is much harder to look at someone with whom we disgrace and attempt to understand their point of view – maybe even to see points of validity in them. But even beyond that, to see them as a person whom Jesus died for.
Jesus tells u s to be perfect as Our Heavenly Father is perfect. IN the Old Testament lesson we get the saying from God: “You shall be Holy; for I the Lord your God am Holy.” Holy is set apart for the sole use of God.
This is why that quote from Flannery O’Connor hits home with me so much.
Because the knowledge of what Jesus did for me and what he does for all, that blood that redeemed my sins also set me apart which requires me to live a life set apart-one different from the standards the world sets for me.
He requires more from us because he gives more to us and the life set apart he expects us to live perfectly. A very tall order – but one he never relaxes.
He doesn’t relax it, but he does provide his spirit to empower us to achieve it.
St. Paul tells us that the wisdom of the world is fully with God.
God calls us beyond the settlement of allowing our base nature to see justice at wrong doing. We are called to the love that God has for all.
This is the truth, and if properly carried out it will indeed make us odd – but we will be all the better in our oddity.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit