The Fantastic: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24

The Resurrection. The Aftermath.

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Mark 16:17-18 (NIV)

I thought Hinduism was bonkers. A few of my friends subscribed to the faith, mostly out of tradition than anything legitimate, and it never made sense. It is a religion with too many gods to count, each cast in its image as an idol, usually placed around a home in semi-fengshui’d fashion. Each has its own fantastical backstory, involving severed heads, dozens of arms, rebirth, resurrection, sacrifice, and animal cross-breeding. Each also has its own unique thematic area. There were good gods and bad gods, caught in a seemingly endless spiritual battle.

In high school, I asked a Hindu student if she took it all seriously. She said no, but that her parents believed in it whole-heartedly. My less-than-subtle chuckle said it all.

“That’s funny to you?” She asked me.

There was no time to back tread, so I needed to own it.

“A little. I mean, it’s all a little ridiculous.”

She looked around at the gaggle of students now paying attention.

“Isn’t your religion based off a guy doing miracles who dies, goes to Hell, comes back to life, and then ascends into the clouds?”

The fight-worthy “ooooooooooooohhhhhs” that resounded still echo in my ears.

There are some ridiculous passages in the Bible that seem to have more in common with Lord of the Rings than with reality. Take the Nephilim – a race of angel-human halfbreeds who walked the Earth during Noah’s time. Or Moses’ burning bush – which he alone sees­­ – and the slew of prehistoric plagues that rain down in its wake. Not to mention the Red Sea parting, on top of the Elijah separating a second body of water.

To the unbeliever, it looks and sounds ridiculous. To the Christian, however, it all makes sense.

Jesus life and works culminates in his resurrection, which occurs on the third day after his death, just as predicted. He walks among his disciples and followers for a few days, appearing to several groups of people. He offers Thomas a chance to feel the holes in his hands and feet before he believes. Finally, he offers up the “great commission,” commanding his apostles to enter the world and preach the good news of Jesus Christ.

And then it’s over. He ascends into Heaven, leaving us all dumb-founded.

Sure it’s all a little ridiculous, and it begs the questions. In such an non-fantastic world, why does such a large portion of the world believe all of it?

It’s gotta be something.

Have Respect: Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23

Trial. Torture. Death. Burial.

“…His disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
Matthew 27:64b (NIV)

I write this blog everyday, so time is not on my side. I tend to read a passage late at night, sleep on it, wake up the next morning, and write the entry within 30 minutes. Some ramble, some sync up nicely, some flutter off the point I originally had. I am a perfectionist, and this project has taught me to be in the moment, whatever moment that may be. I have written angry entries, loopy ones, and blasé ones.

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the pivotal event in the Christian canon, and Easter Sunday (which celebrates the Resurrection) is the day of the year that sends fair weather believers running back to churches – half tradition, half guilt. As a kid, I found it odd that Easter was the most celebrated day of the year – rather than Christmas. Isn’t the birth of Christ much more celebratory than his death? But more pious believers quickly squashed that – it’s not about celebration. It’s about respect.

Young Christians get the crucifixion beaten into them from a young age, and I think that might be a disservice. Sure, indoctrinating children leads to strong belief, but I almost wish it was something left for adults to take in (although, that suggestion might stray the religion towards Dianetics over time). It’s just too huge of a gesture – a savior dying for the world. We are so saturated with that part of the canon that it almost becomes nonchalant. What sacrifice is it for a deity to die on a cross? He comes back to life a mere two days later and then runs off to Heaven for all eternity.

And yet, the story is incredibly moving, so much so that Christianity reigns as one of the world’s most revered ideologies, right in line with the other western philosophies. What about it is so powerful exactly? Is it that he was a man, not a God, when it occurred? A common question I heard in Sunday School was “Why did God send His son to die? Why didn’t He sacrifice Himself?” The answer was always “Because fathers love their sons more than themselves.” I guess that answer suffices, although it is a bit unsatisfying. From the perspective of a selfish grade-schooler, it will always seem like a cop out.

When our teachers thought we weren’t quite getting the gravity of the act, they would always wheel out some method to shock us into respect. In eighth grade, they showed us a scientific video which pulled apart every single aspect of the crucifixion, from the beatings all the way to the cross, and examined the physical pain involved. Half the class cried. At one point, the narrator said that it was likely that Jesus sweat blood by the end of his three hours on the cross. One girl ran to the bathroom when she heard that, sick to her stomach.

Coincidentally, that was the same year Mel Gibson released his opus Passion of the Christ. My mother bought tickets to an advanced screening of it; we skipped musical rehearsal to come to it. I cried – I think we all cried. It was horrifically violent – and actually very well-made, despite what you think about its artistic merit. There was something about seeing it that brought home the sacrifice more than reading about it. I wonder if there was a time of less saturation, when reading the text brought along the same emotion.

Jesus was a real person – I’m not interested in the conspiracy theories that claim otherwise. You may not think he was the Messiah, but he most definitely endured what the Bible records as fact.

So, I’m going to respect that and not really comment on it. It’s a jaw-dropping gesture worthy of gallons of respect. I’d like to sit in awe of it rather than try to explain it, or manipulate it into something involving my current emotional status.

It is what it is. Let’s just marvel for now and comment later.

Pathological, Pt 2: Matthew 26:47-75, Mark 14:43-72, Luke 22:47-71

(This is the second part of a two-part entry. Read the first part here)

Jesus Arrested. The Denials. Brought Before the People.

Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Matthew 26:75 (NIV)

At the last supper, all of Jesus’ disciples – including the treacherous Judas – all swear their allegiance. Jesus scoffs at this suggestion, making two predictions: one will commit the ultimate act of betrayal, and the rest will also “fall away.” Peter does not believe it, saying “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (Matthew 26:33) Jesus replies with a prophecy. “‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’” (26:34) Peter promises his loyalty, and the matter falls away.

So who do you think ends up being right?

Peter disowns Jesus three times, and that is all we really come to know about it. The Gospels contradict each other on the exact circumstances and language he uses to deny Jesus, so we cannot glean much about the logistics. Here is what we do know: Hours after making a promise, Peter breaks it. He is a bona fide liar, and that gets him little sympathy from the Christian community. Jesus characterizes this tendency to fall away simply: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We are human, and we make mistakes.

I lived the life of a liar for years, hoping to maintain a certain image of myself by any means necessary. I would love to say that it just surrounded my sexuality, but it didn’t. I was comfortable as a tall, Christian, heterosexual male, and I dreamt of a life made in that image (this also speaks against the whole “choice” myth – why would I choose to be gay when it was my worst nightmare). If you’re a good liar, you can live as many lives as you want and present each when appropriate.

I’d love to say that I got caught up at some point and called out. That some weave I spun managed to unravel in some illustrious way. It didn’t. I was a damned good liar.

A change occurred over time, and I learned to appreciate human weakness. My desire to maintain a glistening front for my life fell, and being open and unabashed felt much better.

But I understand the desire to lie. Flesh is weak, after all, and being a good guy is always easier to imagine than actualize.

So when my date fell apart on me and owned up to all the lies he had told me – when he announced that he had a giant conflict between belief and reality – I wanted him even more. It was something about the commonality of our experiences – God I was just where he was, and I wanted so badly to be that guiding light for him, to somehow create a symbiotic relationship of growth, born confused and matured savage.

But he didn’t want it. Once he realized that I would not go quietly into the “strictly friends” or “strictly hook up” zones, he faded away.

It’s for the best, though. I wouldn’t have wanted to date me in my uber-lying days. It’s just not a way to live.

Pathological: Matthew 26:47-75, Mark 14:43-72, Luke 22:47-71

I am attracted to liars.

I went on a memorable set of dates recently. A friend introduced me to a guy who grew up Christian and had shitty, awful parents who threatened to disown him for his sexuality. He figured we would have something to talk about (for the record, I do NOT have shitty, awful parents who have disowned me… but the Christian part is true). He had just moved to LA and needed a date with someone who “got him.” We went out and hit it off.

His southern accent got me. Maybe it is my three plus years living in Atlanta that makes me a sucker for that, but it made me swoon. He was damned cute too, with thick eyebrows and a good smile. We spent much of our first date debating philosophy and spirituality. It was nice to meet someone who got the struggle – who felt the conflict between faith and sexuality and who had not given up long ago.

We left the date on a hopeful note – no kiss needed. Just a warm hug and a promise for more.

For our third date, I asked him if he wanted to go to Six Flags, which he excitedly accepted. I figured this would be good for us – a way to spend a whole day together with a concrete “activity” in case things got awkward – plus we were both adrenaline junkies and this worked perfectly to scratch that itch. Soon, the conversation of previous boyfriends arose, and he said that he had never had a boyfriend. “I’ve had experiences,” he said, looking straight out the window, “but they were all super regrettable.”

“We all have those, and I think that’s just part of it.”

I don’t know what tipped me off, but I felt the need to clarify.

“When you say ‘regrettable,’ do you mean that they were just unfortunate, weird situations or you actually full on regretted it?”

“Full on.”

“Why?”

“Because homosexuality is a sin.”

My face scrunched immediately in disbelief.

“Then… why are you on a date with me?”

“Everyone has temptations.”

I immediately threw the gauntlet down, furious at having been had. I went through all the things I could say, from straight up infuriated thoughts to an endless stream of questions. I was pissed off, because I had invested in a liar – someone who led me on for whatever his reasons may have been.

He went on to tell me that the Bible clearly stated how homosexuality was wrong, and that he believed it to the word. That led to several more questions about how he balances faith with homosexuality, and why he felt it was okay to knowingly “slip up” sometimes. Then things took a turn for the downright weird, as he started prophesizing about the approaching end of the world, which he predicted would arrive within five to 10 years. Then, he said that there was a conspiracy against SeaWorld, and 9/11 was likely an inside job.

And after that load of insanity, spewed out in such a rapid fashion, I felt relieved and even warmed. See, the attraction I had felt and then lost? It suddenly came roaring back.

More tomorrow.

No Win Situation: Matthew 26:1-46, Mark 14:1-42, Luke 22:1-46

Bathed in Perfume. The Last Supper. Final Plans. Praying at Gethsemane.

Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus.
Luke 22:3-4 (NIV)

Jesus Christ Superstar got a fair amount of flack when it first premiered in 1971 for a few reasons. One involved a comment that lyricist Tim Rice made about Jesus just being “at the right place at the right time.” Don’t expect Christians to be filling up seats if you question his divinity. Some Jews felt that roles representing members of their culture were vilified. Read the Bible folks… The Gospels are none too pleased with the Jewish leaders of the time. Finally, there was Judas.

Judas is the go to villain in the Bible, standing right next to Satan in terms of evil stuck out of time. He follows Jesus for all of his ministry, and then in the final moments of his life, ends up betraying him and handing him over to his worst enemies, who then crucify him. That’s a pretty terrible sin, and there are very few Judas apologists in the Christian community.

Which is what caused all the controversy around the mega-hit musical. The show gives Judas a fair amount of stage time – he gets the best songs and his character arc is the most complete of all the characters. And as we listen to him belt it out, we start to feel sorry for him. He’s a guy that just can’t figure Jesus out.

One song – and I’m going to admit right now, it’s really the only song in the musical I know well – is a three-hander sung by Mary Magdalene, Jesus, and Judas. It’s called “Everything’s Alright,” and it features a pre-mourning Mary Magdalene comforting a troubled Jesus before his death. Most notably, the song features a war of words between Jesus and Judas over the proper use of an expensive perfume. A woman takes the ointment and washes Jesus with it – something Judas takes personally. Here are the lyrics:

Woman your fine ointment, brand new and expensive
Should have been saved for the poor.
Why has it been wasted? We could have raised maybe
Three hundred silver pieces or more.
People who are hungry, people who are starving
They matter more than your feet and hair!

See, I get Judas’ point here, and in the actual Bible, it is something that the disciples collectively take issue on. Aren’t we supposed to ignore Earthly pleasures and sell all of our possessions to the poor?

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” (Mark 14:6)

We aren’t meant to sympathize with Judas, but my thought growing up was always the same – he was in a no win situation. God prophesized his betrayal – Satan entered him to make it happen – Jesus needed it to happen for his legacy. Looks like the cards were laid out well in advance.

This is headed for a debate on predestination – but as I’m not even sure on my beliefs on God, I don’t feel compelled to argue that right now.

But I need a human Judas. I need a Judas who made the decision without Satan inhabiting him, and Jesus pushing his hands. I need to know what to do when I get expensive perfume – whether to use it on a guest or sell it for the poor. Because right now, it feels like a no win situation.

Am I damned for questioning and damned for following blindly? Am I the symbol of defeat meant to illuminate the path for others? Is God pushing my hands?

Oh yeah, here’s that song:

It All Counts: Matthew 25

Parable. Parable. Parable.

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

It is a race to the crucifixion and resurrection at this point, and just before the Last Supper – that event that precludes all the rest – Jesus bestows one final round of parables to the masses. While Jesus’ parables often include a specific lesson about the nature of holy living, these last three are a bit broader in scope, commenting on the general approach one should have towards their faith.

Ten virgins prepare for their bridegroom to return late in the evening, each with her own lamp. However, only five think ahead and pack enough oil to light their lamps throughout the entire night. When the bridegroom comes, the five unprepared virgins must leave to go buy oil and miss out on their wedding ceremony. Bada boom. BE PREPARED.

Three servants are given various amounts of gold by their master, each according to his individual skill set. The first two take that money and invest it, doubling their worth over time. The third, however, digs a hole and buries his money, eventually returning it without yield to his master. The first two are praised, and the third is chastised. Abracadabra. TAKE WHAT’S GIVEN TO YOU AND BUILD ON IT.

The final story has much more severe consequences. Jesus says that God will stand before all of humanity one day and divide them into two groups. To the first, He will praise them for helping Him when He was sick and lame. They will reply, “But we did not know you when you were sick and lame.” He will retort, “You helped the least of mankind and in turn helped me.” He will then turn to the second and ridicule them for ignoring Him in His hour of need. They will say, “But we did not know you when you were in need.” He will respond, “You did not help the least of mankind and in turn did not help me.” The latter group will be sent to Hell with Satan and his angels, while the rest will receive eternal glory.

This last anecdote seemed familiar in tone, and after a few minutes, it hit me. This is basically a lesson on karma. Those who put good into the world will be given it back, and those who do evil will get their just punishment. Very Eastern philosophy.

Of course, it still has the Western spin to it, what with the threat of damnation hovering over the preceding. I had a friend who raised her daughter to be an intellectual atheist, always questioning. One summer, she accompanied a friend to sleep away camp and came back a Christian. Now, almost two years later, her faith is as strong as ever.

My friend complained to me, “How could she do this? It’s so disappointing to see her drawn into Christianity.” After noting the irony here – that every Christian in my life’s worst nightmare is to see me become an atheist – I quelled her fears by saying, “There are far more horrible habits to develop than Christianity.” She disagreed. To her, Christians were hateful, closed-minded individuals.

They aren’t, not when they are at their best and most Christ-like at least. Christians are called by Jesus to love and help the least; how could that possibly be a damaging philosophy?

But without a strong belief in God – that Christian “God” that is – it is all for naught. At least, that’s what I remember from Sunday School.

Keep Your Eyes Open

The Laws of Jesus have stood in sharp juxtaposition to the Laws of Moses – primarily in their focus on the wronged rather than the sinful. I made this observation a few weeks ago, eager to see if the trend continued, and it has held strong. Continually, we are told to forgive and be good in the face of evil. The Laws of Yesterday focused much more on how sinners will be held accountable for their behavior – a much different paradigm. The most repeated Law thus far in the Gospels is to believe in God, followed closely by the command to forgive. I guess if Jesus keeps telling us, we better damn follow it, right?

And then we reached an entire section on the end of the world and how to decipher the signs that lay obviously before us. I spent the entry yesterday unpacking these ideas – focusing mainly on the physical anxiety that occurs to signal our mind to pay attention to what is around us. And Jesus has lots to say about that. Just look at this cluster of laws.

Luke 21:8 Watch out for false prophets
Luke 21:36 Watch for the end of the world
Mark 13:5 Watch out for false prophets
Mark 13:35 Watch for the end of the world
Matt 24:4 Watch out for false prophets
Matt 24:42 Watch for the end of the world

One of the few passages that gets mentioned in each of the literal Gospels is the discussion over the end times, a fact that I do not find insignificant. I think Jesus wants us to keep our eyes open – in this case, for signs of the coming end of age as well as for false prophets. I get the false prophets stuff – no good leader wants others defecting from his or her leadership – but I wonder why it is so important to watch for the end of the world. What does that really accomplish? Is it meant to instill urgency in our bones? Should we be looking out for the end so that we never cease telling others about the Truth?

I wonder about the philosophy behind the Christian theology. I view philosophy as being distinct from religion. The latter has a distinct end goal in mind (in this case, Heaven and eternal life), but the former involves a way of living life that is its own reward. For example, there is a law in the Old Testament about rotating crops around a field so that each sections receives a different harvest each year, while one section is given a year of rest. We are commanded to never comingle our crops, for fear of some horrible retribution. To me, this signals a much more philosophical point, outside of the literal. This is meant to highlight the importance of rest to the human soul, and by allowing our fields the chance to rest, we bolster the belief that we should also rest. It’s a good way to live a life.

So I wonder about the philosophy of watching for the end of the world – there must be more to it, even if the literal interpretation is equally as important. I think God wants us to keep our eyes open, always searching and watching. Because that actively keeps us engaged in faith.

And to remain passive – that is as great a sin as any.

The Wasteland: Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21

The Signs of the End. The Day and Hour Unknown. The Rapture (Maybe).

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
Matthew 24:42 (NIV)

I spent a large amount of my childhood fretting about the end of the world. It began with a Christian concert that displayed onstage a “Doomsday Clock” that measured how close to the apocalypse we stood based on scientific measures of global demise. The imagery stuck, and I went home that night and had my first panic attack.

Soon thereafter, I consulted the Gospels to get my own answers. Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 all share similar accounts, spoken by Jesus, about how to tell when the end was nigh. Reading it today, it turns out to be pretty vague stuff. We will hear of “wars and rumors of wars” and “great earthquakes.” The Middle East will be in disarray and everyone will be vying for a piece of Jerusalem. There will be both unity and destruction, and Christians will be persecuted for their beliefs, spit on by heathens and put on trial for their dissonance. I read this today, and thought, “huh, sounds like every year since Jesus died.” A good prophecy comes true even if it doesn’t – because it’s just vague enough to make sense most of the time.

In the moment, however, it felt unbelievably palpable, and even reading it as an adult, a chill ran through my body – a remembrance of a fear forgotten. It is no surprise that folks march up and down the street with signs claiming that the end will come sooner than expected. Things seem to be falling apart around us.

My anxiety burgeons in moments of uncertainty, a feeling many understand. This can be very literal – a deadline coming up or an apprehension over a tough event – but for me, the fears always goes to an existential extreme. I fear eternity and the end of the world, because it hangs in my mind like a summer haze, obstructing what is familiar into a cartoon version of itself.

I went camping with my brother this past weekend up in Northern California. It was a wonderful and life-affirming time, filled with meaningful interactions with other queer men and women. It felt calming to be amongst people who got it, without any conversation or debate. The feeling felt similar to my experience in church, when I could look around and without question know that everyone held 95% of the beliefs and feelings that I had.

But upon returning home, as the sun sunk below the horizon and night swamped over the skyline, a tightness developed in my breath that held on. When I dropped my brother at his house, I looked at him and said, “It seems darker than usual.” He couldn’t relate and said, “I don’t think so.” I had lost my common ground and understanding.

I know it was not actually any darker, but to me, it physically appeared that way. I wondered why.

When they wheeled the Doomsday Clock onto the stage at the concert, the world darkened for me. I remember driving home with my head planted out the window – pulse racing in anticipation for the inevitable wave of panic that would unleash any minute – and everything just looked dark. Figureless. Cartoon-like.

There is a wasteland beyond us that lingers like a shadow ready to pounce. It wants to take everything recognizable and obstruct it so that we lose our bearings. It wants us misunderstood, so that our thoughts become our worst nightmare, because no one around us can relate.

And that’s why the end is so scary. That’s why anxiety makes everything feel darker, because it’s entire purpose is to tell us that something is off. That we better pay attention carefully to the events that follow, because their ramifications are life and death. The stakes are high, and our anxiety engages so that we notice.

And eight months in, 200 entries later – my senses have reached their peak, and everything seems dimmer. Not in a depression, but a very acute anxiety.

I’m listening. I’m aware. I’m listening.

“The Church”: Matthew 23, Luke 20

 Hypocrites in the Church.

So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
Matthew 23:3 (NIV)

There is a growing distrust in the church. The Catholic church has been rocked with scandal over abusive priests and the cover up that followed to hush the events. Christian churches are not immune to these controversies – just go back and read my entry two on Tuesday to see how it hit too close to home. Beyond extreme situations of sexual abuse, there is still a lack of trust over the authoritative nature of these institutions. Leaders become enamored with the influence they wield and sometimes end up abusing it. And I do mean sometimes. Do not mistake this entry for a global condemnation of “the church.”


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A recent Gallup poll showed that confidence in the church has fallen from a high of 68% in 1975 to only 42% today. I can posit a number of reasons for such a fall. Less people are traditionally religious these days, which many blame on the rising influence of liberalism across the country. Public scandals such as the ones reference above sure as hell do not help. Also, a wide divergence in evolving ideologies forces denominations apart – now more than ever, Christianity feels like a spectrum of several religions rather than a single one with some cult factions. The rising acceptance of homosexuality has forced schisms in traditionally solid denominations – Presbyterians and Methodists specifically. The times are indeed strange.

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But if we are to believe Jesus, these issues are far from new. The nature of his ministry depended on the idea that the Jewish church was headed in a bad direction and needed to be brought back from destruction. After entering Jerusalem for the last days of his life, he proclaimed Seven Woes to the Pharisees, chastising them for their obsession with wealth and power and their self-congratulatory attitude towards winning converts. Jesus went as far to say that “You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” (Matthew 23:15b)

Ouch.

I worked for years with teens and adults with autism, and while being interviewed for homecare and therapy positions, I assured instructors and parents that I approached every case with the goal to work myself out of a job. I would tell them that I always attempted to make myself obsolete, so that the autistic person would be independent and no longer require my care. It is my opinion (and sincerely my opinion only) that church leaders ought to do the same – work themselves out of a job. This is not to say that church should be like school – no longer necessary at some point in development. But the dependence on leadership should wane to a healthy level, where the church-goer contributes as much as receives. I believe this leads to symbiotic balance where corruption is less likely to occur.

But what do I know? I rarely go to church anymore, so I am not privy to the dynamics firsthand.

Commandments: Matthew 22, Mark 12

 An Assault on the Ways of the Past

[A man said,] “To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Mark 12:33 (NIV)

There is a tension between what we give up and what we gain.

Take my father for instance. He’s a trooper when it comes to pain and sacrifice. After working anywhere between 8 to 12 hours, he will come home and mow the lawn/paint the fence/fix the garage door without complaining. Then, as his reward, he will watch some HBO while eating until sleep overtakes him, and he does it all over again.

But he has a few ailments… Increasingly rough arthritis that requires injections to quell… Loud tinnitus (ringing) that persists in both ears… Cataracts that recur…

There are some remedies for these afflictions that involve changing his diet – less salt and red meat and more fruits and vegetables. My Dad says no way. He likes the food he eats. It is nothing grotesquely unhealthy, and he is at a good weight for his height and age. Getting rid of that pleasure is not worth the benefit.

We have been told by Jesus that not sin is above others (except for blaspheming God – which is unforgivable) and that we are to follow the letter of the Law in exact terms (despite Jesus’ apparent disregard for Sabbath laws in moments of quandary). Still, that does not stop his followers from asking him to whittle down the 553 Old Testament laws into something a bit more manageable.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31

There it is. The Winner is “Love God,” and 1st Runner-Up is “Love Your Neighbor.”

I am tempted to go down the logic rabbit hole here and throw my arms up at inconsistency. My confusion is further exacerbated by the teacher’s follow up comment, that “To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Huh?

The questions begin to mount. So wait, are there some laws more important than others? Does that mean some sin is worse than others? Does that mean we really don’t need to follow the Old Testament laws anymore? Does that mean Jesus is contradicting himself? Does that mean –

 I’m pulling myself out, because I know it will never lead to anything resembling peace and understanding.

Instead, I am going to think of my father, an outstanding man who makes difficult choices. He accepts pain in order to follow some pleasure. He does something that may be “bad” in some eyes, but necessary in his. He does not question it, but rather just decides and moves on.

There is an important lesson there that I’m on the cusp of learning.