Monday, February 26, 2018

Jesus Invites Us to Receive a "Good Measure"

Jesus said, "Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you."

~Luke 6:37-38

I like to think I'm one of the people who don't "judge" or "condemn," but too often I'm just someone who wants to be "neutral" and disengaged. I don't want to cause trouble for myself or anyone else.

I want to be nice. I want to avoid controversy. I want to be left alone.

And this is exactly what I get. The walls I put up are very convincing. Everyone "respects" them. But behind those walls I am left alone.

I am left alone.

Often I really do think my misery is my own fault. Though perhaps I ought not to judge or condemn myself either. God alone judges, and even as he searches out our hidden faults, he also knows all the complex circumstances that constrain us and that can diminish somewhat our culpability.

This world, with its unprecedented and ongoing multiplication of so many kinds of power, smashes and breaks people in the places where they are vulnerable. It's a world of constant mental strain, and those who cannot keep up with the pace of its relentless, absorbing expansion of forces—or at least manage the stress—must shift through the wreckage it leaves behind in themselves.

I know this well enough. It's another more authentic reason why I don't want to be too hard on any person, and I suppose I should include myself. All these external pressures, along with my own weakness, overwhelm me on so many levels. I am more than vulnerable and sick. I am traumatized.

But I do not put this forth as a sufficient excuse. I also know that I am a sinner. I throw myself upon the mercy of God.

Many of us are traumatized. We are all desperate and busy building walls around ourselves. Isolation is the order of the day. And isolation can take various forms.

We can be alone by ourselves, as intellectuals who analyze everything and commit to nothing. Or we can be alone "together" behind the fortress walls of our tribes—our illusory substitutes for commitment and community—bound together by violence and fear and the desire to make war on others.

Jesus says "stop judging" and "stop condemning," but at the same time he says, "Give..." which is akin to the exhortation to love, to suffer for the sake of justice, to lose ourselves for his sake so that we might truly find ourselves.

But he does not only exhort us. He draws us on the path that he himself has made through the cross to the resurrection.

Perhaps the closest step in this journey for each one of us is expressed in the words of this text that echo the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive and you will be forgiven." Every time we pray the prayer Jesus gave us, we implore God our Father for the fulfillment of all reality and of our own lives: for our daily bread, for his will, for deliverance from evil, for the coming of his kingdom.

In the midst of these pleadings, we make one petition in explicit relation to our own conduct: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

The call to forgive others appears to be laden with psychological associations that can seem crushing insofar as we have been deeply hurt by others. But there is no simple formula for expressing how the psychological and emotional profile of forgiveness should play itself out in a person's subjective experience. Wherever we may feel ourselves to be, we can only turn to God and beg him to empower us to give him what he asks of us.

God always loves us first. He wants to heal us and to open our hearts to receive his forgiveness and share it with others. Jesus came for forgiveness of sins. He came with the readiness to pour out a good measure, an overflowing love by which we might love him and one another.

He promises that good measure, and even now he prompts us to ask him to change us, to make us capable of receiving it, to be freed for the outpouring of forgiveness. He will show us the way and he will carry us on his shoulders.

"Ask and you will receive."