Who are you, really? How likely is it that we will ever know each other, really? It is so much easier to make assumptions, to tuck each other into small compartments, our many costly but convenient categories. If I can label you politician, warmonger, religious zealot, peace freak, holier-than-thou, wealthy, conservative, liberal, rude, angry, worthy or unworthy—so many possibilities!—then I do not have to really know you. I do not have to make room for your complexities and contradictions, your confusing capacity to be “all that and more.”
Jesus has just given his most memorable teaching, the one saying there is surprise blessing to be found in being what we think we do not want to be—poor, hungry, sad or rejected. This is the sermon about loving our enemies and doing good to those who hate us, how we are to give whenever someone asks and not keep track of what is owed us, how we will refrain from judging if we want the joy of forgiving and being forgiven. It is a call to let go of our assumptions about each other, to reconsider our puny categories and let each other be who we are right now.
Following this sermon is an immediate illustration: A centurion has a highly valued slave who is ill and near death so he asks some Jewish elders to see if Jesus will come heal him. Right away we can see something different going on here. Roman soldiers and Jewish elders are not in compatible categories, not apt to be easy friends, any more than a centurion and his slave. A Jewish elder, typically, would not declare a centurion’s slave worthy of healing, any more than a centurion, typically, would confide that even though he has authority over everybody, he is unworthy to have Jesus come into his home.
When we insist on keeping one another in categories, we limit what God might be trying to give us now. We forfeit the healing that might be on its way, the potential of new perceptions and new encounters. If we spend so much time calculating the speck in our enemy’s eye that we fail to see the log in our own, we are unlikely to see anything new. We are unlikely to know each other, really.
By: Kayla McClurg