I was reading today’s verses – “that Sermon …” on “that Mount … ” – and thought: “It’s no wonder that people “find fault” with God when they want.”
Sin and forgiveness: don’t do that – or no reward … do this – and a reward for you … when someone does that – don’t do that back … when someone does that – do this back to them …
It’s all very “parent-small child” – it’s all very “simple” – it is all carrot and stick: “Be bad and hell awaits. But be good – and I will love you.”
And then the praying and the worship. The “doing good things”. The giving money to others … More rewards on offer. More rewards to be earned or lost. More “religion” to be enforced. To control you. To manipulate you. Like here …
‘Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
As a grandparent – and parent prior to that – I find a rhythm, a sameness, a “sounds like me” (without all the God stuff). The same “bribery” to blend sought behaviours, the same “socialising”, the same integration into society, the same “behaviour management”. The same “control”. The same (I have seen this phrase often used) “brainwashing”.
And the one thing “missing” in all these (grown up) conversations and debates about “God” and “religion” and “faith” is …
Not just “God’s love” (or not). I am talking about “my” love for me and you. Because when I think like that and then re-read these verses a few times …
I see Love that both ignores and includes who we sophisticated twenty-first century people like to believe we are. I see Love that speaks to those dusty peeps who knew no other way. Those duty peeps who lived in a world where EVERYONE told them what to do: their own leaders, the occupying power, their religious leaders, their culture, their history, the education, the “living” – and their faith – in every area of their daily lives! All those “controlling powers” – all at odds with each other – but all the “same”. ALL meting out punishment and reward. All without any regard for the sanctity of human life.
And Jesus came and spoke to them as a loving parent speaks to a very young child: In “their language” – not “His”. Is that not just a beautiful thing?
Forget the arguments – forget the “stuff” we sling around – forget all that. Is that not how we each want to be spoken to? In “our” language – not “theirs”? Can we forget all the “stuff” we fight over – just for a while – and focus on Love – anywhere and everywhere – no matter “the reason” – no matter “the stuff”?
Because – just as we choose to stay in an emotional kindergarten – what we do with Love is also up to each one of us.
We can hoard it, reject it, dismiss it, diss it, poison it, tarnish it, belittle it, make fun of it, intellectualise it, make it a dry and dusty study topic, or even make it another set of chains and bindings – another rule-book to control. And the result of that?
We become aggressively sensitive to those who Love for “different reasons”. We remove Unconditional Love and make it “my way”– we make it “my reasons – my kind of people – my love and only my love” – and we reject those who do not agree with “me”. We become as “brainwashed” as those we accuse of being “brainwashed”. We are “controlled” as much as those we accuse of being “controlled”.
We are the same – God or no God – yet we never choose to see that.
So (as often happens) can we look at these verses without “God (or no God) stuff” getting in the way … ?
Being seen by others? Is there any “connection” within anything other than my ego?
Not sounding a trumpet? What is my motivation for helping other than my self-image?
Left hand – right hand? Can I respond without “calculating” what’s in it for me all the time? Am I able to be affected – be connected – be touched – by those around me – others just like me?
Room – shut the door? Give honestly, without transaction, with Love in Love as Love – allow yourself to be naked with yourself – or else why bother at all?
And when you fast … ? If you cannot connect at a deeper level – why bother to do something like that at all?
And that – for me – “lifts” the message to whatever standard of maturity … sophistication … culture … upbringing … anyone might wish to apply. Because when I focus on love and these verses – and then apply “grown-up speak” to the message – I see this …
Be an self-centred ego-centric disconnected prat ( or not). The choice is yours. But leave “God” out of it. Own your ranting – whether that be “for God” or “against God”. Ranting is not “love” – and ranting has nothing to do with God (or not God) – ranting is your choice every time you rant.
Hands up anyone who admits to THAT being the “gold standard” of their personal maturity (although some do – some actively pursue that way of living)? It is a stage I have lived for part of my life. It is a phase I see others going through. It is a “way of being” I can easily return to (no occupying powers needed!).
And just as we have a choice about living in “the kindergarten” our whole lives, we also have a choice as to how long we stay in “this phase” (and how frequently we return to it).
Because – for me – what we do with Love is always up to each one of us. And so is blame. And so are the hate figures, groups, ideologies, challenges, God, no God … all the “stuff” we use as the (universal) reason for …
“It’s not my fault that I am a self-centred ego-centric disconnected prat.”
I think we should own “that” as well. It’s only fair on the rest of us.